head
books
links

 



Games for Kings & Commoners PART THREE

2015
Editions Choulla et Clava


b03-00
Jeu de crosse
Games for Kings & Commoners PART TWO

2014
Editions Choulla et Clava
Jeu de crosse - Crossage A travers les âges
(Edition française de CHOULE)
2012
Editions Choulla et Clava


Games for K & C

choule
Games for Kings & Commoners
                                                      
2011
Editions Choulla et Clava
CHOULE -
The Non-Royal but most Ancient Game of Crosse
2008
Les Editions Geert & Sara Nijs


foot


Games for Kings & Commoners PART THREE


In the course of the years, Geert & Sara Nijs have researched in depth the ancient history of the European golf-like games of colf (kolf), crosse (choule) and mail (pall mall) and their relationship to Scottish golf. The researchers have now finalized the last part of their trilogy ‘Games for Kings & Commoners’. Again they discuss a whole series of new subjects, like the endless claims on the origin of golf from all over the world. They describe the ‘Little Ice Age’ and its consequences for the games; they show the development of clubs during the centuries as well as the development from the short into the long game. They report about the fascinating discovery of ancient clubs, excavated from 16th- and 17th-century shipwrecks. The origin of the names is dealt with as well as several other subjects.


The book


Ordering
Reactions & Reviews



Summary of the chapters of the book

All roads lead to Scotland
Cleeks, kliks and tally sticks
Nature, measure of all things
Clubs for hitting far and sure
The Little Ice Age in the Low Countries
The Little Ice Age in Scotland
Nautical archaeology
The ancient city of Haarlem
Criminality in the world of colf history
Long and short games
The names of the games
No dimples


All roads lead to Scotland

All over the world stick and ball games were and are played which resembled golf. Several of these games are seen as precursors or even as the original golf game.


When making deals in Scotland did the North Netherlandish and French merchants swap the wool against their stick and ball games?


Cleeks, kliks and tally sticks

In a Netherlandish poem from 1656 the name ‘Schotse klik’ is used. Was such a ‘cleek’ imported from Scotland or was such a klik an original Netherlandish club?


A beautiful ice scene painting in which two colvers are playing towards a hole in the ice.


Nature, measure of all things

What role did nature play in golf and the continental golf-like games?


Boxwood for a very hard ball.


Clubs for hitting far and sure

In the course of the centuries players always looked for ways and means to strike the ball further and straighter.


Gable stone from 1610 at the front of a colf club maker's house.


The Little Ice Age in the Low Countries

How come that during the Little Ice Age Netherlandish colvers moved by the thousands to the frozen canals, rivers and lakes to play their game of colf?


During the Little Ice Age publicans set up their 'mobile' taverns on the ice to provide the skaters, sledgers, ice-dancers and colvers with food and beverage.


The Little Ice Age in Scotland

During the Little Ice Age in Scotland, people enjoyed themselves with skating and curling on the frozen lochs and firths. Where were the golfers? Didn’t they play golf on the ice?



When the firths and the lochs were frozen many Scots loved to go out on the ice to enjoy themselves with skating, curling, walking and taking some refreshments.


Nautical Archaeology

In the last few decades several Netherlandish ships from the 16th and 17th centuries were excavated which were wrecked near the Shetlands and in the ‘Zuyderzee’. In the remains of the shipwrecks several colf clubs and club heads were found.


One of the excavated brass slofs (17th century) seen from different angles: the strike face, the top and the back of the head.


Haarlem: 600 years of colf – kolf – golf

An ancient city with more than 600 years of colf, kolf and golf history. From the first ‘official’ colf course (1390) to the first ‘links’ course of the Netherlands (1913).


Early 17th century ice scene under the walls of Haarlem; under the watchful eyes of partners, opponents and other spectators a colver is aiming at an invisible target, perhaps the inner side of the boat.


Criminality in the world of colf history

Many golf collectors love to have a specimen of the continental golf-like games in their golf collection. Be careful when being offered a ‘bargain’ you cannot refuse.



Long and short games

Is the long game in golf a unique feature that sets the game apart from all other golf-like games?


Colf has always been a field game. When playing on frozen fields was not possible, colvers went onto the frozen ponds, canals, lakes and rivers to play an adapted short game.


The names of the games

The name of golf and the continental games were written in different ways in different times. Where did the names come from?


The first visible reference to the game of mail or better pallamaglio in Naples.


No dimples

What happens with a ball without dimples? Could we do better with ridges or groves instead of the shallow cavities?


Dimples make the difference. A dimpled ball can be hit more than twice as far as a smooth ball.

The book/Ordering 

The publication (format 18 x 26 cm) contains 276 pages with over 200 pictures in full colour and black and white. The price is EURO 25 (GBP 25 or USD 30), postage and packaging included.
If you want to order a copy of the book please contact the authors at

 


Reactions & Reviews

Johann de Boer, club referee and member of the European Association of Golf Historians and Collectors, The Netherlands
With the publication of this Part Three in the series ‘Games for Kings & Commoners’ and the separate publication about the game of crosse/choule, the authors have covered more than thousand pages on the history of the continental golf-like games colf/kolf, crosse/choule, jeu de mail/pall-mall and their relation to the ancient history of Scottish golf.
For more than hundred and fifty years of golf history publications, we had to do with some superficial information on these games in the margin of the many golf books. In the trilogy ‘Games for Kings & Commoners’ the authors have been able to explain in depth what kind of games the ‘continentals’ played and how they compare with each other. Regularly golf is used as benchmark. The authors must have spent numerous hours in archives, museums, libraries, etc. in the different countries to retrieve information which regularly surpasses the knowledge on specific aspects of golf history.

The ‘Tee-off’ chapter ‘All Roads lead to Scotland’ tells us about the many golf-like games which seem to have travelled from all over the world to show the Scots how to make fun out of hitting a ball with a crooked stick and how improbable these assumptions are.
The use of the word ‘Schotse klik’ (Scottish cleek) in a Netherlandish poem from 1656 could arouse discussions about the mutual influences between golf and colf.  Did the Scots export golf clubs to the Netherlands as the Netherlanders have exported colf balls to Scotland in the 16th century?
It is interesting to see the development of the crooked sticks in the games from the early beginnings. It is rather surprising that so much is known about the ancient colf and crosse clubs while so little is known about the ancient Scottish clubs other than  ‘rough clubs’ and  ‘sophisticated clubs’.
It always has surprised us that so many 16th and 17th centuries’ pictures of colvers exist while the first ‘golf painting’ dates from mid-18th century. The explanation of this phenomenon is a real eye-opener.
When you have read the above explanation you probably wonder where the Scottish golfers were during the ‘Little Ice Age’ in the 17th century. Several pictures are shown with skaters and curling players on the frozen lochs and firths but no golfers can be distinguished.
Colf club heads can still be found in the fields and in the towns of the Netherlands. However some time ago nautical archaeologists discovered colf clubs and heads from the 17th century in ships wrecked near the Shetlands.  It is amazing what prices some of these club heads made at auctions.
When such stunning prices were made for club heads, many collectors would be eager to obtain such an artefact especially when it is offered at an absolute ‘bargain’ price. The chapter on criminality in the city of Haarlem is a warning that you should prepare yourself before responding to such offers.
The history of the town of Haarlem is closely linked to colf-kolf and golf. From the first ever official colf course from 1389 to the first Netherlandish ‘links’ golf course from 1915, the town’s history is interwoven with the games.
The authors assume that the four games all started as street games and changed eventually into a long game in the open fields. Did the players went voluntary or were they forced by the councils?
So far many words are spent on the ‘names for the games’; Geert and Sara Nijs make a rather simple and clear contribution to these discussions.
These and several other aspects of the four games are dealt with in 276 pages, interlarded with hundreds of pictures, maps and documents in full colour and black & white. The publication is the final continuation of the trilogy ‘Games for Kings & Commoners’. The three books can be read independently.
July 2015


home

foot
































































Games for Kings & Commoners PART TWO

 

This new publication is a continuation of ‘Games for Kings and Commoners’ issued in August 2011.
In 10 chapters on 280 pages including more than 200 pictures, both in full colour and black and white, several new historical aspects of the related games of colf (kolf), crosse (choule), golf and mail (pall mall) are discussed, explained, and compared to develop a better insight in how and by whom, with what equipment and under what rules these games could probably have been played in the late Middle Ages and the early Renaissance.

retour
The book

Ordering
Reactions & Reviews



Summary of the chapters of the book
1457: an historical date?
Spreading (s)wings
Who needed an 'aide' to play the game?
Maliën in the Netherlands
I'd like to teach the world to swing
1297: facts or fairy tales?
The Crécy man
The earliest of rules of the games
Advanced knowledge
Afterword


1457: an historical date?

For many authors the date 1457 is considered as the ‘birth date’ of the game of golf. Lately some historians have come to the conclusion that golf as mentioned in the famous Act of Scottish Parliament was not golf from which the game as we know it today evolved from but that the word golf in the decree stood for the medieval rough game of hockey. Was the game banned by King James II indeed golf or was it hockey?



