This sector of the website contains information, publications and illustrations concerning the ancient history of the related games colf (kolf), crosse (choule), golf and mail (pall mall) and the possible relationship between these European club and ball games.
This sector also includes stick and ball games with an indirect relationship with the European games.





Published (in)

Le swin-golf

Sara Kieboom-Nijs

2024 April

Sara Kieboom-Nijs

2024 March
Rather boys than girls in
colf, crosse, golf & mail

Sara Kieboom-Nijs

2024 February

Clearly unsuitable for women

Sara Kieboom-Nijs
2024 January - Revised chapter from
'Games for Kings & Commoners Part One'(2014)

Delft blue tiles

Sara Kieboom-Nijs

2023 October


Sara Kieboom-Nijs

2023 August

Stick and ball playing putti

Sara Kieboom-Nijs
2022 Spring - Golfika no. 29
(Magazine of the European Association
of Golf Historians and Collectors)
Visit at the Nederlands Golfmuseum,

Mr. Ferd Vrijmoed
2022 April - Golfkrant  N° 49

The first clubhouses in golf &
its continental look-alikes

Geert Nijs

Sara Kieboom-Nijs
2015 August - Idea & first draft

2022 February - Elaboration
The Flemish and
the game of 'curling'

Geert & Sara Nijs
2015 November - Posting on the blog of a
major project of the University of St Andrews
Institue of Scottish Historical Research,
called 'Scotland and the Flemish people'
'Caveat Emptor'
Buyers & sellers beware

Geert & Sara Nijs

2014 December - Through the Green
(Magazine of the British Golf Collectors Society)
Who needs an ‘Aide’
to play the game

Geert & Sara Nijs
2014 September - Through the Green
(Magazine of the British Golf Collectors Society)

I'd like to teach the world to s(w)ing

Geert & Sara Nijs
2014 June - Through the Green
(Magazine of the British Golf Collectors Society)

Das Mazzaschlagen oder „Alpengolf“

Geert & Sara Nijs

2014 April
Golf History for
Golf Historians & Collectors

Geert & Sara Nijs
2013 Summer - Golfika no. 12
(Magazine of the European Association
of Golf Historians and Collectors)
The Italian traditional games of
fiolet and rebatta

Geert Nijs

2012 September
Did Yuan Dynasty Mongols bring
Golf Game Into Europe?

Wu Linqi
2011 September - Golfika no. 8
(Magazine of the European Association
of Golf Historians and Collectors)

Knur and spell & nipsy

Gordon Taylor

2009 February


James Masters

2009 January




The Italian traditional games of fiolet and rebatta
Geert Nijs, France

The game of fiolet

Since time and age, a club and ball game called 'fiolet' is played in the Italian region of the 'Valle d'Aosta', a very mountainous region surrounded by the highest peaks of the Alps in the extreme north-west of Italy, bordered by France and Switzerland.
In this game, a player hits a ball with a club as far as possible into the field. A real 'longest drive contest'. The main difference between fiolet and colf, crosse, golf and mail is that the ball is not hit from the ground but in the air. The ball does not have to touch a specific target; it is only the distance that counts.

The equipment used in the game of fiolet: the pira (tee), the fiolet (flattened oval ball) and the eima or mas(s)ette or maciocca (a club with the half oval club head). – Photo:

The fiolet (ball) used to be a pebble stone with one flat side. Today, the boxwood fiolet is covered with nails to achieve a weight of 35-40 grams. The ball has an oval form at one side; the other side is flat. Nowadays, also aluminium fiolets appear in the field.
The eima or mas(s)ette) or maciocca (club) is 40 to 70 centimetres long. At one end, the club is somewhat thicker or equipped with a square or cylindrical or half-cylindrical bulge.
The pira (tee) is a smooth stone placed on a piece of cement of approximately 25 centimetres.
The playing field is a triangular stretch of grass between 150 and 200 metres. From the tee, the field is divided into stretches of 15 metres. 

The triangular field in which the player hits the ball is up to 200 meters long. The ball should stay within the sidelines of the triangle. – Photo:

Two teams of each one or several players play against each other. In turn, they try to hit the ball into the field. They place the ball with the flat part upon the pira. With the thick end of the club, they give a smart rap on the end of the ball. The ball then spins upward, and the player tries to hit the airborne ball as far as possible into the field, holding his club with one hand. Depending on the 15 metres stretch where the ball comes down, the player receives a number of points. The further he hits the ball, the more points he receives. When all players have had their ten or, depending on the kind of tournament, more attempts, all points of the individual players or the teams are totalled to decide which player or team is the winner.

misc 06
It is of utmost importance to rap the ball from the tee into the exact height and direction to hit it then with full power into the field. – Photo:

Today there are roughly 450 active fiolet players. The game is played mainly in spring. The most important meeting is the team 'Spring Championships' starting around the second week of March and finishing at the beginning of May. The main individual tournaments are the 'Baton d'Or' championship held on 1st May and another single contest held in mid-May.

misc 07
The winning team of the Baton d'Or championship in 1927. The fiolet players used clubs with a broader end on one side and not the clubs with cylindrical or half-cylindrical club heads. – Photo:

On 17th July 1924, the 'Federaxon Esports de Nohtra Tera' was founded, the first association for several traditional games, being part of the nationwide 'Federazione Giochie e Sport Traditionale'. Today the final of the championship is played in Brissogne on 1st May. The winner receives the 'Baton d'Or. The game is played during spring after the snow has melted and before the weeds start to grow and the cattle enter the meadows again. A certain Mr Germano Cheillon d'Allein, born in 1873, explained: "I played fiolet already during the last years of the previous (19th century, not only with my friends but also with much older players."


