The history of the 'golf clap'

The golf clap
Dating back centuries, the "golf clap" is deliberately quiet applause because loud noises are distracting to players.
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When you think of a football stadium or a basketball arena, you think of the roar of the crowd: the boos, the screams, even The Wave.

But when you think of the rolling hills of a golf course, the scene quiets. It's a place of hallowed concentration, respectful silence and the oh-so-polite patter of the "golf clap."

And it's been that way for centuries.

The Scottish, who created the game of golf that we know today, made sure of it. In the Aberdeen Code of 1783, early connoisseurs of the sport decreed that "while a stroke is playing no one of the party shall walk about, make any motion, or attempt to take off the player's attention, by speaking or otherwise."

The call for quiet spread along with the game. The United States Golf Association put down its first set of rules in 1895, and silence was at the very top:

"The following customs belong to the established Etiquette of Golf and should be observed by all golfers:

1. No player, caddie or onlooker should move or talk during a stroke."

Golf was still new to the U.S., so other publications had to spread the word about keeping quiet on the course. In the 1898 printing of The Golfer, Robert Forgan wrote:

"On the occasion of friendly matches between neighboring clubs, great care ought always to be taken to prevent ignorant onlookers from inopportunely moving about, or speaking to the players."

With keeping quiet written into the founding rules of golf, fans had to channel their excitement into the "golf clap."

"Generally, a clap seems to be one of the least intrusive methods of recognizing a good shot, so it makes sense that light applause would be encouraged over shouting, cheering, or sudden movements," said USGA historian Victoria Student.

Still, rules are made to be broken, right? That's especially true this weekend at the Ryder Cup because the tournament actually encourages cheering.

So let it out at the Ryder Cup, golf fans: Feel free to use a full-volume clap.

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