Original text of the Act of Scottish Parliament, banning golf and football (1457).

retour
Spreading (s)wings

In the early medieval days the related games were played only in small regions in Scotland and on the continent. Did these games spread their (s)wings or did they remain secluded in their original region?
 
b03-02
Detail of a painting from the 18th century showing players on the mail alley in the Schleiβheim Schlossgarten.

retour

Who needed an 'aide' to play the game?

It is a well-known fact that in the game of golf a sort of assistants was used by the wealthy players. But what about the colf players, the crosseurs and the mail players? Did they use a kind of caddies to carry clubs, to make tees, to warn people in the field, to look for lost balls, etc.?

b03-3
This painting shows a young boy standing near the colf player, probably holding the overcoat when the player in the 'freezing cold' is going to strike the ball, obviously the function of a hired caddy too.

retour
Maliën in the Netherlands

For hundreds of years the Netherlanders played the game of colf, both in town, in the fields and on the ice. It was mainly a people’s game.  At the beginning of the 17th century a new game entered from France into the Netherlandish society. What kind of people played this new game and where did they play? Did it became a popular game and did it last long?

b03-4
Drawing of the mail court in Leiden alongside the 'Trekvliet' (barge-canal).

retour
I'd like to teach the world to swing 

We all know how difficult it is to hit a ball ‘far and sure’. We need lessons from a professional and have to frequent the driving range to put what was learnt into practice before we are even allowed to play the game on the course. Who taught the kings, the aristocrats, the bourgeois and the common people 500 years ago how to swing a club?

b03-5
Painting from the 17th century showing a professional or a personal friend who is teaching a young lady how to handle the colf club.

retour
1297: facts or fairy tales?

There is a story that already in 1297 a colf game was played in the village of Loenen aan de Vecht in the Netherlands. Steven van Hengel issued this story in his book ‘Early Golf’ in 1982. During the last few years various authors started to doubt the veracity of the so-called Loenen story, based on different arguments. Is the colf match a fabrication or is there some truth in the ancient story?

b03-06
The original castle of Kronenburg has a long history; it was finally pulled down in 1836/1837. It marked the end of an astonishing tradition of playing colf in Loenen aan de Vecht.

retour
The Crécy man

In the stained glass window in Gloucester Cathedral, England, the depiction of a stick and ball player has attracted a lot of attention of authors. Why is he depicted in the window and what kind of game is he playing?
In the course of time the commonly named Crécy man is called a paganica player, a cambuca player, a hockey player, a choule player, a mail player and even a golf player. Is there a way to find out who this little stick and ball player is and why he is proudly swinging his club between abbots, kings, apostles and even Christ and the Virgin Mary?

b03-7
Who is this little man standing between angels, saints, kings and abbots, swinging a small stick at a large ball on a huge stained glass window in Gloucester Cathedral?

retour
The earliest of rules of the games

It is said that since modern times no rules were written down for the club and ball games. It has always been accepted that the hand-written rules made by the gentlemen golfers of Leith are the oldest rules ever compiled. Are there no other rules of stick and ball games ever written down?

b03-08
The rules in this booklet of Lauthier describe the long-alley game. The rules were copies from previous publications.

retour

Advanced knowledge

It happens more or less regularly that information used in a previous book turned out to be incomplete or incorrect. Therefore we rectify the wrong or incomplete information in this chapter.

b3-9
Crown Prince Gustav Adolf from Sweden, swinging, and his English wife Margareta played on the links land near their summer residence in the early 1900s.

retour

Afterword

Still much has not yet been discovered of the ancient history of the related games. Researching these subjects would add to the knowledge of the earliest history of colf, crosse, golf and mail.

b03-10
Aiming at targets, even with longbows, would significantly reduce the number of arrows that could be fired and so lose considerably their advantage.



The book/Ordering

The book has 280 pages including more than 200 pictures both in full colour and black and white.
The price is EURO 20 (GBP 20 or USD 25), packaging and posting included.
If you want to order a copy of the book please contact us at


Reactions & Reviews

Albert Bloemendaal, golf historian and member of the European Association of Golf Historians and Collectors, The Netherlands
Ik zou graag het tweede boek bestellen Het eerste is een bron voor menige meeting geweest. Het is een echt naslagwerk voor me.
September 2014

Dick Durran, Honorary Life Member of the British Golf Collector’s Society, Great Britain
Geert and Sara Nijs have published Part 2 of Games for Kings & Commoners, which review new findings on the games of Colf, Crosse, Golf, and Mail. Part 1 was published in 2011 to great acclaim and Part 2 certainly does not disappoint.
They examine a number of topics and question some long held theories on the origins of golf. For example the first reference to golf is in the Act of Parliament of Scotland dated 6th March 1457 when football and golf should be utterly condemned and stopped. As a previous Act dated 26th May 1424 only forbad football was it reasonable to assume that the sport of golf started sometime between these dates?  A second view suggested by a history scholar might be is that perhaps golf at that time was not as we know it today. Perhaps it was a form of hockey or even shinty.  The authors counteracted rather convincingly this argument. One thing that is reasonably certain is that in 1491 when yet again golf again was forbidden this was golf as we know it today. Why? Because just twelve years later King James IV bought a set of golf clubs.
Other topics are covered.  They chart the spread of golf from Scotland to other countries as well as the spread of Jeu de Mail, Jeu de Crosse, and Colf internationally.  Colf for example even reached Sri Lanka and the Cape of Good Hope. Colf was played already in America in 1650. When the Dutch lost the second Anglo-Dutch War the British took over the Dutch trade settlements and replaced colf for the Scottish game of golf. They examine the finding of Colf club heads from shipwrecks, caddies used in the different sports, early written lessons on how to play the different games, the findings of Steven van Hengel, the little “golfing” figure in the Crecy window in Gloucester cathedral, and the earliest Rules of the various games.
Geert and Sara Nijs take the view that there is no such thing as the final “one and only” truth. The book is extremely well illustrated and well designed and can be thoroughly recommended.

Book review in 'Through The Green', magazine of the BGCS, September 2014

Wayne Aaron, member of the Society of Hickory Players, USA
It is another "Opus Magnus". Thanks for all your research efforts and for sharing them
(within this wonderful book) with interested collectors like myself.
August 2014

Peter Crabtree, co-author of the international awards winning book, 'Tom Morris of St Andrews, The Colossus of Golf, 1821 - 1908' published in 2008; Co-Founder, Past Captain and Honorary Life member of the British Golf Collectors Society, Great Britain
I want to congratulate you on a really excellent production of both content and quality of production. Yet again you have provided another important book on the history of the game. Well Done !!
August 2014

Prof. Dr. Dietrich R. Quanz, Germany
Vorige Woche war ich im Golf Archiv und konnte Euer neues Buch kennen lernen. Es ist erstaunlich, mit welcher umtriebigen Dynamik, welcher analytischen Schärfe auf Text und Bild und welcher klaren Urteilskraft Ihr der Golf-Welt die Leviten lest, etwa 1457. Fast glaube ich, dass die bekannten reinen Golfenthusiasten wegen eurer Fülle komplexer Forschungen Euch gar nicht mehr folgen können (oder wollen?). Der gesellschaftliche und allgemein spielbezogen Ansatz verlangt schon, dass man seinen Golfschläger mal aus der Hand legt und sich mit der nordosteuropäischen Spielkultur einlässt. Dabei macht Ihr es dem Leser im Einstieg mit den knappen und treffenden Zusammenfassungen auf S. 9-12 leicht, ins Thema wieder klar unterscheidend einzusteigen. Gekonnt auch die erholsamen Kacheln als Kapiteleinstiege. Das Bildmaterial ist enorm, auch der gute Druck auf gutem Papier.
Juli 2014

Cees A.M. van Woerden, auteur van 'Kolven "Het plaisir om sig in dezelve te diverteren"', France
G
raag wil ik jullie hierbij complimenteren met dit prachtige werk. Het is een zeer waardevolle aanvulling in menig bibliotheek. Het doet mij vooral deugd dat jullie zo aangenaam breed op de verschillende takken van sport ingaan. Toen ik destijds wat over kolf mocht schrijven, was de genoodzaakte beperking mijn grootste frustratie. Nogmaals mijn complimenten en dank voor het leesgenot.
Juli 2014


home


foot
































































Jeu de crosse - Crossage

A travers les âges

Il aura fallu attendre presque mille ans, avant qu’une recherche approfondie soit entreprise, sur un jeu remarquable, et pratiquement oublié, semblable au golf, appelé « jeu de crosse » ou « crossage ».
Pendant quelques ans, Geert & Sara Nijs, historiens de sport indépendants,  ont étudié en profondeur, le passé et le présent du jeu, ses joueurs et l’environnement où il est pratiqué. En 2008, les résultats de ces recherches furent réunis dans un livre intitulé « CHOULE – The Non-Royal but most Ancient Game of Crosse », qui fut reçu avec beaucoup d’intérêt par des historiens de golf et de sports dans le monde entier.
Ce livre esquisse une image du passé et du présent de ce sport, dans son milieu historique, démographique, culturel, économique et religieux. Depuis sa parution il y eut régulièrement des demandes pour une édition française du côté des organisations belges et françaises des sports et du patrimoine.
« Jeu de Crosse – Crossage » n’est pas une simple traduction de la version anglaise mais plutôt une édition complètement revue et corrigée et élargie avec les trouvailles de ces dernières années.
Le livre compte 286 pages avec presque 200 illustrations en noir & blanc. Le prix est 20 € (GBP 15 or USD 25) par exemplaire, frais d'emballage et d'envois compris.
retour

Le livre

Commander
Reactions & Critique


Résumé du livre

En quoi consiste le jeu de crosse ?
Un match comme tous les dimanches
A travers les âges
Le nom
La saison
Le parcours
La crosse
La choulette
Les joueurs
Les vêtements
La nourriture
Les tournois
La religion
Le carnaval
Les batailles
Les images
La littérature
Expressions, proverbes, chansons et poèmes
Postface


En quoi consiste le jeu de crosse ? 

