The New York Times headline read “Ban on Sunday Golf May Wreck A Club.” The date May 22, 1905. The story concerned membership loss at the North Valley Golf Club of Greenwich. Because it had been closed on Sundays since it began in 1900, 35 of its 50 members had resigned. The paper noted that “A resolution forbidding the use of the grounds Sunday was passed (in 1902) and several good churchmen joined, among them a clergyman.” But by 1905 the club was in dire straits.
In Scotland, in 1618, the official (royal) line, first voiced by King James VI, was that golf on the Sabbath was acceptable, so long as it was not during the times of service, because Sunday was the only day the great mass of people would have free to play. It was not a view shared by the Kirk [the Church of Scotland]. Indeed Sunday golf at St Andrews only began at all during the Second World War and is still not permitted on the Old Course, though this now has more to do with preserving the course rather than religious strictures.
From a Google search, it looks like today only a handful of golf courses in the U.S., Canada and Great Britain are still closed on Sundays.
A poem, “Sunday Golf,” in the August 1903 issue of “The Golfer” magazine provides a colorful perspective of an irreverent golf poet on Sunday play more than 100 years ago.
A Sabbath well spent brings a week of content,
And health for the work of tomorrow;
But a Sabbath profaned whatever be gained,
Is a certain forerunner of sorrow
An excellent rule for the wise and the fool,
An object right worthy attainment;
But the point as you see, where we don’t quite agree,
Is the question, What is profanement?
When the Sabbath began, twas created for man,
In the Bible this clearly is stated;
But our Puritan throng think this must be all wrong,
The man was for the Sabbath created.
It makes a man smile that except for this isle,
There is nobody going to Heaven;
Yet, if some folks are right, ’tis the inference trite,
To which we’re remorselessly driven.
For you’ll nowhere else find people so strict of mind
In the matters of Sunday observance;
And an innocent game nowhere else meets with blame,
Or excites any social disturbance.
Then, aye, let us pray that there may come a day,
When the bitter dispute may be ended;
And Sunday employment in wholesale enjoyment,
Be no longer condemned but commended.
The poem was signed “Common Sense.”