GOLF – Gentlemen only, ladies forbidden


What's the meaning of the phrase 'GOLF – Gentlemen only, ladies forbidden'?

GOLF – Gentlemen only, ladies forbidden. The phrase that is sometimes supposed to be the origin of the word golf.

What's the origin of the phrase 'GOLF – Gentlemen only, ladies forbidden'?

It seems hardly worth mentioning but, of course, the word golf wasn’t coined as an acronym formed from ‘gentlemen only, ladies forbidden’. In fact I do only mention it as it is one of those nonsense stories that circulate on the Internet and this may help cut down on the number of times it gets repeated.

Golf is a very ancient game and the name is first used in print as early as 1457:

“And at e fut bal ande e golf be vtterly cryt downe and nocht vsyt.”

This was part of a proclamation by James II of Scotland aimed at reducing the time that the populace spent playing golf and football , which were keeping his subjects away from archery practice. The edict was repeated later by James III and James IV, who called golf and football ‘vnproffitable sportis’.

There were many spellings of the word prior to the acceptance of the current spelling – goff, gowf, golf, goif, gof to name just a few. The unsupported idea that the word was formed from an acronym hardly explains how all the alternative spellings came into being. Acronyms are in fact a 20th century innovation and more than half a millennium too late to be the source of the name golf.

The real derivation of ‘golf’ is obscure and the subject of considerable dispute.

Trend of ladies forbidden in printed material over time

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

Gary Martin

Writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.