On peut considérer le jeu de crosse comme une transition de l’original jeu de hockey d’équipe, brutal et désordonné, ainsi qu’il était joué dans le haut Moyen Age, vers un jeu individuel, plus ordonnée et moins violent, qui évolua au cours des siècles en des sports comme le golf, le colf et le mail. Pour des raisons qui nous sont inconnues, le jeu de crosse se ne développa pas ou guère au fil des années.
Le jeu est toujours un sport qui se pratique avec deux équipes de deux personnes (comme dans l’original match-play au début du golf). Les équipes jouent avec une seule balle.
Il n’y a pas un combat pour la balle mais l’une des équipes essaie d’éviter que l’autre équipe s’approche de la cible. La balle est frappée à tour de rôle, de façon à éviter une mêlée dangereuse.

c01-01
Une vue d'ensemble du terrain de jeu de « l'Association des Amis du Pic et du Plat » à Baudour en Belgique, lors d'un match franco-belge. - Avec l'aimable autorisation de Jean-Bernard Kazmierzcak

On joue toujours avec des balles ellipsoïdes en bois et les bâtons en bois, pour frapper la balle, ont des têtes ou ferrées ou en bois. On pratique toujours ce jeu pendant l’hiver comme le faisaient autrefois les golfeurs, les colveurs et les joueurs de mail. On joue toujours dans les rues et sur les places des villes et des villages comme au golf joué au bas Moyen Age à Aberdeen et Edinburgh et le colf à Amsterdam et à Bruxelles, ainsi que sur les prairies et les champs sauvages comme on jouait autrefois sur les links de Leith et Saint Andrews et sur les champs de Haarlem.
Le jeu de crosse donne une image réelle et historique de la façon dont on jouait, il y a six à sept siècles, le golf en Ecosse, le colf dans les Bas Pays et le mail en France.

retour

Un match comme tous les dimanches 

Le jeu de crosse est un jeu d’équipe. Il y a une seule balle (la choulette) en jeu. Une des équipes (les chouleurs) frappe la balle trois fois affilée et essaie d’atteindre une cible en un certain nombre de coups. L’autre équipe (les déchouleurs) frappe la balle une seule fois et essaie d’éviter que les chouleurs s’approchent de la cible.
Les chouleurs sont les vainqueurs d’une partie (un trou au golf), quand ils réussissent à toucher la cible en respectant le nombre de coups fixés au départ, les déchouleurs quand ils réussissent à empêcher les chouleurs d’atteindre leur objectif. Le match est fini quand une des deux équipes gagne cinq parties. Un match dure environ 4 à 5 heures.

c01-02
Un dessin schématique du système de choule/déchoule du jeu de crosse. Après chaque série de trois frappes de l'équipe chouleur, les déchouleurs peuvent frapper une seule fois.

Au jeu de crosse, il y a trois variantes principales :
  
Jeu de crosse en plaine
Ce jeu de choule/déchoule, ainsi qu’il est expliqué ci–dessus, est pratiqué dans les plaines ouvertes de novembre jusqu’en avril.
  
Jeu de crosse au but
Ce jeu est un jeu de cible (au golf une sorte de concours de putting). On le joue en été comme en hiver.
  
Jeu de crosse en rue
Ce jeu de choule/déchoule ne se joue qu’à mardi gras, à mercredi des Cendres ou aux fêtes des saints, dans les rues des villes et des villages.

c01-03 

Dans la ville ancienne de Chièvres en Belgique, plus d'un millier de joueurs s'y donnent rendez-vous pour pratiquer ce jeu traditionnel le mercredi des Cendres.

retour

A travers les âges 

Le jeu de crosse en plaine est joué des deux côtés de la frontière franco-belge.Aujourd’hui, le jeu de crosse est joué en Wallonie Belgique, surtout dans l’ancienne région minière du Borinage, près de la ville de Mons dans la province du Hainaut. En France, le jeu est pratiqué dans le département du Nord, plus précisément dans la région d'Avesnois près de la ville de Maubeuge.
A quelques exceptions près, la crosse au but est jouée du côté français de la frontière. Le centre principal est la ville d’Assevent.
La crosse en rue est principalement jouée du côté belge de la frontière à Chièvres et Blaton comme centres très populaires.

retour

Le nom 

Dans le dictionnaire, contenant des mots latins populaires du Moyen Age de la période comprise entre 800 et 1200, on explique le mot « choulla » comme « une balle frappée avec un bâton ». Au fil des siècles, le mot choule ou soule, en attendant un mot français, s’appliqua à une balle, jouée avec les mains et les pieds. Les jeux dans lesquels on utilisait un bâton étaient nommés « choule à la crosse ».
Dans le premier « Dictionnaire de l’Académie Françoise » de 1694, tous les jeux de balles et de bâtons se disent « jeu de crosse ».
Au 19ème siècle, on donna des noms spécifiques aux différents jeux de crosse, comme le football, le cricket, le hockey et le rugby. Le jeu de crosse n’a pas eu un nom spécifique, et il continue à être appelé « jeu de crosse ».

c01-05
Dans le premier « Dictionnaire  de  l’Académie Françoise » (1694), les  mots « crosser »  pour  jouer à la crosse  et « crosseur » pour le joueur de jeu de crosse étaient déjà inclus.

retour

La saison 

Le jeu de crosse en plaine est un jeu d’hiver. La plupart des terrains de jeu de crosse ne sont pas la propriété de crosseurs mais de fermiers qui  permettent aux crosseurs de jouer sur leurs terrains quand les vaches sont rentrées dans leurs étables ou quand les champs sont moissonnés.
Par conséquent, la saison de crosse commence le 1er novembre (Toussaint) et finit le lundi de Pâques quand la « Grande Finale » des tournois importants se joue souvent.

c01-06
Sur la plupart des terrains de crosse, en été, il est impossible de sortir sa balle de l'herbe haute, sans parler des difficultés pour retrouver sa choulette.

retour

Le parcours 

Le jeu de crosse en plaine n’est pas joué sur des terrains bien entretenus. Le jeu de crosse est joué sur la prairie ou  terres à l’abandon, souvent possédées par des fermiers ou des communes.Il n’y a pas de tees, pas de « fairways » rasées et pas de « greens » tondues. Un parcours de jeu de crosse n’a ni « driving range », ni professionnels, ni boutique de pro.
Les crosseurs doivent partager le terrain avec des vaches et des chevaux et doivent jouer les choulettes dans les parties trempées et piétinées du terrain mouillé.

c01-07
Les crosseurs de la société « Les Amis Réunis » à Gommegnies en France doivent partager leur terrain avec des vaches et des chevaux et doivent jouer les choulettes dans les parties trempées et piétinées du terrain.

retour

La crosse 

Le club de crosse est constitué d’une tête en fer, d’un manche en frêne et d’une poignée.
La tête en métal a deux faces. La face « plate » est droite et est utilisée pour taper loin, quand la balle est dans une bonne position. La face du « pic » ou « bec » est extrêmement concave et est utilisée pour des positions difficiles et pour les coups d’approche. Une crosse combine les propriétés d’un fer long et d’un « pitching wedge » au golf.

c01-08
Quand  la choulette est dans une bonne  position, on peut  jouer avec le  plat de la crosse. Dans les mauvaises situations, l'utilisations du pic est la seule possibilité.


retour

La choulette 

Le jeu de crosse se joue avec une balle elliptique, appelée « choulette », un diminutif de « choule », l’ancien nom de la balle. On ne sait pas pourquoi des balles elliptiques sont utilisées ni depuis quand.
En France, la choulette officielle est faite de charme. La surface a cinq rainures peu profondes pour améliorer les caractéristiques de vol.
En Belgique, les crosseurs cherchent librement et constamment des possibilités pour améliorer leur jeu par l’utilisation de différents matériaux pour les choulettes, comme du nylon extrêmement dur.

c01-09
La choulette d'origine en bois (à gauche), comparée avec la balle officielle de charme et une balle de golf.

