mid-15c., Scottish gouf, usually taken as an alteration of Middle Dutch colf, colve "stick, club, bat," from Proto-Germanic *kulth- (source also of Old Norse kolfr "clapper of a bell," German Kolben "mace, club, butt-end of a gun"). The game is from 14c., the word is first mentioned (along with fut-bol) in a 1457 Scottish statute on forbidden games (a later ordinance decrees, "That in na place of the realme thair be vsit fut-ballis, golf, or vther sic unprofitabill sportis" [Acts James IV, 1491, c.53]). Despite what you read on the internet, "golf" is not an acronym (this story seems to date back no earlier than 1997). Golf ball attested from 1540s; the motorized golf-cart from 1951. Golf widow is from 1890.
Oh! who a golfer's bride would be,
Fast mated with a laddie
Who every day goes out to tee
And with him takes the caddie.
["The Golf Widow's Lament," in Golf magazine, Oct. 31, 1890]
updated on August 17, 2020