Duffers Yet

Lord Darling

From Wikipedia:

“Moir Tod Stormonth Darling (Lord Stormonth Darling, 3 November 1844 – 2 June 1912) was a Scottish politician and judge. He was Member of Parliament for Edinburgh and St Andrews Universities from 1888 to 1890 and served as Solicitor General for Scotland during the same period.
From 1890 to 1908 he was a Lord of Session. In 1897 he was President of the Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Club and gave the Toast to Sir Walter at the club’s annual dinner.
In 1900 he featured in a set of Copes cigarette cards of well known golfers. The card, numbered 49, depicts him standing in a bunker and is entitled “Duffers Yet”.”

If you are a collector of golf poetry, you soon discover that the title of the Lord’s cigarette card is, in fact, the title of a poem he wrote:

              Duffers Yet

By Lord Stormonth Darling|
(With apologies to the Author of Strangers Yet.)

After years of play together,
After fair and stormy weather,
After rounds of every Green,
From Westward Ho! To Aberdeen:
Why did e’er we buy a Set—
If we must be Duffers yet?
Duffers yet! Duffers yet!

After singles, foursomes, all
Fractured club and cloven ball,
After grief in sand and whin,
Foozled drives and putts not in,
Even our caddies scarce regret
When we part as Duffers yet.
Duffers yet! Duffers yet!

After days of frugal fare,
Still we spend our force in air:
After nips to give us nerve,
Not the less our drivers swerve:
Friends may back, and foes may bet,
And ourselves be Duffers yet.
Duffers yet! Duffers yet!

Must it ever then be thus?
Failure most mysterious!
Shall we never fairly stand
Eye on ball or club in hand?
Are the Fates eternal set
To retain us Duffers yet?
Duffers yet! Duffers yet! *

*This first appeared, without the third verse, in Edinburgh Courant in 1869, and was respectfully dedicated to the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers.

(The poem is taken from a book, Stories of Golf by William Knight and T.T. Oliphant published in 1894.)

As the note says, the poem was published in 1869. Yet the sentiments expressed, particularly in the last stanza, are ours as well – at least on occasion. The game has surely changed since 1869, but the emotions remain the same. Amazing!


Opposites at St. Andrews

St. Andrews

Continuing on the theme of opposites in golf (see the previous Post and others in the Blog), this poem considers some opposites at the Old Course.


Beware when playing the Old Course
It’s not like a home course round
The differences are many
Opposites abound.

For example, at St. Andrews
You’ll have to walk all parts
No riding at the Old Course
It doesn’t offer carts.

On a typical day at St. Andrews
You are sure to feel the breeze
But look in all directions
You won’t see any trees.

Humps and bumps all over
It’s not like a walk in a park
More than a hundred bunkers
Take heed if you’re out after dark.

They started with eleven fairways
But twenty-two holes to play
The walk was out to eleven
Then in the opposite way.

But twenty-two were too many
So they came up with a plan
To reduce the number to eighteen
And modern golf began.

Leon S White, PhD


From “Golf Illustrated” January 5, 1900 New Year’s Greetings



This is from page 3 of the British magazine Golf Illustrated 115 years ago:

A gude New Year an’ health an’ cheer,
Tae ilka gowfin’ loon,
An’ may we steer o’ hazards clear,
In life and gowf each roun’.


A good New Year and health and cheer,
To every golfing loon,
And may we steer of hazards clear,
In life and golf each round.

(Clearly, the original is better!)


The verse was followed by the statement: “Another round in the great game of life has now commenced. Let us hope that 1900 will have fewer bunkers in store for us than 1899.” This was followed by a second statement referring to the 2nd Boer War:

“Ring out the Old, Ring in the New!” seems to be a singularly appropriate sentiment this particular New Year time. We have a long and heavy score to wipe off in South Africa before we can settle down in peace and comfort of mind to our ordinary avocations.

I wonder what the magazine editors wrote at the beginning of 1914.

In any case, I wish you and all the readers of this Blog a happy and peaceful New Year.



Golf Poems about Politics and the Weather



President Taft Addressing his Ball

Below are some poems from a book called “A Line o’ Gowf or Two” written by Bert Leston Tayor and published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1923. Charles “Chick” Evans, the famous Chicago amateur golfer and a friend of Taylor’s, wrote the introduction. Taylor was a newspaper columnist, poet and writer. From 1910, until his death in 1921, he wrote a daily column in the Chicago Tribune under the byline “A Line o’ Type or Two.” During this time he became one of the most widely read newspaper humorists. His book is a posthumous compilation of his golf writings and poetry taken from his Tribune column.

