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choule
CHOULE The Non-Royal but most Ancient
Game of Crosse
2021 Revised/Extended/Re-designed edition

Editions Choulla et Clava
Games for Kings & Commoners PART THREE

2015
Editions Choulla et Clava



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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
OUT OF PRINT - SEE 'CHOULE' - EDITION 2021


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Games for Kings & Commoners PART THREE

Over 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 finalised the last part of their trilogy ‘Games for Kings & Commoners’. As in Part One and Two, they discuss a whole series of new subjects, like the endless worldwide claims on the origin of golf. They describe the ‘Little Ice Age’ and its consequences for the games; they show the development of clubs during the centuries and the evolution from the short into the long game. They report about the fascinating discovery of ancient clubs, excavated from 16th and 17th centuries 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
Haarlem: 600 years of colf - kolf - golf
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

Through 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 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 skating, curling, walking and taking some refreshments.


Nautical Archaeology

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


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. Haarlem had the first ‘official’ colf course (1390) and ‘links’ course of the Netherlands (1913).


Early 17th-century ice scene under the walls of Haarlem. Watched by partners, opponents and other spectators, a colver aims 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

During the ages, the names of golf and the continental games were written in different ways. What is the origin of the names?


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 shallow cavities?


Dimples make the difference. The player can hit a dimpled ball 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 of the book is EURO 15 plus p & p.
Payment: via PayPal or an international bank transfer (EURO-accounts only).
Because of the restricted number of copies printed, the book is not available from the bookshop but can be obtained directly via

 




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


John Hanna, Past Captain of the British Golf Collector’s Society and Past President of the European Association of Golf Historians & Collectors, Great Britain

If there are any researchers who have spent as much time as Geert and Sara have done in investigating the history and the playing of stick and ball games throughout Europe and beyond there cannot be many!
This is evident by the amount of material in their latest book. Its 276 pages are filled with an enormous amount of most interesting material. Also, it is enhanced by around 200 maps and coloured photographs many of which have been taken by Geert. The book opens with a brief description of the varied stick and ball games found in Europe and beyond. All the more common games are included such as Colf, Crosse, Mail and, of course, Golf. However, our researchers have gone further and report on games from Russia and China. Some other references have made in respect of golf in China and the pictures used a game very similar to golf. It dates as far back as the mid-15th century around the same time as golf was first played. An interesting question the authors pose in relation to the founding of golf – when they state ‘Could it be that golf is just an independent Scottish game, invented by the Scots, developed by the Scots and spread over the world by Scots’.
The next section of the book deals in great detail with the various cleeks and clubs used by the players while a later section deals in detail with all the various ‘balls’ which are used. It is interesting in their books that Geert and Sara detail many other aspects of the games and this book is no different with a look at the impact Nautical Archaeology has played in the discovery of old clubs (see this issue and the June issue of TTG for more detail). Also included is the effect that the ‘Little Ice Age’ had on the games played during the years 1550 to 1800. This is the time when there was much activity on the frozen canals in the Low Countries. The book also makes reference to the effect this weather had in Scotland.
A very detailed study of the stick and ball games played in the ancient city of Haarlem is fascinating given the detailed maps and pictures included. For anyone wishing to learn more about games which may, or may not, have had an influence on the more familiar game of golf in these islands this book is a ‘must read’.
Book review in 'Through The Green', magazine of the BGCS, September 2015

 


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Games for Kings & Commoners PART TWO

 

This new publication, a continuation of ‘Games for Kings and Commoners’ (2011), counts ten chapters on 280 pages, including more than 200 pictures, both in full colour and black and white. The authors deal with several new historical aspects of the related games of colf (kolf), crosse (choule), golf and mail (pall mall). They discuss, explain and compare the games to develop a better insight into how and by whom, with what equipment and under what rules they probably have been played in the late Middle Ages and the early Renaissance.


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 the 'birth date' of golf. Lately, some historians have concluded that golf, as mentioned in the famous Act of Scottish Parliament, was not golf from which today's golf evolved. They believe 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).