retour

Les joueurs 

Aujourd’hui le jeu de crosse est toujours un jeu d'homme. On considère que les parcours dans les champs glacés et les terrains sauvages sont moins adaptés aux femmes.
Depuis que le jeu de crosse a été dessiné, peint ou décrit, les femmes n’ont guère été mentionnées ou représentées.
Le livre d’heures valenciennois « les heures de Guillaume Braque » contient une enluminure d’une femme, frappant vers une balle sur un tee.

c01-10
La plus ancienne illustration d'une femme, jouant à un jeu de balles et de bâtons. - Avec l'aimable autorisation de Sam Fogg, Londo
n

retour

Les vêtements

Il n’y a pas de tenue réglementaire pour les joueurs de crosse. Les crosseurs ne portent pas de gants en cuir et n’ont pas de chaussures à pointes. Parce que le jeu se joue en hiver, les crosseurs portent des bottes imperméables et des pull-overs ou des blousons chauds et un bonnet.
A mardi gras et au mercredi des Cendres, on joue la crosse en rue dans de nombreux villages du Hainaut et aussi en Avesnois. Dans certains villages il est l’habituel de se déguiser pendant ces journées.

c01-11
Les crosseurs portent des bottes imperméables, un blouson chaud et des gants pour éviter d'être trempés et d'avoir froid.

retour

La nourriture

Le jeu de crosse est un jeu très traditionnel. Un des usages autour de ce sport est d’avoir des repas traditionnels.
Le jeu de crosse était toujours un sport pour la classe laborieuse. Les dîners copieux de haute cuisine ne faisaient pas partie de la vie des crosseurs. Les moules étaient la nourriture la moins chère et aussi la nourriture pour la classe laborieuse.

retour

Les tournois   

La manière dont on jouait le jeu de crosse en plaine (un jeu d’équipe) ne donnait ni un vainqueur unique ni une équipe gagnante. Une équipe défiait l’autre pour des boissons gratuites ou un repas gratuit pour les vainqueurs.
La différence entre de tels matches et des tournois résidait dans le fait qu’un tournoi demandait plusieurs journées (week-ends) pour éliminer des joueurs ou des équipes jusqu’aux petites et grandes finales. On jouait les tournois pendant l’hiver, et les finales avaient lieu souvent le lundi de Pâques.

c01-13
En Belgique, une des références les plus anciennes, relative à des tournois, date d’une affiche de 1901, annonçant le tournoi à Belœil.

retour

La religion  

Depuis le Moyen Age, on parcourait les pâturages et les rues des villes et des villages. Le jeu dans les champs ne causait pas beaucoup de problèmes, mais à partir du moment où les crosseurs arrivaient en ville dans les rues (et les tavernes), le jeu dégénérait en bagarres et jurons. Les autorités municipales et cléricales étaient régulièrement forcées d’interdire, de limiter ou de modifier le jeu de crosse. En intégrant le jeu de crosse dans le calendrier liturgique, les autorités cléricales essayèrent de contrôler le jeu de crosse.

c01-14
Un ancien bas-relief de Saint-Antoine.

Pendant des centaines d’années, Saint-Antoine fut imploré à Havré contre les maladies contagieuses, comme la gangrène et surtout la peste.
Les pèlerinages à la chapelle d’Havré avaient lieu habituellement  pendant la période hivernale, surtout les dimanches. Après les cérémonies religieuses, le peuple allait à la kermesse pour rencontrer les autres, pour boire, pour manger, pour danser et pour pratiquer des jeux. La porte de la chapelle de Saint-Antoine était le but final des crosseurs qui faisaient ce pèlerinage.
Quand au cours du 17ème siècle, les maladies comme la peste déclinèrent, le désir de participer au pèlerinage à Havré diminua, mais les crosseurs continuèrent à célébrer Saint-Antoine, qui était devenu leur patron.
Spécialement le 17 janvier, fête de Saint-Antoine, beaucoup de crosseurs continuaient à pratiquer leur jeu autour de la chapelle.

retour

Le carnaval 

Au moyen âge, on jouait le jeu de crosse en ville : dans les rues et aux places. Parce que les crosseurs pouvaient facilement blesser le public et casser les vitres des maisons et des églises avec leur balle en bois, les conseils municipaux et cléricaux expulsaient le jeu vers les champs ouverts extra-muros.
Le carnaval est encore la seule occasion de jouer à la crosse en ville. La petite ville de Chièvres est un bon exemple de cette tradition du jeu de crosse carnavalesque.
Dans beaucoup de villes le jeu était chargé de traditions séculaires comme porter des costumes carnavalesques spéciaux, manger des repas traditionnels et chanter des chansons traditionnelles.

c01-15
Dans le village français de Vicq, des équipes costumées discutent de la façon dont il faut jouer la balle en bois, située dans le caniveau.

retour

Les batailles 

Beaucoup de chercheurs sont d’avis que les guerres ont toujours joué un rôle important en introduisant des sports et des jeux dans différents pays et régions.
Une thèse très intéressante est celle du « voyage » du jeu de crosse de Flandres via la bataille de Hastings (1066) et de l’Angleterre vers l’Ecosse avec des chevaliers flamands.
Selon une autre théorie, le golf écossais pourrait dériver, directement ou par l’Angleterre, des batailles livrées en France pendant la guerre de Cent Ans.

c01-16
A côté de la route près du champ de bataille de Crécy-en-Ponthieu, il y a un tableau pour attirer l'attention sur ces champs historiquement importants.

retour

Les images

Au moyen âge et au début de la Renaissance, la plupart des expressions artistiques se limitaient aux thèmes religieux. Bien que les sports et les autres activités de loisir étaient souvent englobés dans la vie religieuse, il était très exceptionnel que ces activités fassent partie des représentations religieuses.
Plusieurs auteurs ont étudié ces illustrations rares afin de découvrir de quelles sortes de jeu de balles et de bâtons il s’agissait et afin de trouver des corrélations avec d’autres jeux de balles et de bâtons.

c01-17
Le mystérieux joueur de balles et de bâtons de La Martyre, France; il n’y a aucune preuve historique quant au jeu pratiqué.

retour

La littérature

Les jeux de balles et de bâtons, souvent nommés : chôle à la crosse, choule (soule) ou jeu de crosse furent un sujet de la littérature à travers les âges. Plusieurs auteurs n’ont pas donné de précisions sur le type de jeu auquel ils se référaient : Jacob van Maerlant, Jean Froissart, François Villon, François Rabelais, Gilles de Gouberville, Abbé Lebeuf, Charles Deulin, Emile Zola et Achille Delattre.

c01-18
La statue de Jacob van Maerlant qui, en 1261, décrivit un jeu de balles et de bâtons.

retour

Expressions, proverbes, chansons et poèmes

Beaucoup d’expressions et proverbes, utilisés dans la vie quotidienne, ont une relation avec les sports populaires. Le jeu de crosse est aussi à la base de beaucoup d’expressions et proverbes, souvent dans le patois local.
Malheureusement, la plupart ne sont plus utilisées dans la vie quotidienne.
Le jeu de crosse a toujours été un jeu pour le peuple. Il est évident que beaucoup de chants de bistrot célèbrent la victoire ou la défaite.

c01-19

En 2004, « Les Ménetriers » de Chièvres découvrirent un chant traditionnel du crosseur wallon, consacré à Saint Antoine.
retour

Postface

En savoir plus sur le jeu de crosse soulève encore beaucoup de questions sur le jeu lui-même, mais aussi sur le grand nombre de similarités et de différences entre le jeu de crosse, le jeu de colf flamand/néerlandais, le jeu de golf écossais et le jeu de mail français. Nous espérons aussi, que nos recherches encourageront des historiens professionnels à prêter une attention académique à l’histoire de ce jeu de crosse et des autres anciens jeux, dont la plupart n’existe plus.

c01-20
Illustration d'un ancien jeu anglais de balles et de bâtons, toujours pratiqué dans le comté du Yorkshire.

retour

Commander

Le livre compte 286 pages avec presque 200 illustrations en noir & blanc. Le prix est EURO 15 (GBP 15 or USD 20) par exemplaire, frais d'emballage et d'envois compris.
Si vous aimez commander un livre, ayez la bonté de nous contacter sur 





Réactions & critique

Rémy Genot, historien local, Bourgogne
Je suis extrêmement admiratif du travail extraordinaire de recherches que vous avez dû faire en tous lieux et à toutes époques. Je vous renouvelle mes compliments pour cette étude très fouillée, bien expliquée, instructive surtout pour les gens qui ne sont pas de cette région du Nord car ce jeu est totalement inconnu chez nous.
Août 2013

Marius Hallez, Président de la société "Les Amis du Pic et du Plat", Baudour, Belgique
Mes félicitations à vous deux pour l'édition de ce livre d'un grand intérêt pour nous et dont nous ne manquerons pas de faire la publicité.
Décembre 2012


intro games


home

voet



















































Games for Kings & Commoners

A different and sometimes confronting popular study about the history of and the inter-relationship between the kindred games of colf, crosse (choule), golf and mail (pall mall).
In 9 chapters on 260 pages including more than 200 pictures both in full colour and black and white the book explains, clarifies, and compares the different games. In several instances it questions and differs about what has been taken for granted until today.

