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Golf Twines from Earlier Times (1898)

I began writing golf twines (two line golf poems for Twitter) in November of 2009. Two line poems are formally called “couplets” and, of course, they have a long history in poetry.

For example, Shakespeare wrote :  “Double, double, toil and trouble;/ Fire burn and caldron bubble” which in read by the three witches in his play, Macbeth.  (This is actually a golf twine now where Shakespeare is referring to Tiger’s scores on the 11th and 12th holes during the second round of the 2011 PGA Championship!)

I was hoping that my golf twines would catch on, and other Twitterers would write them as well. So far no such luck. But then I found William G. Van Tassel Sutphen, a Victorian-era fiction writer, editor of the original “Golf” magazine and author of The Golfer’s Alphabet, originally published in 1898. In The Golfer’s Alphabet, Van Tassel Sutphen wrote 27 golf twines, but he was just a little early for Twitter.

Sutphen, wrote a twine for each letter of the alphabet and added one more for the symbol “&”. His twines were illustrated by A. B. Frost. Frost (1851-1928), was considered one of the great illustrators in the “Golden Age of American Illustration”.

Below is an example:

The caption reads:

.                                                     I is for Iron that we play to perfection,
.                                                     So long as no bunker is in that direction.

And who says golf has changed!

Here are a few others from the book:

C is for Card, that began with a three,
And was torn into bits at the seventeenth tee.

H is for Hole that was easy in four,
And also for Hazard that made it six more.

N is the Niblick, retriever of blunders,
And now and again it accomplishes wonders.

And,

W in a Whisper: “Between you and me,
I have just done the round in a pat 83.”

Sutphen’s book was reprinted in 1967 and is widely available on the net.

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Golf and Skiing in Vermont: A Footnote to Keegan Bradley’s PGA Championship Victory

Rudyard Kipling

Bill Pennington, in today’s New York Times, notes that Keegan Bradley, a Vermont native, played golf in the summer and skied in the winter while growing up there. Rudyard Kipling, the famous English author and poet, is credited by a number of internet sources with also golfing and skiing in Vermont in the 1890’s. What appears to be certain is that in 1894 Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Homes, visited Kipling at his temporary home outside Brattleboro at Thanksgiving time, and gave Kipling some help with his golf game. From Doyle’s diary, “I had brought my clubs and gave him lessons in a field while the New England rustics watched us from afar, wondering what we were at, for golf was unknown in America at the time.” [Actually the first permanent golf club, The St. Andrews Golf Club in Yonkers, N.Y., was formed in 1888. But golf may not yet have reached Vermont by 1894.]

Doyle is also said to have brought with him or sent Kipling skis. One internet source goes so far as to say that “according to legend, skiing was introduced to Vermont by Rudyard Kipling.”

The extent of Kipling’s interest in golf is not clear. Doyle, however, was an avid golfer. He was for many years a member of the Crowborough Beacon Golf Club in Sussex, England and was the club’s captain in 1910. He even wrote a golf poem, “A Lay of the Links,” that is included in my book, Golf Course of Rhymes – Links between Golf and Poetry Through the Ages.

Kipling’s poetry also includes references to golf. One of his poems called “Verses on Games” includes the stanza:

Why Golf is art and art is Golf
We have not far to seek–
So much depends upon the lie,
So much upon the cleek.

Clearly, Kipling understood golf.

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