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Spreading (s)wings

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


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Who needed an 'aide' to play the game?

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

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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.

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Maliën in the Netherlands

For hundreds of years, the Netherlanders played 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 become a popular game, and did it last long?

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

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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 frequent the driving range to practice before we are even allowed to play on the course. Who taught kings, aristocrats, bourgeois and commoners 500 years ago how to swing a club?

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17th-century painting, showing a professional or a personal friend, teaching a young lady how to handle the colf club.


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1297: facts or fairy tales?

Steven van Hengel issued a story (‘Early Golf’, 1982) that in 1297 a colf game was played in the village of Loenen aan de Vecht in the Netherlands. In the last years, various authors doubted the veracity of the so-called Loenen history based on different arguments. Is the colf match a fabrication, or is there some truth in the ancient story?

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The original castle of Kronenburg has a long history up to its pull-down in 1836/1837. It marked the end of a wonderful tradition of playing colf in Loenen aan de Vecht.

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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?

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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?

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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?

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

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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.

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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.

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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.


The book/Ordering

The publication (format 18 x 26 cm) contains 280 pages with over 200 pictures in full colour and black-and-white.
The price of the book is EURO 15 plus p & p.
Payment: via PayPal or an international bank transfer (EURO-accounts only).
Because of the restricted number of copies printed, the book is not available from the bookshop but can be obtained directly via

 

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


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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

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.


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.

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.

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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.

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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.

 

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.

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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.

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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 ».


Le dictionnaire latin populaire des années 800 - 1200 de Charles du Fresne, Sieur du Cange, comprenait le mot «choulla», ce qui veut dire que, déjà au Moyen Age, on connaissait des jeux de balles et bâtons.

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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.


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.

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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.


Les terrains de crosse sont souvent divisés par des fossés, des clôtures et des haies. Les crosseurs sont obligés d’escalader pour suivre la choulette d’un champ à un autre.

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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.


Une seule crosse combine les propriétés de deux clubs de golf : le plat représente un fer long, le pic ou le bec équivaut pitching wedge. Comme on peut le voir, la face à frapper de la crosse est très petite par comparaison avec les clubs de golf.
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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.


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

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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.

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

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

La nourriture                                                                                                                    retour

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.


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.


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

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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.


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.

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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.


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.

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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.


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.

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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.


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

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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.


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.


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

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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.


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

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Commander

Le livre compte 286 pages avec presque 200 illustrations en noir & blanc.
Le prix est EURO 15
par exemplaire.
Paiment par PayPal ou un virement international. (seulement pour comptes bancaire en euro).
A cause du tirage limité, le livre n'est pas en vente au librairie mais directement chez les auteurs par
 




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

Revue de Golf Europeen

Mars 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



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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


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?

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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?

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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.


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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?

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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.


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Mit ener coluen

In 1267, the Flemish poet Jacob van Maerlant transcripted the 'Livre de Merlin'. In the book, 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?

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

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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?

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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?


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.
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Knocking wooden balls around

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

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

Swapping woodies for leatheries

If the Scots started their game with wooden balls, why 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?


Kings took to the links

According to most golf history books, Scottish and later British royalty has 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?


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

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Afterword

In the years, many books have been published about the history of golf. One could get the impression that the history of this intriguing game has no secrets anymore. 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 a target and have a pint afterwards?

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The book/Ordering

The publication (format 18 x 26 cm) contains 260 pages with over 200 pictures in full colour and black-and-white.
The book
is published in a limited edition of 250 numbered copies.
The price of the book is EURO 15 plus p & p.
Payment: via PayPal or an international bank transfer (EURO-accounts only).
Because of the restricted number of copies printed, the book is not available from the bookshop but can be obtained directly via





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
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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 choulette (ball)
The crosse (club)
The players
Clothing
Traditional food
Tournaments
Religion
Carnival
Battles
Images
Literature
Expressions, proverbs, songs & poems 
The rules of the game
Afterword

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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 over 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 from reaching its goal. The ball is hit in turn; a dangerous mêlée of players does not occur. The wooden clubs with which the wooden ellipsoid balls are hit have wooden or iron heads. As golfers, colvers and mailers did in the long-gone past, today, crosseurs still play their game in the winter. They play it 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. Crosseurs play on unprepared meadows and fields, as did golfers on the links of Leith and St. Andrews and colvers in the fields of Haarlem. Choule/jeu de crosse gives a realistic 'prehistoric' image of how, 600 to 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 the unique origin of the sports mentioned.