 

The book

Ordering
Reactions & Reviews


Summary of the chapters of the book

Clearly unsuitable for women
The fifth column
The hole, the first line of defence
Mit ener coluen
From colf to kolf
Pall mall in Great Britain
Knocking wooden balls around
Swapping ‘woodies’ for ‘leatheries’
Kings took to the links
Afterword
retour books


Clearly unsuitable for women

Until the feminist revolution in the 1960s neither women nor children have ever played a more than marginal role in European physical games. Were there ever women who in the previous centuries played the games of colf, crosse, golf or mail or were allowed by men to play these games among themselves or even in competition with men?

b02-01 intro games
The most ancient picture of a woman playing a stick and ball game; from a book of hours c.1520.

The fifth column

There is a battle which has already been going on for more than a hundred years about the origin of Scottish golf. Did golf develop on the links of Scotland or was the game imported from the continent? The Scottish cause supporters fiercely fight any allegation against the Scottish heritage. Their fight concentrates mainly on the ‘impostors’ and ‘swindlers’ from the continent. However, is this Hundred Years War a ‘European’ war or a Scottish or British civil war? Are the continentals the ‘aggressors’ or is there a fifth column in Scotland and England which is subverting the Scottish cause?

b02-02
The ‘Crécy’ or ‘Golf’ man in the glass window in Gloucester Cathedral from 1350. Historians consider this little man being a crosse (choule) player, a cambuca player, a paganica player, a colf player and even a golf player.


intro games

The hole, the first line of defence

To defend the Scottish origin of golf many authors put forward the hole as the indisputable feature of golf that sets the game apart from any other club and ball game. Is using the hole as defence or counterattack the right strategy to fight the allegations from the outside world on the Scottish origin?

b02-03
Detail of  an illumination in a Flemish manuscript,  called the 'Golf Book’, c.1500,  in which a colf player is putting the ball into a hole.


intro games

Mit ener coluen

In 1267, the Flemish poet Jacob van Maerlant composed a poem called ‘Merlijn’s Boec’. In the poem children play with colf clubs. Of late some authors are of the opinion that the words ‘mit ener coluen’ relate to an ancient game of hockey and not to the game of colf. On what grounds is this opinion based? Which are the documents used to prove their point?

b02-04
The oldest existing document (1267) in which a colf (coluen) was mentioned.

intro games

From colf to kolf

The same word, a world of difference. For almost 250 years authors have been confused about the difference if any between the games of colf and kolf. What is the difference between these two games and why did the colvers swap their long game for the peculiar indoor game?

b02-05
A beautiful early 20th century tile tableau of an open air kolf court.


Pall mall in Great Britain

The ‘jeu de mail’ court game as the game was called in France was very popular with the French kings. It is said that the game called pall mall in Britain never caught on with Scottish/British royalty other than a legendary game played once by Mary Queen of Scots. Was British royalty so much occupied with golf that they did not have the time for playing this foreign game? Or was it perhaps the other way around?

b02-07
This  detail from a drawing of  St James’s Palace and the Mall in London,  shows clearly that in 1720 the game of pall mall was still played.
intro games

Knocking wooden balls around

There seems to be a serious lack of knowledge about the earliest history of golf. No well-founded information exists, for example, about what kind of balls was used when the Scots started to play golf. Authors omit the ‘prehistory’ of golf in their books.
The absence of evidence is no evidence of absence. Could we learn from the continental kindred players who started playing their games with wooden balls?

b02-08
Crosseurs can hit a choulette as far as golfers could hit a feathery ball.

Swapping woodies for leatheries

If indeed the Scots started their game with wooden balls why at a certain moment did they swap their ‘woodies’ for the far more expensive ‘hairies’ and ‘featheries’? Could one hit a leather ball further than a wooden ball or straighter? Was a feathery more vulnerable than a hairy ball? Could one hit a gutty further than a feathery?

b02-09
The ’feathery’ replaced  the ‘hairy’ 
leather ball  and  was  again  replaced  by  the  ‘gutty’  ball.  The feathery was  so expensive that it almost killed the game of golf for the common people.

intro games

Kings took to the links

According to most golf history books Scottish and later British royalty has always played a prominent role in golf, hence the name ‘the Royal and Ancient game’.
What was that close relationship? Were the royals passionate golf players or is the term ‘Royal’ just the result of kings and queens scattering royal patronage grants around upon humble requests of golf clubs? Was golf outside Britain a royal game?

b02-10
Was King Baudouin I from Belgium the best ever royal golf player.

intro games

Afterword

In the course of time many books have been written about the history of golf. One could get the impression that the history of this intriguing game has been turned inside out. Still it seems possible to ask questions which cannot be answered by the many publications.
Are such questions relevant? Well, we think some are and others are not. But then we could ask ourselves what value is there in researching history? Shouldn’t we just go onto the fairways and fields and try to hit a ball or choulette to the faraway targets and have a pint afterwards?

b02-12


The book/Ordering

The book has 260 pages including more than 200 pictures both in full colour and black and white and is published in a limited edition of 250 numbered copies.
The price is EURO 15 (GBP 15 or USD 20), packaging and posting included.
If you want to order a copy of the book please contact us at 





Reactions & Reviews

Peter Crabtree, co-author of the international awards winning book,
'Tom Morris of St Andrews, The Colossus of Golf, 1821 - 1908' published in 2008;
Co-Founder, Past Captain and Honorary Life member of the British Golf Collectors Society, Great Britain
Let me say at once...it is truly excellent. What you have done is written an analytical survey of our present knowledge on the subject in an objective and non-speculative way. You have not romanticised in any way about the evidence you have presented and your writing shows an independent approach that is completely unbiased... a really refreshing stance and one that makes your commentaries  all the more authorative.
It will undoubtedly be the seminal work for many years to come and I applaud all the research and hard-work, not to mention the time, that you have put into it.
It really is a great addition to the literature of golf and you are to be warmly congratulated.
May 2012

John Hanna, Past Captain of the British Golf Collector’s Society and Past President, today Vice-President, of the European Association of Golf Historians & Collectors, Great Britain
It is most unlikely that there is another couple who have such a comprehensive knowledge of the history of the early stick and ball games played throughout Europe. What has helped Geert and Sara Nijs in their research is their ability to understand a number of different languages enabling them to carry out their research in many countries. This book is highly referenced and full of knowledge. There are over one hundred books in the bibliography which in itself would be of great interest to any golfing historian. In addition many websites have also been accessed.
Geert and Sara set out to answer a number of questions relating to the history and development of the various games such as Colf, Crosse, Mail and Golf. The text is slightly repetitive in places but this is unavoidable given the close connections between the various games. The introduction is just that, it introduces the reader to the basics of the three main stick and ball games. The role of women and children is looked at, beginning with the idea that they were unsuitable for these groups, but leading up to date where women now participate in them all, while children are still not taking part in some of them. Clearly this does not apply to golf. It is recognized that the hole is an indisputable feature in golf however the ‘targets’ of the other games are detailed. The early game of colf played as it was over open spaces and on frozen canals clearly had its limitations in a more crowded world, and the authors describe the transition from this outdoor game to the game of kolf which was played in enclosed spaces both indoors and outside. This was the game which was played by the Royals in England when it was called Pall Mall.
A common feature of all of these games is the ‘ball’, and its various forms are dealt with in detail. An interesting chapter deals with how ‘royal’ is the Royal and Ancient game. The involvement of royalty in a number of countries is written about. This is a most informative book.
Book review in Golfika, magazine of the EAGHC, April 2012
 

David Hamilton, Past Captain of the British Golf Collectors Society, Great Britain
The Nijs’ informative book ‘Choule’ (2008) on this European game, variously called choule or crosse, was well received and they now turn to the larger scene, and look at all such European club-and-ball games. A central aim stated at the outset is to re-open the never-closed debate on the origins of modern golf. Perhaps this is needed, since matters have moved on from the era when, in seeking its origins, the game of ‘golf’ was never defined and the quality of the historical methods was poor and the discourse hardly rose above patriotic banter. The Nijses know that it is the origin of the ‘long’ Scottish game of golf (played with expensive balls and clubs) that is sought, since it is clear now that the simpler economical ‘short’ golf of the Scottish towns was indeed similar to the Dutch game. Because these two games had the same name, this has impeded the debate. Their central thesis is a new and controversial one, namely that in Scotland’s long golf, use of wooden balls preceded the feathery and hence long golf was derived from those club-and-ball games in Europe which used wooden balls from earlier times.
In other aspects of the European games, new images of interest keep turning up and the Nijses have usefully found some more paintings showing holes in the ground being played to. They include many new illustrations and they have uncovered unfamiliar relevant texts. There is a good section on how the language of kolf entered into daily discourse, notably in proverbs, and some new early images of ladies at play in Europe. There is a long diversion on women’s golf in general, plus an essay on royalty’s interest in golf worldwide.
Book review in 'Through The Green', magazine of the BGCS, March 2012

Michael Riste, co-founder of the British Columbia Golf Museum, Canada
I am thoroughly enjoying your new book.
December 2011