First is a poem to fit the political season:


At thought of what may hap today
I’m not disturbed a bit;
And who may triumph in the fray
Perplexes me no whit.

 The doings in Convention hall
Afford me no concern;
I do not speculate at all
On how the tide will turn.

 I ask not who may hit or miss,
Who perish, who survive;
The thing that bothers me is this—
Why did I hook that drive?

 Next, a poem of similar form that must have been written during the 1912 presidential campaign in which the sitting president Taft was opposed by both (Colonel) Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson:


I do not like the Colonel’s camp,
Because I hate a crowd;
The language there would light a lamp,
And all the talk is loud.

 I do not like the Taftian camp,
Its atmosphere is ghoulish;
The language there is dull and damp,
And all the talk is foolish.

 I do not like a hue and cry,
I do not like a ball,
A plague on both your camps, say I—
Hey, Caddy! Watch that ball!

 And finally four lines about this time of year for those of us who see winter coming:

 Gather ye foursomes while ye may,
The old year fast is going;
And this same sky that smiles to-day
To-morrow may be snowing.

After thought:

If newspapers or golf magazines still included poetry, then after the recent brouhaha involving Ian Poulter, the British golf pro, and Ted Bishop, then the head of the PGA, you might have seen a verse such as the following,


The current head of the PGA, himself a golfing pro,
In his Tweet to Ian P. a bias he did show;
His words included “Lil Girl” a reference better skirted,
By doing so he lost his job and left colleagues disconcerted.



World War I, Golf and Golf Poetry


Robert Stanley Weir

 The First World War began 100 years ago this month. With this in mind, I would like to devote at least the next two Posts to links between the War, golf and golf poetry. Previously I published a Post called “Golf and the Great War” ( These Posts will add more stories and information to the subject.

While doing research for my book, Golf Course of Rhymes – Links between Golf and Poetry Through the Ages, (now available on Amazon in Europe for lower prices 6.50 pounds, 7.82 Euros), I discovered a Canadian poet-golfer named Robert Stanley Weir, 1856-1926, who wrote an impressive war-related poem at the beginning of World War I. Let me quote from my book:

“Robert Stanley Weir, a Canadian, wrote a poem, “The Plains of Abraham,” published in the April 1915 issue of Golf Illustrated and Outdoor America. Weir, a Montreal judge, writer and poet, was most famous for writing in 1908 the first English lyrics to O Canada, Canada’s national anthem. Today’s official English lyrics to the anthem are based on Weir’s original version. A little digging also shows that Weir was a golfer and frequent contributor to Golf Illustrated. He wrote book reviews and several articles on swing mechanics. One titled “Braid or Vardon, Which?” focuses on the swings of these two champions and ends with the thought:

 ‘Whether we essay the mighty Vardonian sweep or Braid’s whip-like, corkscrew-like snap, let us beware of adopting one theory to the denial of any other possible one. It is a great satisfaction and advantage to be able to recognize and adopt both.’

 Clearly the Judge was a student of the game.

The title of Weir’s poem, “The Plains of Abraham,” refers to a plateau just outside the wall of Quebec City where a famous battle was fought between the British and French on September 13, 1759. The British won this pivotal battle; however, the British commander, General James Wolfe, was mortally wounded and died on the battle field. The French commander, Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, was also mortally wounded and died the next day. From 1874 to 1915, Cove Fields on the Plains of Abraham was the site of the Quebec Golf Club. This background is needed to understand the setting for the poem. The poem, written at the beginning of the First World War, is a strong and heartfelt statement against war.

The Plains of Abraham

Here, where so long ago the battle roared
Sore frighting Dawn when, trembling, she arose
And saw the precious blood of Wolfe out-poured
And France’s hero sinks to long repose.

The grass, they say, is greener for the red
That drenched these plains and hollows all about;
And those thrice fifty years or more have spread
Much peacefulness on glacis and redoubt. [defensive fortifications]

Yes, Mother Nature, grieving, hideth soon
All trace of battles, ravage, death and pain.
The birds began to sing that afternoon—
The dusty, trodden grass to rise again.

And many a year the Citadel’s gray walls
Have seen the quiet golfers at their play:
Passing old ramparts, rusted cannon-balls,
And sighting gunless ships the river way.

Thrilled with the peace of golf the players said:
“Those cruel wars can ne’er again have birth;
The living shall no longer mourn their dead
Untimely gathered to reluctant earth.”