The crosse field at Gommegnies, France, home ground of the society 'Les Amis Réunis'. The crosseurs have to share it with cows and horses and play the choulettes from trampled soggy parts of the field.

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Just a Sunday club match                                                                                 

Jeu de crosse is a team game. Two teams of two crosseurs (chouleurs and déchouleurs) play against each other. The match consists of several parties (holes in golf). The chouleurs try to reach the target within a certain number of strokes, decided upon beforehand. The déchouleurs try 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 decided upon beforehand. The déchouleurs are the winners when they succeed in preventing the chouleurs from achieving their objective. A match is over when one of the teams has won 5 times. A match lasts approximately 4-5 hours.

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


The variants The most important variants in jeu de crosse are:

Jeu de crosse en plaine (field crosse)

This choule/déchoule game, as described above, is played in the open fields from November till April.

Jeu de crosse au but (target crosse)

This game is a target game, like a putting contest, played in summer and winter and indoor and outdoor. Women and children play this traditional game too. The game's purpose is to hit the target with the choulette from a distance of ten metres. Every contestant has ten attempts.

Jeu de crosse en rue (street crosse)

This choule/déchoule game is played in the streets of towns and villages only on Shrove Tuesday or Ash Wednesday, as part of carnival festivities. The targets are mostly beer barrels. In the long-gone past, 'en plaine' and 'en rue' probably have been the same game. The church and councils forbade this game in many towns and villages, except during religious feasts. It was considered too dangerous for players as well as spectators and passers-by. Many councils allow the street game only when softballs, for instance, tennis balls, are used.


There are various less official variants of the crosse game, of which we mention:

Omnium crosse ('biathlon' crosse)

This variant is a combination of the approach part of the 'en plaine' game and a short version of the 'au but' game. Crosse aux oiseaux ('bird' crosse)

In this target game, the players have to knock wooden feathered birds of a metal frame.


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

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Through the ages                                                                                            

Today, crosseurs play their game around the cities of Mons (Bergen) in Belgian Wallonia and Maubeuge in the French region Avesnois. Jeu de crosse en plaine is played on both sides of the Franco-Belgian border. With a few exceptions, crosse au but is played 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 cities of Chièvres and Blaton as popular centres.


The name                                                                                                       

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

 
Du Cange includes the word 'choulla' in his low Latin dictionary from the years 800 - 1200. That means that people played already stick and ball games in the Middle Ages.
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The season

Most crosse societies have no playing field of their own. Crosse en plaine is a winter game. In summer, cows and horses occupy the playing fields, or the farmers sow them in. When the pastures and the arable lands are empty again, friendly farmers open their fields to the crosseurs till spring. Matches and tournaments open the season on the 1st of November (All Saints' Day); the grand finals of tournaments take often place on Easter Monday.


It was the 'garde champêtre' (village constable) who walked through the streets of the village with a bell or a drum to inform the villagers that the end of the crosse season was there.

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The playing field                                                                                             

Contrary to the well-groomed golf courses, the crosse game is played on plain fields, not having tees, fairways and greens. There are no driving range, pro shop, nor teaching pros. In most cases, the nearby café serves as the clubhouse. In the past, the crosseurs used all sorts of targets; today, the target is a metal plank,  approximately 2 metres high and 20 centimetres wide.