Wayne Aaron, member of the Golf Collectors Society, USA
Please accept my sincere congratulations on your book "Games for Kings & Commoners". It truly is a "Magnum Opus", because it makes such an important contribution to the original body of knowledge of stick ball games and their place in history--particular their respective influences upon golf. Thank you both for your labors of love on this subject.
December 2011

Dirk Spijker, The Netherlands
Wat een schitterend boek hebben jullie er van gemaakt.
Als ik artikelen over colf of kolf lees, is het meestal het zelfde verhaal met weinig nieuws aan de horizon. Niet alleen als lezer krijgen we veel informatie over de vier spelen, maar jullie hebben veel onderwerpen behoorlijk uitgediept, zoals het spelmateriaal en in bijzonderheid: de ballen.
Goed dat jullie aandacht geven hebben aan de ‘onjuistheden’, verhalen die niet kloppen, maar steeds weer terug keren. Als schrijver of onderzoeker denk je soms ‘zo zal het wel geweest kunnen zijn', maar velen hebben met hun mening hiermee de geschiedenis vervalst.
Leuk is ook dat alles op een rijtje gezet is wat betreft de bakermat van golf en de discussie omtrent de herkomst.
Kortom, wij, de liefhebbers van stok- en balspelen, zijn een prachtig boek rijker geworden.
November 2011

Neil JB Laird, owner of the site Scottish Golf History, Great Britain
[...] copy of your excellent book. it is really very impressive. I have only had a brief time to go through it, but it is clear that the history of golf will have to be rewritten. Your approach of putting all the evidence is very impressive and persuasive, as is you command of English. Obviously, the mention of the golf hole in the Tyrocinium Lingua Latinae is an extremely important piece of evidence which means that we Scots will have to rely on continuity and the rules of the first competition to maintain our claims.  [...]
November 2011

Prof. Dr. Dietrich R. Quanz, Deutsche Sporthochschule Köln, Deutsches Golf Archiv, Germany
Ich habe weiter in Eurem Buch '„geschnöft“ und staune wie viel Literatur/Autoren Ihr jeweils zu Euren Themen auf den Punkt gebracht habt. Und dann der Clou mit der Bunker-These. Die Herleitung der Bunker von den Dünenlandschaften pflegen wir schon länger, aber draus das Kriterium für Golf zu machen, ist nur Euch eingefallen. Man müsste es überprüfen, indem man die ersten auswärtigen Plätze danach untersucht, ob dies gleich so imitiert wurde. Auch die Differenzierung von Origin und Originalität könnte mit der obsoleten Frage nach dem Ursprung aufräumen. Bei den vielen Namen im Buch wäre ein Index für gezieltes nachschlagen sehr hilfreich gewesen. Man sähe auch an der Zahl der Seiteneinträge, wo Ihr Am meisten zugegriffen habt. Vielleicht beim nächsten Buch?...
Eure Kritik an den falschen Thesen der anderen ist immer sehr vornehm, etwa an H. Gill. ...
An Hand der Regelentwicklung im Fußball und seiner Vorgänger hat man die umstrittene These aufgestellt, dass Spielkultur über die Regeln zunehmend domestiziert wurde – bis hin zu ausdrücklich beim YMCA erfundenen, körperlosen Spielen wie Basketball, wo man ein Foul selber durch Armheben anzeigt, und zu Volleyball, bei dem man nicht ins Spielfeld der anderen darf. Da aber zu wenig Regelmaterial und Regelgeschichte bei Golf und den Vorläufern/Parallelen bekannt ist, wird man hier keinen entsprechenden Ansatz finden.
November 2011

Annette Klinkert, past president of the KNKB (Royal Netherlandish Kolf Federation), The Netherlands
Hierbij de welgemeende complimenten voor de volledigheid en de zorgvuldige samengestelling. Wat een plezier om te lezen. Een echte aanwinst voor de kolfbibliografie!
November 2011

Thierry Depaulis, independant game historian, Chairman of the International Playing-Card Society, President of 'Le Vieux Papier' Association, member of the Board of Directors of the 'Swiss Museum of Games Foundation, France
[...] Votre livre est extrêmement intéressant.Je n'ai pas encore fini, et déjà des questions! ...
Encore bravo pour ce beau livre! [...]
October 2011


Do Smit, member of the Kolfclub Utrecht St Eloyen Gasthuis, The Netherlands
Ik ben danig onder de indruk. Wat een werk hebben jullie hierin gestoken...!
Alleraardigst vind ik jullie insteek als jullie de spelen colf, kolf, malie en golf onderwerpen aan dezelfde toetsingscriteria (participatie van vrouwen, verschillen tussen de ballen, e.d.). Naar mijn mening een bijzonder onderscheidende insteek die de overeenkomsten én de verschillen tussen deze spelen duidelijk maakt. Ik ben natuurlijk geen echte deskundige, maar volgens mij is deze insteek nooit eerder gekozen. Ook las ik voor het eerst uitvoerig de 'details achter' de maliebaan in Londen. Leuk om te weten!
October 2011
top
home

foot




















































CHOULE – The Non-Royal but most Ancient Game of Crosse

The first ever written study about jeu de crosse (choule), one of the prominent, continental kindred games of golf. In 19 chapters on 200 pages with almost 200 photographs, drawings, paintings and illuminations, the past and present of this remarkable game - so often mentioned in golf history books - are described, including the historical, demographic, economic, cultural, religious and social environment in which the game was and still is played.

The book


Ordering
Reactions & Reviews


Summary of the chapters of the book

What is jeu de crosse
Just a Sunday club match
Through the ages
The name
The season
The playing field
The crosse (club)
The choulette (ball)
The players
Clothing
Food
Tournaments
Religion
Carnival
Battles
Images
Literature
Expressions, proverbs, songs and poems 
Afterword

intro choule

Chapter I - What is jeu de crosse

The game of choule/jeu de crosse may be considered as the transition from the original rough and 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 has never or hardly ever evolved in the course of time.

The game remains 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 do not 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. It 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. It 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 was done in the past 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. However, from the above one cannot draw any definite conclusion about a unique origin of the sports mentioned.

b01-01
The crosse field in Baudour, Belgium, the only ‘course' where the game is played also in summer.

Chapter II - Just a Sunday club match                                                                         intro choule

Jeu de crosse is a team game. Two teams of two crosseurs play against each other. The match consists of several parties (holes in golf). One team, the so called chouleurs, tries to reach the target within a certain number of strokes, decided upon beforehand. The other team, the so called déchouleurs, tries to prevent that by hitting that same ball in a different direction, away from the target. The teams play the ball in turn. The chouleurs hit the ball three times in a row, after which the déchouleurs hit the ball once. The chouleurs are the winners when they hit the target within the number of strokes agreed upon. The déchouleurs are the winners when they succeed in preventing the chouleurs to achieve their objective. A match is over when one of the teams has won 5 times. A match lasts approximately 4-5 hours.

b01-02
The schematic drawing of the choule/déchoule system in the game of crosse.

There are five different variants of the game of crosse:

Field crosse (crosse en plaine)
        This game is played on the plain fields during the winter period.

Target crosse (crosse au but)
        The purpose of this game is to hit the target from a distance of 10 meters.

Street crosse (crosse en rue)
        This variant is played only during carnival in the streets of villages and towns. The target is a beer barrel,                     placed in front of a café.

Biathlon crosse (omnium crosse)
        A combination of field crosse and target crosse.

Bird crosse (crosse aux oiseaux)
        This game is a variant of the target game in which wooden blocks, decorated with feathers, have to be                     knocked from a metal frame.

b01-03
More than a thousand players play street crosse at carnival in the Belgian town of Chièvres.

Chapter III - Through the ages                                                                                     intro choule

Today the game of crosse is played in Belgian Wallonie, mainly in the old coal mining district of the Borinage around the city of Mons (Bergen) and in France in the department Nord, more precisely in the region Avesnois around the city of Maubeuge.
Jeu de crosse en plaine is played on both sides of the Franco/Belgian border. Crosse au but is played, with a few exceptions, on the French side of the border with the town of Assevent as the centre, while crosse en rue is most popular, with a few exceptions, on the Belgian side of the border, with the towns of Chièvres and Blaton as very popular centres.

Chapter IV - The name                                                                                                   intro choule

In the Middle Ages, learned people did not only speak their native language, but also Latin, the so called ‘low Latin'. In low Latin the name ‘choulla' was used for a ball struck with a stick. In the course of the years the meaning of the word choule (or soule), in the meantime a French word, changed to a ball, played with the hands and the feet. Games in which a stick was used became known as ‘choule à la crosse '. In the first dictionary of the ‘Académie Françoise' (1694), all stick and ball games were called ‘jeu de crosse'. In the 19 th century general rules were developed and the games received their own names, like football, cricket, rugby and hockey.
The game at issue did not develop general rules and preserved the old name Jeu de Crosse. The name choule, internationally used for the game of crosse, found its origin in the book ‘Golf' from the Badminton Library (1890), in which the game of crosse was incompetently explained and wrongly called choule. As a consequence, the game is still called choule in the Anglo-Saxon golf world.

b01-05 
The first edition of the ‘Dictionnaire de l'Académie Françoise', 1694.
intro choule

Chapter V - The season

Crosse en plaine is a winter game. Most crosse societies have no playing field of their own. In summer the fields where they usually play, are occupied by cows and horses or are sowed in for maize, etc. In case the field is owned by the crosseurs, the field cannot be played in summer because of the weed, in which you cannot hit or retrieve your ball. Crosse societies have no mowing equipment. When the winter starts and the animals have returned to their sheds and stables, and the crop has been harvested, the friendly farmers open their fields to the crosseurs till spring. The crosse season starts with matches and tournaments on the 1 st of November (All Saints' Day) and end in general at Easter Monday when often the grand finals of tournaments are held.

b01-06
In summer the dandelions and other weeds grow so high that playing crosse is impossible.

