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A Tall Golf Tale in 12 Lines

Edward, Prince of Wales

Edward, Prince of Wales

The following is a tall golf tale in 12 lines told by the English writer, playwright and poet, Reginald Arkell who was introduced in a previous post. This is one of several golf poems Arkell included in his book, Playing the Games, published in 1935.

An Imperfectly True Story

THE favourite child of a millionaire
Was thrown, one day, by a restive mare;

Caught, by her boot, in the snaffle rein,
And dragged in front of a passing train.

A motor-cyclist, who heard her squeals,
Dragged her from under the cruel wheels.

The millionaire, who was deeply impressed,
Cried: “What is the thing you would like the best?”

“You can give me,” replied the chap on the bike,
“A couple of golf clubs, if you like.”

So the millionaire, not to be out-done,
Gave him Walton Heath, Oxhey and Wimbledon.

Looking up Walton Heath, I came across an interesting story.  Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII and even later Duke of Windsor) became Captain of the club in 1935. A number of years earlier at the suggestion of Bernard Darwin, he took lessons from James Braid, who was the club’s professional from its beginnings in 1904 until he died in 1950. In 1930 Prince Edward sent a handwritten letter to Braid, accompanied by a scorecard.

Dear Braid,

I am very pleased with this card and hope you are. I was very unlucky at the last hole, as a good second with a spoon pitched in the rough just a few inches over the green, and with the chance of breaking 80 I couldn’t stand the nerve strain and fluffed the chip and took two puts (sic). But it was great fun and I only wish you had been playing round with me. Will phone you one day soon and we must have another game.

Yours sincerely,

Edward.

Which only goes to show that the pressure on the last hole when 79 is possible exempts no one!

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The Serenity of the Golf Course

thrasher_curve_billed

This week’s poem by Bert Leston Taylor was written about 90 years ago. Its title “Far from the M.C.” references a line in Thomas Gray’s poem “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.” Gray’s poem was parodied in two earlier posts.

Taylor, a revered Chicago Tribune columnist, often had one eye on Chicago politics and the other on golf. He was a good friend of “Chick” Evans. The contrast Taylor sketches in the poem between the tranquility of the golf course and rowdiness of politics refers of course to an earlier time. The golf course still offers the possibility of “ecstasy.” Maybe today’s politicians need to play more golf.

FAR FROM THE M.C.

The Thrasher, on a leafless bough
High in a maple tree,
Pours forth, as only he knows how,
A song of ecstasy.

The sunbeams thro’ the branches sift
Upon the putting green,
Aloft the fleecy cloudlets drift,
The morning is serene.

In town strong men are in the heat
Of party politics;
The air is filled with “Lie” and “Cheat,”
And other verbal tricks.

The thrasher sings for song’s own sake;
I share his ecstasy.
I have a longish putt to make,
And hole it for a three.

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Lying in Golf Poetry

The Death of Ananias by Raffael

The Death of Ananias by Raphael

We have already treated the issue of lying (much in the news in another context recently) in a Post called “The Language of Match Play in 1504.” But since lying has its complexities in golf, the golf poets have had more to say. The Rules of Golf make clear that their is no place for lying while playing or reporting a round. But fortunately the Rules don’t extend to the 19th hole.

Grantland Rice, the greatest sportswriter of the first half of the 20th century, gave us a woderful poem called “Three Up on Ananias” that all 19th hole story tellers should love.

THREE UP ON ANANIAS

A group of golfers sat one day
Around the nineteenth hole,
Exchanging lies and alibis
Athwart the flowing bowl.
“Let’s give a cup,” said one of them,
A sparkle in his eye,
“For him among us who can tell
The most outrageous lie.”

“Agreed,” they cried, and one by one,
They played way under par,
With yarns of putts and brassey shots
That traveled true and far;
With stories of prodigious swipes—
Of holes they made in one—
Of niblick shots from yawning traps,
As Vardon might have done.

And when they noticed, sitting by,
Apart from all the rest,
A stranger, who had yet to join,
The fabricating test;
“Get in the game,” they said to him,
“Come on and shoot your bit.”
Whereas the stranger rose and spoke,
As follows, or to wit:

“Although I’ve played some holes in one
And other holes in two;
Although I’ve often beaten par,
I kindly beg of you
To let me off—for while I might
Show proof of well-earned fame,
I never speak about my scores
Or talk about my game.”

They handed him the cup at once,
Their beaten banners furled;
Inscribing first, below his name,
“The champion of the world.”

As for the poem’s title, Ananias was a biblical figure, who fell down and immediately died after uttering a falsehood. The drama is immortalized by Raphael above.

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Poetry and Golf Club Maintenance

Sapolio Golf Ad

Golf’s rise in popularity in the early years of the 20th century coincided with early efforts in mass marketing and advertising of brand names. One of the first products with brand names was soap. These names included Ivory, Pears, Colgate and Sapolio. An early marketing genius (not the humorist) named Artemas Ward(1848 – 1925) made Sapolio a household name by depicting the product in fanciful scenes and using parodies of well known poems to sing its praises. Time Magazine described Sapolio as “probably the world’s best advertised product” in its heyday.

Sapolio was the WD-40 of its day. One ad identified ways to use Sapolio in every room in the house. Ward or a colleague found it could be used to clean golf clubs. The above ad to spread that message appeared in the February 1901 issue of the magazine Golf. Appropriately the verse is a parody from the poem “Comin Thro’ The Rye” by the famous Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759 – 1796). Ward may have been a duffer but he was no dummy.

I don’t know how often Sapolio was advertised in golf magazines, but I did find a later reference in the June 1909 issue of The American Golfer. A subscriber (could it have been Ward?) wrote,

“There are some golfers who think that clean irons are desirable; among these there are a few who have wondered whether there is not some better way of cleaning than to set a caddie or one’s self to chasing sandpaper up and down.

“I have found that a little hot water and sapolio applied with a brush right after through playing, and then the irons wiped with liquid vaseline or Glycerinum Petria, which I guess is liquid vaseline, will do the work and please the most exacting. The Glycerinum will also do on the shafts and wooden heads with more good to the varnish than harm.”

This is one of the oddest links between golf and poetry so far.

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