Ditches, fences and hedges often split crosse courses. Crosseurs have to do quite some climbing to follow the choulette from one field to another.
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The choulette (ball)

The word choulette is the diminutive of choule, the original name for a ball hit with a stick. The original choulettes were small ellipsoid boxwood ones, weighing less than 20 grams. Nowadays, in France, balls are of hornbeam, and they are slightly bigger and heavier than the original boxwood. Belgian crosseurs experiment a lot with different materials to achieve distances of over 200 metres. Most striking is that the original boxwood choulette is not spherical but ellipsoid. Due to their form, the player can and is allowed to place it upright at the exact spot where it landed. The Belgian crosseurs replace it with a different ball (bigger, smaller, lighter, heavier), depending on the lie.

 
The golf ball, included in this picture and most of the following ones, gives an idea of the size of the showed choulettes. The crosse balls were equipped with hand-cut shallow ' dimples' or turned lines, ridges or points on the lath, depending on who produced them. It is unknown which of such balls performed best as for distance or flight characteristics.

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The crosse (club)                                                                     

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


One crosse club combines the properties of two golf clubs: the plat represents a long iron, the 'pic' or 'bec' equals the pitching wedge. As one can see, the strike face of the crosse is relatively small compared to the golf clubs.

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The players

Considering the many crosse and choulette makers in the past, jeu de crosse must have been very popular. After the Second World War and the close of the coal mines in the 1960s, the popularity of the game and the number of players reduced dramatically. The 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 field crosse game has always been and still is a men's game. Only in crosse au but, women are well represented.


The oldest presentation of a woman, playing a stick and ball game. Illumination from the 'Hours of Abbot Guillaume Bracque', Valenciennes, France, c. 1520 (between 1516 and 1547) – By courtesy of Sam Fogg, London

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Clothing                                                                                                            

There is no particular dress code for crosseurs as there still is in many golf societies. It is a winter game, so the players wear 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 the 'sarrau', the old workman's smock.


The game of crosse has no dress code. Warm clothing and watertight boots are essential when playing crosse during the winter.
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Traditional food

One of the customs in jeu de crosse 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. Usually, the players had herring or mussels, the cheapest food at that time, with a 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.

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Tournaments

The crosse game was mainly played at the weekends with friends and fellow villagers and nowadays, with club members.  In 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 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 took several days or weekends. There were two types of these ‘crosse match play‘ tournaments. With team match play, a team entered in the competition. With individual match play, an individual player took part in the tournament, and the organising committee assigned every playing day a different teammate. The individual who wins the most matches is the overall winner.

 
A poster from 1901 announcing an important tournament in Belœil, Belgium.
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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 forbade, limited or altered regularly 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 frequently went on pilgrimages to the chapel of St 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, dance, eat, sing and play games. Crosseurs played around the chapel and used the door of the chapel as the final target.
When the contagious diseases diminished, people stopped going on a pilgrimage to the chapel. The crosseurs, however, continued to go to the chapel of St Anthony, who since had become their patron saint. In his honour, they continued to play their crosse game around the chapel, especially on 17th 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.


For several centuries St Anthony has been the patron saint of all crosseurs.

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Carnival                                                                                                            

Ages ago, people played games like golf and colf in the streets of the towns. In the centuries, the authorities expelled those games to the neighbouring fields because of the danger of flying balls causing harm to the public and breaking windows from churches and houses. Crosseurs yet play in-town, be it only during carnival. In many villages and cities in the crosse region, players from all over Wallonia come together. 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 beer barrels placed in front of the taverns, where they drink to their victory or defeat of the partie. In some towns, players wear fancy clothes, and when the games have finished, they often have traditional meals, and they sing traditional songs.


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

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Battles                                                                                                           

Several researchers believe that wars have played an important role in introducing 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 develop into 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). English soldiers fought against the French and their Scottish allies. During the campaigns, the English and Scottish soldiers could have seen French people playing the crosse game, which they liked so much that they took it with them to their homeland, where it developed into golf.


The Hundred Years' War between England and France took principally place in the western and northwestern part of France, where people played the crosse game, and from this part of France, it could have been exported to Scotland.