Chapter VI - The playing field                                                                                       intro choule

Contrary to the well groomed golf courses, the game of crosse is played on plain fields, mostly owned by farmers who, in winter, put their fields at disposal of the crosseurs. A crosse field does not have tees, fairways and greens. There are no driving range, no proshop, and no teaching pro's. There is a clubhouse, in most cases the nearby café. The target is a metal plank of approximately 2 metres high and 20 centimetres wide. In the past different targets were used, like a tree, a hole, or a door, depending on the local situation.


b01-07

The crosse playing field in the heart of the small French town of Gommegnies.

intro choule

Chapter VII - The crosse (club)

A crosse consists of a wooden shaft, made of ash wood. The head is made of iron and has to faces. One face, the ‘plat', is straight and fixed onto the shaft under an angle of 5 to 15 degrees, and is used for distance when there is a good lie (3 to 5 iron in golf). The other face, the ‘pic', is extremely concave and is used for difficult lies and approach shots (pitching wedge in golf). The grips are often made of strokes of bicycle tyre, to reduce the impact of the ball. In street crosse, heavy, crude looking wooden crosses with a multi-face wooden head are used. Target crosse is played mainly with field crosses. Some players make use of golf putters or ‘midget' golf clubs.

b01-08
The iron head of a crosse with two faces, one for distance and one for problem solving.

Chapter VII - The choulette (ball)                                                            intro choule

The word choulette is the diminutive of choule, the original name for a ball hit with a stick. The original choulette was made mostly of boxwood. It was very small (4 x 3 centimetres ) and weighed less than 20 grams.
Nowadays, in France , balls are made of hornbeam. The official size is now 4.5 x 3,5 centimetres. The weight is between 25 and 30 grams. Belgian crosseurs experiment a lot with different materials. Today, they also use extremely hard nylon. Good players achieve with this choulette distances of over 200 metres. Most striking is that the choulette is not spherical but ellipsoid. During play, the ball may be placed upright at the exact spot where it landed. In Belgium the choulette may be replaced by a different kind of ball (bigger, smaller, lighter, heavier), depending on the lie.

b01-09
The ancient boxwood ball and the modern hornbeam ball compared to a golf ball.
intro choule

Chapter IX - The players

Considering the many crosse makers and choulette makers in the past, jeu de crosse must have been very popular. After the second World War and when the coalmines were closed in the 1960's, the popularity of the game and the number of players reduced dramatically. Today there are less than a thousand crosseurs left.
Youngsters are not interested in the game of their fathers and grandfathers. They prefer playing football, basketball, cycling, etc. There is no glory in being a champion of an almost forgotten game. The game of crosse has always been and still is a men's game. The rough going through the frozen fields is considered (by men) to be less suitable for women. Although there are some representations from the 16 th century of women playing crosse, their participation in the game has always been very limited. Only in crosse au but, women are well represented.

b01-10
Women are reasonably well represented in the crosse au but variant. This game is played the whole year round.

Chapter X - Clothing                                                                                                       intro choule

There is no special dress code for crosseurs as there still is in many golf societies. Crosseurs wear no leather gloves and no spiky shoes. Because the game is played in winter, the players are dressed in warm sweaters or coats and trousers. A hat and last but not least watertight boots complete the outfit of the crosseurs. At the carnival street games in various towns and villages, the players wear fancy clothes. Very traditional is wearing the ‘sarrau', the workman's old smock.

b01-11
The game of crosse has no dress code. Warm clothing and watertight boots are essential when playing crosse during the winter.
intro choule

Chapter XI - Food

Jeu de crosse is a very traditional game. One of the customs in this sport is having meals together with traditional food on special occasions.
As crosse has always been a workman's game, sumptuous ‘haute cuisine' dinners were not part of the crosseur's life. Normally the players had herring or mussels, the cheapest food at that time, with a good glass of wine or beer. After special festive days, crosseurs had pork chops or even rabbit. The weekly donations during the year supplied sufficient money for such a meal.

intro choule

Chapter XII - Tournaments

The game of crosse is mainly played in the week-end between friends, fellow villagers and nowadays with club members. In the ‘olden days' when there were no crosse societies, it was often the church, and later the innkeepers who organised tournaments where crosseurs from different villages or regions played against each other on special days. Longest drives and target crosse were very popular. The crosse en plaine matches could not have a winner or a winning team in one day. Like match play in golf, such competitions had (and have) to be held over several days or weekends. Today these ‘ crosse match play ‘ tournaments are very popular. There are two kinds of match play, team match play in which players enter the competition as a team and individual match play in which players enter the tournament as individuals. The organisation committee assigns every playing day a different team mate. The individual who wins the most matches is the overall winner.

b01-13 
A poster from 1901 announcing an important tournament in Belœil, Belgium.
intro choule

Chapter XIII - Religion

From the Middle Ages on, the game of crosse ran through the fields and in the streets of the towns and villages. Playing in the fields did not cause much harm, but by the time the crosseurs reached the streets (and the taverns) the game often caused swearing and fighting. Counsel and Church authorities were regularly forced to forbid, limit and/or alter the playing of the game. The Church authorities tried to control the game by incorporating crosse into the religious calendar.
At the end of the 19th century, with the rise of liberalism, socialism and the increase of secularisation, the influence of the Church diminished. Crosseurs organised themselves in crosse societies, as they were previously organised in parishes.

In the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries contagious diseases like gangrene and the plague broke out regularly. Many people in the crosse region went frequently on pilgrimages to the chapel of Saint Anthony near the city of Mons (Bergen) to pray for protection against these diseases. After the celebrations in the chapel, people start to meet each other, to dance, to eat, to sing and to play. Crosseurs played around the chapel and used the door of the chapel as the final target.
When the contagious diseases diminished, people stopped to go on a pilgrimage to the chapel. The crosseurs however continued to go to the chapel of Saint Anthony. who had become in the meantime their patron saint. In his honour, they continued to play their game of crosse around the chapel, especially on the 17 th January, his name day. Because of the fading interest in the game, and the building activities around the chapel, this wonderful tradition stopped in 1971.

b01-01
For several centuries Saint Anthony has been the patron saint of all crosseurs.

Chapter XIV - Carnival                                                                                                   intro choule

In the long gone past games like golf and colf were played in the streets of the towns. In the course of the centuries, those games were banned to the fields outside the towns because of the danger of flying balls causing harm to the public and breakage of windows from churches and houses. Crosseurs however still play in the towns itself, be it only during carnival. In many villages and towns in the crosse region, players from all over Wallonie come together in places like Chièvres and Blaton. On these festive days, cars are banned from the streets and windows of the houses and shops are protected with wire mesh or panels against the bouncing wooden balls. The crosseurs play towards targets, being beer barrels placed in front of the taverns, where they drink to their victory or their defeat of the partie (hole). In some towns, players wear fancy clothes and when the games have finished, they have often traditional meals and they sing traditional songs.

b01-15
At street crosse during carnival, in various towns crosseurs wear fancy clothes as they do here in the French Vicq.

Chapter XV - Battles                                                                                                       intro choule

Several researchers are of the opinion that wars have played an important role in the introduction of sports into different regions and countries.
The battle of Hastings in 1066, between William the Conqueror and the Anglo-Saxon King Edward the Confessor, could have been an event, where Flemish knights introduced jeu de crosse into England, from where it moved to Scotland to become in the course of time the game of golf.
The Hundred Years' War between France and England on French soil culminated in some major battles, of which we mention Crécy (1346), Poitiers (1356) and Baugé (1421). These battles were fought between the English soldiers on the one side and the French, supported by Scottish soldiers, on the other side. During the campaigns the English and Scottish soldiers could have seen French people playing the game of crosse. They liked the game so much, that when they returned to their home countries they took this game with them, where it eventually developed into the game of golf.

b01-16
A panel near the site of the Crécy battle field attracts the attention of passers-by.
intro choule

Chapter XVI - Images

In the Middle Ages and at the beginning of the Renaissance, artistic expressions were mainly restricted to religious themes. Presentations of sports were exceptional. Later on, especially in the Low Countries , more profane illustrations were made. Also sports were depicted.
Various authors have researched these portrayals to find out which sports were shown. The ‘Crécy man' in Gloucester (England), the ‘ La Martyre man' in French Brittany and the ‘Airvault man' in French Poitou-Charente, have caught the attention of historians. The research results were very diverse. The Crécy man is called in the meantime: a golfer, a cambuca player, a crosseur and a bandy player.
The same goes for the stick and ball players on the painting of Paul Bril (1624) in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. The painting has been called ‘Landscape with golf players, with colf players, with choule players and with stick and ball players'. What is right?

b01-17 
The mysterious ‘ La Martyre man' in Brittany. Who is he, what game is he playing?

