The Non-Royal but Most Ancient Game of Crosse

The prehistory of Golf, still alive

It took almost a thousand years before a thorough investigation was carried out about the remarkable but nearly forgotten, golf related game called ‘choule’ or ‘jeu de crosse’.
This game is still played by a few hundred people in the ancient county of Hainaut (Henegouwen), in the French/Belgian border region. The game is known by name in the entire golf history world because it is mentioned often in the many books about the history of Scottish golf. The contents however, is unknown outside the actual very small playing region.
During seven years Geert and Sara Nijs, Dutch sport historians living in France, have thoroughly researched the past and present of the game, its players and the environment in which the game was and is played. The researchers frequented the region. They played the game, talked to players, presidents of their societies, local historians and journalists. They searched in archives, second hand bookshops, libraries and curiosa shops. They visited universities, museums, exhibitions, flea markets and surfed for many hours on the ‘world wide web’.
The results of this investigation have now been bundled in a book called ‘CHOULE – The Non-Royal but most Ancient Game of Crosse’. The book contains 200 pages with some 200 photo’s and presentations of paintings, drawings and illustrations.
The study was officially presented at the annual conference of the European Association of Golf Historians and Collectors (EAGHC).

The game of choule/jeu de crosse can be considered as the transition from the original, rough, unregulated team hockey, as played in the early Middle Ages, to the more regulated, less violent, individual game, which evolved in the course of the centuries into sports like golf, colf and mail. For reasons unknown to us, choule/jeu de crosse never or hardly ever evolved in the course of time.

The game is still a team sport with two players per team (like the original match play formula in early golf). The teams play with only one ball. They don’t fight for the ball but one team tries to prevent the other team to reach its goal. The ball is hit in turn, a dangerous mêlée of players is therefore precluded.
The game is still played with wooden ellipsoid balls. The wooden clubs with which the ball is hit, have wooden or iron heads. The game is still played in winter period as golfers, colvers and mailers did in the long gone past.
The game is still played in the streets and on the squares of villages and towns as golf was played in the later Middle Ages in Aberdeen and Edinburgh and colf in Amsterdam and Brussels, and on the unprepared meadows and fields as at the time was done on the links of Leith, St. Andrews and on the fields of Haarlem.
Choule (jeu de crosse) gives a realistic ‘prehistoric’ image of how, 600 – 700 years ago, golf was played in Scotland, colf in the Low Countries and mail in France.
From the above however, one cannot draw any (diffusionist) conclusion about a unique origin of the sports mentioned.

The book ‘CHOULE – The Non Royal but most Ancient Game of Crosse’ gives a detailed presentation of the past and present of this sport, in relation to the historic, demographic, economic, cultural and religious backgrounds of the time.


If you want to know more about this remarkable, most ancient game, the authors will gladly share their gained knowledge with you:  

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