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Images

In the Middle Ages and at the beginning of the Renaissance, art did have hardly any other themes than religious ones. Presentations of daily life, like sports, were exceptional. Later on, to begin in the Low Countries, more profane depictions appeared, like sports and other pastimes.  Various authors have researched these representations to give the correct name to the games shown. The 'Crécy man' in Gloucester (England) has caught the attention of many historians. To the ‘ La Martyre man' in French Brittany and the ‘Airvault man' in French Poitou-Charente, they paid less attention. The research results were very diverse; for instance, the Crécy man could play golf, paganica, cambuca or jeu the crosse.
The same goes for the stick and ball players in the painting of Paul Bril (1624); they are identified as crosseurs, mailers, colvers or simply 'ball players'.

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

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Literature                                                                                                    

Since the Middle Ages, games were the subject in poetry and novels. The game of crosse is no exception. Because of the variations in terminology, it is often difficult to decide if jeu de crosse or another stick and ball game is meant. The oldest reference dates from the 13th century when Jacob van Maerlant, a Flemish author, writes 'mit ener coluen' (with a colf). After him, Jean Froissart, François Villon and Rabelais (14th and 15th centuries) refer in their poetry to a or the crosse game. Gilles de Gouberville and Jean Lebeuf (16th and 18th centuries), mention choule-like games in their works.
From the 19th century onwards, it is without doubt 'our game of crosse', described in the tales and novels from Charles Deulin, Emile Zola and Achille Delattre.  

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Expressions, proverbs, songs & poems

Many expressions and proverbs used in daily life have a relation with popular sports. Also jeu de crosse has enlarged the language, though mainly the local dialect.
The game of crosse has always been a working man's game. Crosseurs sing about victory and defeat, their patron saint St Anthony, their game, their society and about their country. The songs and poems have no high literary level but 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. On such occasions, there are no better songs! Anyway, the level of these songs exceeds by far the quality of football songs in the stadiums.


The ‘Ménétriers' from Chièvres who brought the St Anthony song back to life.
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The rules of the game

Rules for the early games of crosse have not been found; they probably did not exist. At that time and age, more than 80% of the population was illiterate. The few basic rules came down from father to son. Such rules were mainly local rules and depended on the terrain where people played the game, such as near little streams and ponds, trees, swamps, meadows, farmland, streets and even churchyards. Therefore, the rules would vary between the different regions or villages. Crosse players in the Middle Ages were mainly ordinary people and farmers who hardly travelled to other regions.
The oldest rules we found are from 1928 and written for crossage' au paillet' or 'aux oiseaux' by a Belgian society. It took until 1978 in France before the first 'official' rules for the 'en plaine', 'en rue' and 'omnium' games were edited. In Belgium, the first 'en plaine' rules date from 1980.


When the choulette has ended up in a water hazard, the crosseur needs a lot of experience and watertight wellies to hit the floating choulette from the water into play again. If he does not succeed he has a penalty stroke.

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Afterword

After years of research, you conclude that you have raised more questions than you have found answers to questions, for instance, about the differences between crosse and its sister games golf, colf and mail. Questions about the region where the game was and still is played; why there and not elsewhere? Questions about the relationship between crosse and colf played in the neighbouring regions, where the language seems to be a frontier. Questions about the extinction of colf and mail, the tremendous growth of golf and the fight of crosse to survive.

Hopefully, this book will be a starting point for professional historians to find answers to these and many other questions about this beautiful game. We are sure that the book CHOULE hasn't finished yet!


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

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Ordering                                                                                                                                                                                         

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, depictions of paintings, drawings and illuminations.
The price of the book is EURO 20 plus p & p.
Payments: via PayPal or
an international bank transfer (EURO-accounts only).
Because of the restricted number of copies printed, the book is not available from the bookshop, but can be ordered directly via




Reactions on the 2008 edition                                                                                                                         

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

'Notes bibliographiques', Bulletin bimestriel - Vol. 11 - 42e année - n° 247
Cercle Royal d'Histoire & d'Archéologie d'Ath

Janvier 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

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