The game of ‘la rebatta’

A similar game, 'la rebatta', is played in the same region of the Valley of Aosta, be it in different communities. Also in this game, players hit an airborne ball with a club as far as possible into the field. They play with a rebatta (boxwood ball) with a diameter of 28 to 30 millimetres, weighing 25 to 40 grams. The ball is covered with iron or copper nails and painted white to retrieve it easier in the field. Nowadays, the players use also aluminium balls with some dimples.

The 'tee' in the rebatta game. The player raps on the small black part of the lever. The dimpled aluminium ball will then spin upward to be hit by the player. – Photo:

The wooden lever has the shape of a pipe. The bowl of the pipa or fioletta (pipe) has a small hollow in which the rebatta is placed. When the player hits on the stem of the pipe, the ball will jump up to be hit as far as possible into the field. The club is 100 to 140 centimetres long, made of ash wood and has a cylindrical part at one end, the matchocca or masseta.

Contrary to the game of fiolet, the 'baton' (club) is held with two hands in a reversed baseball grip (left hand above right hand). The left arm is straight, the right elbow close to the body. – Photo:

The player holds the baton with both hands in a reversed baseball grip. It is interesting to see that the left arm is straight and the other bent arm is not 'flying' but hold close to the body. It looks like a rather flat golf swing. The playing field is a triangular stretch of grass up to 250 meters long and approximately 60 meters wide at the end. This field is divided into stretches of 15 meters. Each stretch stands for a certain number of points. The farther you hit the rebatta, the more points you earn. In a tournament, each team has five players. Every player has twenty attempts, the so-called batua or tsachà. At the end of the tournament, the points of the teams are added up to decide which team is the winner.

The feet are much further apart than with a golf swing. Because there is no specific target, the rebatta swing is far more powerful to hit the ball as far as possible. – Photo:

The tournaments, both team and individual contests, are held during spring when the snow has melted and before the cattle take over the meadows. And again in autumn, when the cows have returned to their sheds. This sport has approximately 400 players divided into fourteen sports clubs. Like the fiolet players, these clubs are members of the 'Federaxon Esport de Nohtra Tera'.

The centre of the Federaxon Esport de Nohtra Tera, of which both fiolet and rebatta players are members. – Photo:

If you would like to see how fiolet is played or rebatta, have a look at YouTube.

Information derived from: 

September 2012

Knur and spell & nipsy
Gordon Taylor, England


As a young boy some seventy years ago growing up in Yorkshire, there were two games of which I was vaguely familiar, which I feel sure you will have come across in your researches. They were both played in the coal mining area where I was living.  


The first was known as knur and spell and played by the more prosperous people who could afford the equipment. It consisted of a spring-loaded device which, when released, threw a small round object into the air, which was then struck with a stick. I believe from memory that distance seemed to be the main object, but what the rules were, I am not familiar.


The second was a poorer version of knur and spell, which was known locally as nipsy and sometimes shinty. This game was played without the expensive launcher but comprised a small hard piece of shaped wood with one end shaped into a rough point. The player tapped the pointed end, which caused the mouse as it was called to flip up in the air from where it was then struck with a stout stick. 


Both games could be played on any spare bit of ground and did not need special playing areas. They were known as poor man's golf, and they helped to pass on a few hours and make life and times a little more interesting. 


February 2009


James Masters, England –

The picture in the 'Afterword' of CHOULE - The Non-Royal but most Ancient Game of Crosse, representing a group of players with special bats around a small seesaw, shows people playing a game called 'nipsy'. This game was pretty popular, especially in southern Yorkshire in England. In the areas around Bolton and Barnsley in Lancashire, people still play variants of the game.

The picture shows how the 'trippet' or 'spell' worked and how the distance was measured by pushing sticks into the ground at regular intervals. – George Walker, c. 1817 

The game is a kind of 'longest drive'. The player places the ball on one side of a small seesaw and hits it on the other side. The ball will jump up, and the player hits with his bat the ball as far as possible into the field. The little stake is one of a series for measuring the distance achieved. Good players can hit the ball as far as 200 meters. The shape and size of the bat and the rules of the game vary from region to region, as do the little seesaws.  

In the Picardie region in northwest France, a variant of the game was popular in days long gone, under the name of 'jeu de la tapette'.

Jeu de la tapette, a popular game in Picardie in the long gone past. – Anonymous