“The tribes shall rest—nor nearer conflict come
Than when a friendly foursome play the game;
The roaring voice of Wrath is stricken dumb
O better brotherhood than battle-fame!”

But, hark, the roaring of unnumbered guns
By salt Atlantic breezes hither blown!
And bitter cries from countless weeping ones,
While Peace is wringing her cold hands alone!”


The Playing Partner From Hell

From the USGA Digital Library


In 1923, The American Golfer, the golf magazine of its day, asked its readers to submit entries to answer the question “What Puts Me off My Game Most?” The April 7th issue included the responses of the three prize winners. The winner of the second prize wrote, in part,

“…I can play with the hare type and with the human tortoise…Sun nor wind nor clouds affect me, I enjoy them all. Nor does a bad hole depress me, for there are many such in my life and I should worry.

But delivery me, oh, delivery me from the fiend who coaches my each and every shot! He usually has about a twenty-four handicap. He has made every hole on the course in par, but never by any chance has he gotten two of them in the same round.

As I step up to drive it starts. My stance is wrong. I should waggle more; my backswing is too short. If I take my midiron for one hundred and twenty-five yards, I am patiently told that I should pitch up with a mashie….”

The second prize winner goes on a while longer, but you get the point.

The first prize winner complains about a similar critic that he calls “NEVER-WILLIE.” In his entry he includes these quotes:

“You never will get rid of that slice with your left toe turned out.”
“You never will hit them clean until you learn to keep your head down.”
“You never will be able to use a mashie as long as you keep dropping that right shoulder.”

At least it’s nice to know that the guy you played with last week that wouldn’t stop talking has a long history.

To immortalize this playing partner from hell, I wrote the following:

He Talks a Good Game

He talks a good game
You know the guy
He judges each swing
With a critical eye.

He talks a good game
Awash with advice
He’s off to the races
When he sees you slice.

He talks a good game
He studies the pros
He is eager to tell you
All that he knows.

He talks a good game
Can he turn a phrase
He talks a good game
But it’s not how he plays.

He talks and he talks
With eyeballs that glisten
But even the duffers
No longer listen.

Leon S White, PhD


A Masters Chip for the Ages: Tiger on 16 in 2005

 Tiger's ball at the penultimate moment


With Tiger absent from this years Masters, it is a good time to remember one of his most famous Masters shots which he made on the 16th hole in 2005. If you saw it live I would bet that you still remember it. But even for those of you that do and also for those that missed it, I offer my recollection as follows:

♦A Masters Chip for the Ages

From a difficult lie beyond
the steeply sloped sixteenth green

a steely-eyed Tiger sent his ball
to a spot far above the hole,

the ball coming crisply off his wedge,
flew low, bounced once

and rolled on a yard or two
until gravity took over,

causing it to turn sharply,
and start slowly down the slope

towards the hole, speeding up
then slowing again as it got closer.

“All of a sudden,” Tiger’s words,
“it looked really good.”

“How could it not go in?” and
when it stopped, a single turn short,

“How did it not go in?”,
“And all of a sudden it went in.”

It was as if Tiger’s will
had given gravity an assist.

“In your life,” the tower announcer’s voice,
“have you seen anything like that?”

While around him, the patrons’ roar
rose rocket-like, fueled by sheer wonder.

Leon S White, PhD


A Weary Winter and Thoughts of Golf


I’m sitting in my home-office looking out the window as the snow comes down hard again. This has not been an easy winter in New England. When not look out the window I’ve been looking for a poem for this Post. In that search I came across a song titled “The Weary Winter Weather of 1886” by David Jackson (Captain of the Thistle Golf Club, Leven) in his slight volume Golf – Songs &Recitations. Jackson’s song is to be sung to the tune of “Johnnie Cope.” (see

The poem/song was composed after Winter had passed and reminds those of us who are snowed-in that we will yet cheer the coming of warmer days and a new golf season. Here is the song’s Chorus,

But hurrah! Hurrah! The Spring has come at last,
And loosened the burns, that were a’ frozen fast,
And we a’ rejoice that the Winter is past,
For we’ll get a round at Golf in the morning.

Jackson wrote in Scots which makes the song a  bit more challenging. The song has seven verses.

Here is the first verse which describes our Winter as well,

Oh, lang and dreich (long and tiresome) the Winter has been,
And mony (many) a stormy day we’ve seen,
When the frost was sharp and the wind was keen,
And nippit a’ oor noses in the morning.

