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mid-15c., Scottish gouf, usually taken as an alteration of Middle Dutch colf, colve "stick, club, bat," from Proto-Germanic *kulth- (cf. Old Norse kolfr "clapper of a bell," German Kolben "mace, club"). The game is from 14c., the word is first mentioned (along with fut-bol) in a 1457 Scottish statute on forbidden games. Golf ball attested from 1540s. Despite what you read in an e-mail, "golf" is not an acronym.
c.1800, golf (n.). Related: Golfed; golfing.