In honor of the lovely, scholarly, charming, and Mightily Fangirlish Ashley Thomas, we are concordancing her word of choice this morning. Thank you very much, Ashley, for being our guest speaker today in class.
The OED admits that the word is of obscure origin:
Etymology: Of obscure origin.Commonly supposed to be an adoption of Dutch kolf, kolv- (= German kolbe, Old Norse kólfr, etc.), ‘club’, the name of the stick, club, or bat, used in several games of the nature of tennis, croquet, hockey, etc. But none of the Dutch games have been convincingly identified with golf, nor is it certain that kolf was ever used to denote the game as well as the implement, though the game was and is called kolven (the infinitive of the derived verb). Additional difficulty is caused by the absence of any Scottish forms with initial c or k, and by the fact that golf is mentioned much earlier than any of the Dutch sports. Some modern Scots dialects have gowf ‘a blow with the open hand’, also verb to strike.
“golf, n.” OED Online, Oxford University Press, September 2019, http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/79822. Accessed 13 November 2019.
But we all know better…
[01.094] If you have ever seen a dragon in a pinch, you will realize that this was only poetical exaggeration applied to any hobbit, even to Old Took’s great-grand-uncle Bullroarer, who was so huge (for a hobbit) that he could ride a horse. He charged the ranks of the goblins of Mount Gram in the Battle of the Green Fields, and knocked their king Golfimbul’s head clean off with a wooden club. It sailed a hundred yards through the air and went down a rabbit-hole, and in this way the battle was won and the game of Golf invented at the same moment.