The third verse brings to mind this Winter’s Olympics,

When the ice was strong, the Curlers with glee
Were busy at their game  sae merry and free;
While the Golfers would wish, wi’ the tear in their e’e,
That the ice would be thawed in the morning.

And the last two verses are what gives us hope,

But the Spring has come wi’ sunshine and rain,
And the wast (west) wind has blawn the snaw off the plain,
And the trees and the flowers are budding again,
And the lark sing early in the morning.

 And the Links are looking as bonnie, fresh, and green
As if nae cauld, frosty weather had been,
And the old and the young sae merry are seen
Awa for a round in the morning.

On a cold winter’s day, this poem allows us to form a link in common with a golfer who was playing in Scotland 128 years ago. That warms me up a little. I hope it does the same for you.


“The Golfer’s Waggle” for Jason Dufner, PGA Champion and Champion Waggler

Jason Dufner

Jason Dufner, who last week won his first major, the PGA Championship, has become well known to the golfing public in the last two years for his approach to waggling his club before hitting the ball. Waggling may be as old as the game of golf itself. And an unknown poet almost one hundred years ago provided us with the most detailed analysis of this pre-shot phenomenon. The poem appeared in The American Golfer in September 1915. (The few Scottish expressions are starred and translated.)

The Golfer’s Waggle

Every golfer has a waggle—
A waggle o’ his ain—*                                           of his own
A wiggle-waggle, long and short,
Wi’ flourishes or plain.

The long and quick, the short and quick,
Long, short, and quick and slow;
The variety is infinite
That golfin’ waggles show.

The sprightly waggle of success,
Dull waggle of defeat;
The weary waggle-wasting time,
The waggle of conceit.

The waggle of the swanky pro,
Of “Far and Sure” design;
The feeble waggle of old age,
That preludes “off the line.”

The caddie’s waggle-dry asides,
That golfers whiles maun* suffer;                                   must
And worst o’ waggles on the links,
The waggle of the duffer.

The waggle shows the waggler,
Be the waggle slow or quick;
There is mair* into the waggle,                                      more
Than the waggle o’ the stick.

The poem can be found in my book, Golf Course of Rhymes – Links between Golf and Poetry Through the Ages. (Available on


French Golfers, Poetry and the British Open Championship

In 1999 Jean Van de Velde, a French golfer, came to the 18th hole on the final day of the Open Championship with a three shot lead and (as most of you probably know) scored a triple bogey ending up tied with two other golfers. In the ensuing playoff, he and Justin Leonard lost to the Scotsman Paul Lawrie.

French golfers at the Open had seen better days. One hundred and two years earlier Arnaud Massy won the event beating the three British greats of that time, Harry Vardon, J.H.Taylor and James Braid among others. In the 1922 Open Championship, Jean Gassiat, a contemporary of Massy’s, came in seventh. A second contemporary, Baptiste Bomboudiac, was the subject of a golf poem written by Robert K Risk and first published in the English magazine Punch in April 1908.

A story in the Daily Paper, sometime in early 1908, included the following quote regarding the Open Championship to be played later that year at the Prestwick Golf Club:

“France will be well to the front at the Golf Championship. Massy is already at the top of the tree, and there are great possibilities in Gassiat and Baptiste Bomboudiac.”

Risk, maybe the best golf poet of his time, responded to this quote with the following poem.


Some prate of Braid and Taylor,
And eke of Harry V.
(Admittedly a nailer
At driving from the tee):
But of all the golfing heroes
Whom common punters back,
There’s none to me so dear as
Baptiste Bomboudiac.

A Gassiat or Massy
May do distinguished things
With iron and with brassy—
But his the name that rings
Daylong through all my fancies,
Nightlong my sleep I lack,
Through sizing up your chances,
Baptiste Bomboudiac.

To drive and pitch and hole out,
With skill satanical,
Wears an opponent’s soul out,
And sends him to the wall;
The “influence” called “moral”
Will ward off such attack,
Awarding thee the laurel
Baptiste Bomboudiac.

We need not be affrighted
To meet a White or Jones,
Whose Christian names are cited
In quite familiar tones;
But diffidence comes o’er us,
When driven to attack
Baptiste Bomboudiac.

For the record, James Braid won the 1908 Open and Arnaud Massy was tenth. Neither Gassiat or Bomboudiac are listed among those with four round scores.

One more thing. If anyone knows more about Baptiste Bomboudiac please leave a comment. A Google search only produced two references. He deserves better.


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