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.