St. Eloyen Gasthuis
Boterstraat 22 - Utrecht - The Netherlands
|History of colf and kolf|
shall divide the history of colf and kolf into two categories:
• The history of the long game in the Low Countries from about 1200-1700 AD, hereafter to be called: COLF.
• The history of the short game which developed out of the long game from 1700 to this day and is still played in Holland called: KOLF.
GOLF commenced in Scotland somewhere around 1450 and developed into the worldwide game of today. More or less probably this game is derived from colf.
Indexes to old records are rarely based on the development of sport. It is however a fortunate circumstance that the city- and country-magistrates did not favour the game in view of the damage caused by the players! The main cause must be looked for in the balls then in use. The wooden and leather balls of the earliest days had a tendency to veer off their intended line of flight with such results as broken windows in houses and churches, injuries to passers-by etc. With great zeal the authorities endeavoured to move the enthusiastic players, who could not make to stop their game altogether, out of the cities and onto the ramparts surrounding them, where the chances for misfortunes were slighter. In some case indeed, players enjoyed a certain measure of protection when playing there.
Thanks to the many ordinances made we can trace the game and its development quite easily as long as city ordinances were made. This takes us to the beginning of the 14th century as before that time there are hardly any ordinances of this nature. But fortunately we are further helped by a source of litery nature.
|In 1261 colf exists already|
on the continent colf primarily denoted a stick becomes evident from the
Boeck van Merlijn (Merlin's Book, 1261), poet Jacob van Maerlant’s
adaption of Robert de Boron’s Livre de Merlin, in which young Merlijn
is engaged in a stick-and-ball-game. Where in the French source Merlijn
viciously hits one of his playmates with a crosse (a choule club), in Maerlant’s
Flemish version the word used is koluen (= colf club).
In Van Vloten's transcript from 1880 of Jacob van Maerlant's manuscript from 1261 we find:
ze to enen dorpe quamen
Dar liepen harde vele kinder
In enen mersche meere vnde mynder
Vnde slogen dar eynen bal
Merlijn de dit wiste al
Sach de boden want he was daer
Vnde he trat een deel dar naer
Vnde gaff den rikesten enen slach
Van den dorpe dat he lach
Mit ener koluen vor zine schene
Omb dat ene schelden zolde de gene
Dat kint weende vnde sprack to merlijne wart
Onreyne vaderloze bastert
last the four messengers came in a village
where a group of children
were playing in a meadow
with a ball.
Merlin, who was one of them,
saw the messengers coming.
He went in their direction
and hit with his colf club the shin
of the richest boy of the village
so that the boy would abuse him.
The child shouted
and roared at Merlin:
‘Dirty fatherless bastard’.
too the game proved attractive to many Dutch artists in the 16th and 17th
centuries and even earlier and study of the many works of art from that
period has produced useful data. Finally the research was extended to other
sources. Records of Guilds, inasfar as these are still available, proved
to be another useful source, mainly in connection with the manufacture of
playing materials. Street names, name-stones on houses, tiles and many other
artistic products provided more information.
Two further remarks must be made. In the search for the origin of any historical topic one should concentrate on the facts one can find. Many ordinance books have disappeared and it may well be that the game was played somewhere at an earlier date than can be proved now.In other cases the problem is simpler. If in a series of ordinances in the same place the game appears at some period, and other similar ordinances of earlier dates do not mention it, it is fairly save to assume that it was not played there before the first traceable date. In this account colf is mentioned as being played somewhere and at some time only if this can be established by documentary or iconographic evidence.
There is absolutely no doubt that colf was an early form of golf, as will appear later in this account. Medieval spelling is all but uniform. In the records it may be found as: spel metten colve, den bal mitter colven te slaen, colven, coluen, kolven, koluen, colffven, colfslaen, colf te speelen, cloten mitter colve, doen mit colven, etc..
The present account is based on research in 4 national record offices, 46 city record offices, 10 other public and private collections of pictures and prints (both at home and abroad) and a fairly sizeable volume of literature, but we do not pretend to have completed the work to the full.
Miniature in a breviary (ca. 1530)
probably made by Simon Bening (Brugge, 1483-1561)
In the corner below you can see three colf players
|Kolf club ‘Utrecht St. Eloyen Gasthuis’|
|The Guild of Smiths upholds many traditions. One of them is playing the game of kolf on a nowadays indoors courtyard since 1730. As of that year this courtyard which lay directly behind the hospice was part of an inn called The Hollandsche Tuyn which in turn already was owned by the Guild of Smiths since 1644. The acquisition of the courtyard which was already covered in 1761 has been in use ever since.|
Today's kolf court in the St. Eloyen Gasthuis
game of kolf is played with a feather ball or ball of cloth and a stick
(kliek) comparable to the hockey stick. In five games each comprising of
three strokes a maximum of 12 points per game can be scored. The three strokes
per game are called uitklap, opklap and puntenklap. A score can only be
made in the puntenklap and the winner is the player ending nearest to the
60 point mark.
In Holland there are
still 40 kolf clubs. More then 600 members both male en female play on
15 kolf courts. Kolf club ‘Utrecht St. Eloyen Gasthuis’ is
a private club open for members of the brotherhood only.
'May all this serve to the Wellfare and Prosperity of the House of Saint Eligius'