Chapter XVII - Literature                                                                                               intro choule

Since the Middle Ages, sports have been written about in poetry, novels, etc. The game of crosse is no exception. Because of the variations in terminology it is often difficult to decide if crosse or another stick and ball game is meant. Already in the 13th century Jacob van Maerlant, the famous Flemish author wrote about ‘mit ener coluen' (with a colf). Also Jean Froissart (1337-1410), François Villon (1431-1463), Rabelais (1494-1553), Gilles de Gouberville (1521-1578), Jean Lebeuf (1687-1760), etc. mentioned choule-like games in their works. However, it is very difficult if not to say impossible, to conclude which stick and ball games are meant.
From the 19th century onwards, it was the game of crosse, which was mentioned in the works of Charles Deulin (Le Grand-Choleur, 1873), Emile Zola (Germinal, 1885) and Achille Delattre (La bonne partie de crosse, 1939).

b01-18
Statue of Jacob van Maerlant who wrote about ‘mit ener coluen' in 1261

intro choule

Chapter XVIII - Expressions, proverbs, songs and poems

Many expressions and proverbs used in daily life are related to popular sports. Also jeu de crosse has enlarged the language, though mainly the local dialect. Some examples are:

Laisser la soule dans l'haie, meaning: It is better to end a discussion
Autant pour les crosses, meaning : All has been in vain
Mettre la crosse en l'air, meaning : Surrender

Regrettably most of them have fallen in disuse the last decades because the game has lost so much of its popularity. 

The game of crosse has always been a working man's game. You hardly find songs and poems on a high literary level. Crosseurs sing about victory and defeat, about Saint Anthony, their patron saint, about their sport, their society and about their country. The texts of these songs are not the height of poetry. But just imagine: after a cold afternoon on the crosse field, returning to the tavern, singing their songs, a glass in the one hand and the other around the shoulders of their crosse friends. At such occasions there are no better songs than crosseur songs. The level of these songs exceed by far the quality of football songs in the stadiums.

b01-19
The ‘Ménétriers' from Chièvres who brought the Saint Anthony song back to life.
intro choule

Chapter XIX - Afterword

After years of research you come to the conclusion that you have raised more questions than you have found answers. Questions about the differences between crosse and its sister games golf, colf and mail. Questions about the region were the game was and still is played; why there and not elsewhere? Questions about the relationship between crosse and colf, played in neighbouring regions, where the language seems to be a frontier. Questions about the death of colf and mail, the tremendous growth of golf and the crosse fight for survival. Hopefully this book will be a starting point for professional historians to find answers to these and many other questions about this wonderful game. We are sure, the ‘Choule book' hasn't finished yet!

b01-20
An unknown English stick and ball game played in the 18th century, probably in Yorkshire. –
By courtesy of Brian Clough, United Kingdom

Ordering                                                                                                                          intro choule

The book CHOULE – The Non-Royal but most Ancient Game of Crosse is published in the English language and printed in black and white. The book contains 200 pages and is illustrated with 200 photographs and depictions of paintings, drawings and illuminations. Because of the restricted number of copies printed, the book is not available from the bookshop, but can be obtained directly from the authors. Via

The price of the book is EURO 15 (GBP 15 or USD 20), including packaging and posting.
Payments can be made via PayPal or via an international bank transfer.





Reactions                                                                                                                         

Pete Georgiady, USA
I have had your book on my desk since it arrived and I pick it up regularly and read a few more pages. It is a magnificent work and I salute you for the excellent research and the high quality manner in which you presented it. It is very well illustrated  (I love most the photo of the boys on p. 77).  I would quickly say yours is an important work on the history of non-golf stick and ball games of western Europe and one  that I will refer to frequently in the future.
July 2011

Literati of the Links, Meeting at St Andrews - Report on the site of the British Golf Collectors Society
Around a dozen of us sat down in the Byre Theatre to listen to papers presented by David Hamilton, John Pearson, Philip Knowles and Peter Georgiady in the afternoon of 14th October 2009.
David had recently visited France & Belgium where he witnessed the Ancient but not so Royal game of Choule being played. He brought with him several specimens of the balls with which the game is played and an example of the club.
He described the rules, whereby one team of two "wager" to get the ball from the teeing off area to a target in a given number of series. A series comprises three consecutive alternate strokes by the "wagering" team and then the opposing team being allowed to hit the ball into any other part of the course. This can be the nearest pond, cow pat, rough grass, or cabbage patch. The double faced club that is used consists of a flat face to achieve distance and another with a sharp angle to extract the ball from deep lies.
Whether this game of Chole is an ancestor of golf is debatable. But Geert & Sara Nijs have produced a wonderful book "Chole The Non-Royal but most Ancient Game of Crosse" which is a fascinating read.
 
October 2009

Gordon Taylor, Great Britain
Early in the New Year I received your excellent book on Choule.
I am a collector of golfing memorabilia and have in my collection a metal crosse club. When I first purchased my club, I did a little research as to what the game was about and became fascinated with the rules and how it was played. Your book on which I congratulate you has now filled in a lot of information which I find intriguing and which quite obviously has cost you some painstaking research.
February 2009

W. Rönnebeck , Germany
A very interesting book and I congratulate you on this scholarly work.
It closes a gap, for as you mention, so far most publications on this topic copied one another. Here, with your book, comes authentic information.
December 2008

John Hanna, Past Captain of the British Golf Collectors Society, Great Britain
Rarely can a highly researched book have been inspired by the finding of a rusty hickory golf club in a small 'brocante' in the Netherlands . However this is just the beginning to a most informative book written by two BGCS and EAGHC members Geert & Sara Nijs. Their book of nearly 200 pages is a most comprehensive look at the stick and ball game Choule. As they say 'The Non-Royal but most Ancient Game of Crosse'
In the opening chapters they give an overview on what is Jeu de Crosse, and its various formats as to whether it is played cross-country or on a smaller scale. It is surprising that this type of game appears to have been limited to quite a small area in northern France and southern Belgium , predominantly in mining areas. Further chapters deal in detail with the different playing layouts that depend on the size and shape of the land available for them to play on. The construction of clubs and balls and the patterns of play are also described.
Geert and Sara express their concern that this game is only played now by a small more elderly part of the society and may be in danger of dying out. They describe the efforts being made to try to maintain its popularity. Like golf the game has a close relationship with food and the different clothing worn by the players. They also explore many other cultural links with the game, including: religion and particularly its nominated patron St. Anthony; carnivals, feasts and battles; other early 'golf' images such as the 'Crécy Man'   in the east window of Gloucester Cathedral; and a wide span of literature, songs and poems. I think it would be hard to find two more enthusiastic writers.
Book review in 'Through The Green', magazine of the BGCS, December 2008

Prof Dr. Dietrich R. Quanz, Germany - Letter to the authors, also published in English in Golfika no. 3 2008
Ihr habt mit Fleiß auch nichts ausgelassen, was auf praktische Spielweise und religiös-literarische Bedeutung des Jeu de Crosse einen Lichtschimmer bringen könnte. Das Titelbild und seine Metamorphose in Holzpantinen zieht sich auch thematisch durch: eben kein Spiel der Oberklasse, sondern im wirklichen Sinne ein unkompliziertes Volksspiel. Unkompliziert, weil Ihr es uns im historisch-nationalen Kontext erklärt. An Imagination fehlt es auch nicht und wird wohl zu Diskussionen Anlass geben. Darüber hinaus kommt Ihr am Ende zu vergleichenden Betrachtungen und Fragestellungen aus internationaler Sicht. Es gelingt auch terminologische Verwirrungen aufzulösen und Ordnung zu schaffen zwischen Feld-, Straßen- und Zielorientierung. Ihr räumt mit manchen oberflächlichen-assoziativen Deutungen auf. Gerade bei den 100-jährigen-Kriegsanalysen erinnerte ich mich an Barbara Tuchmanns Buch über das schreckliche 14. Jahrhundert, daß sie an interessanten zeitgenössischen Quellen entwickelt. Ihr habt nicht nur ein historisch anspruchsvolles Arbeitsbuch geschaffen, sondern zeigt und belegt bildlich auch wie lebendig das Spiel in der Gegenwart ist und stellt auf Zukunft ab. Was aus wissenschaftlicher Sicht besonders auffällt: Da wo nicht eindeutig das eine oder andere Stockballspiel gemeint sein kann, gebt Ihr solchen Zweifeln Ausdruck. Das hebt sich besonders von solchen Golfbüchern ab, die für coffe table interessenden und deren Finanzkraft geschrieben und ausgestattet sind.
October 2008

intro choule

homefoot