Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling

The holiday on November 11th, originally called Armistice Day,commemorated the end of World War I. Now in the U.S., the holiday is called Veteran’s Day and more broadly honors all war veterans. In other Posts I have included First World War related golf poetry. In this entry I include one by Rudyard Kipling from my book Golf Course of Rhymes – Links between Golf and Poetry Through the Ages.

Rudyard Kipling, the famous English author and poet born in Bombay, India in 1865, was also a golfer. He wrote many famous poems including “Mandalay” and “If . . .” In the following dramatic First World War poem, “Mine Sweepers,” he includes a reference to golf. The “Foreland” in the poem probably refers to headlands between Dover and Margate on the southeastern coast of England, overlooking the English Channel.

The Mine-Sweepers

Dawn off the Foreland—the young flood making
Jumbled and short and steep—
Black in the hollows and bright where it’s breaking—
Awkward water to sweep.
“Mines reported in the fairway,
“Warn all traffic and detain.
“Sent up Unity, Claribel, Assyrian, Stormcock, and Golden Gain.”

Noon off the Foreland—the first ebb making
Lumpy and strong in the bight.
Boom after boom, and the golf-hut shaking
And the jackdaws wild with fright.
“Mines located in the fairway,
“Boats now working up the chain,
“SweepersUnity, Claribel, Assyrian, Stormcock, and Golden Gain.”

Dusk off the Foreland—the last light going
And the traffic crowding through,
And five damned trawlers with their syreens blowing
Heading the whole review!
“Sweep completed in the fairway,
“No more mines remain.
“Sent back Unity, Claribel, Assyrian, Stormcock, and Golden Gain.”

(According to Alastair Wilson, a Kipling expert, the “golf-hut” in the second stanza might have been the club-house at Royal St. George’s Club at Sandwich, in East Kent.)

If you would like to listen to a dramatic reading of this poem, click on the following link:


The Paradox of Golf

The following poem appeared at the beginning of a column on New England golf in the May 1915 issue of The American Golfer. A golfer using the pseudonym “Bunker Hill” wrote the column. The poem was not given a title but “ The Paradox of Golf” might fit.

My drive is erratic, my brassie’s the same,
My irons are atrocious, and awful my aim,
My mashie is tearful, my putting worse still,
My scores have the look of a dressmaker’s bill;
My legs are a-weary, my wrists are quite lame,
But I am most happy—I’m playing the game.

That a 100-year-old poem can still speak for all of us duffers today, reflects the enduring and endearing appeal of the game. And from my (clearly biased) point of view, poetry says it best.


A Poetic Response to the Question: What is Golf?


Everyone has their own answer to the question “What is golf?” Here is mine, taken from my Ebook “If Only I Could Play that Hole Again.”


Golf is a singular way
to take temporary leave
following a zigzag path
in search of a small white ball;

to abandon reality,
but stay the course,
hole after hole;

to create a new story,
always different
to be told to someone
before it’s forgotten.

An extraordinary chance
to pretend for a brief time
no matter how unskilled
that each stroke will be flawless;

to endure the pain of failure
without really failing,
and even if only once a round,

to truly enjoy
the pure pleasure
of hitting the ball rock-solid
or sinking a long tricky putt.

Leon S White, PhD





Since Tiger Woods has retreated from PGA Tour events, golf “scholars,” have offered Tiger a wide array of “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” to bring him back to championship form. Some have suggested that Tiger is finished as a front runner. As I have remarked in other Posts, maybe 100 years ago, situations like Tiger’s would be commented on not only in prose, but also in poetry. Since I am currently the (self-appointed) resident golf poet, here is my contribution regarding Tiger’s troubles:

Tiger Should or Shouldn’t

The ailing failing Tiger Woods
Is being hounded by the “shoulds”

 Should do this, should do that
To get away from where he’s at.

He should Harmon-ize again,
But this is now and that was then.

He should get his head on straight,
It’s not his swing, let’s not conflate.

Tiger Woods should come alive,
Else golfing revenues take a dive.

The “shouldn’t” folks are out there too
Telling Woods what not to do.

He shouldn’t bulk up quite so much,
It’s causing him to lose his touch.

He shouldn’t listen to any coach
Trusting instead in his own approach.

Or maybe Tiger shouldn’t care
And just move his glutes to a rocking chair.

But I’m bettin’ when Tiger comes back
He won’t look like any hack.

Leon S White, PhD

And for those who would like to practice their oral poetry reading skills,


In my last Post (just below) I offered readers like you the chance to experience the fun of reading a poem (in this case a golf poem) out loud. To begin, I suggested reading the first stanza of a classic golf poem called “The Lay for the Troubled Golfer” by Edgar A. Guest. I included a recording of my reading of the stanza, which offered the opportunity to read the stanza along with me.

Now we move on to the whole poem. It is included below and is followed by my recording. If you are inclined, try reading the poem along with me. If you would like to comment on the experience I would appreciate the feedback. But the main thing is to enjoy the experience.

The Lay for the Troubled Golfer

By Edgar A. Guest

 His eye was wild and his face was taut with anger and hate and rage,
And the things he muttered were much too strong for the ink of the printed page.
I found him there when the dusk came down, in his golf clothes still was he,
And his clubs were strewn around his feet as he told his grief to me:
“I’d an easy five for a seventy-nine—in sight of the golden goal—
An easy five and I took an eight—an eight on the eighteenth hole!

“I’ve dreamed my dreams of the ‘seventy men,’ and I’ve worked year after year,
I have vowed I would stand with the chosen few ere the end of my golf career;
I’ve cherished the thought of a seventy score, and the days have come and gone
And I’ve never been close to the golden goal my heart was set upon.
But today I stood on the eighteenth tee and counted that score of mine,
And my pulses raced with the thrill of joy—I’d a five for a seventy-nine!

“I can kick the ball from the eighteenth tee and get this hole in five,
But I took the wood and I tried to cross that ditch with a mighty drive—”
Let us end the quotes, it is best for all to imagine his language rich,
But he topped that ball, as we often do, and the pill stopped in the ditch.
His third was short and his fourth was bad and his fifth was off the line,
And he took an eight on the eighteenth hole with a five for a seventy-nine.

 I gathered his clubs and I took his arm and alone in the locker room
I left him sitting upon the bench, a picture of grief and gloom;
And the last man came and took his shower and hurried upon his way,
But still he sat with his head bowed down like one with a mind astray,
And he counted his score card o’er and o’er and muttered this doleful whine:
“I took an eight on the eighteenth hole, with a five for a seventy-nine!”


Here is my recording of the poem. Just click on the sideways diamond. And don’t worry about perfection, just recite and have fun. It’s a great poem to read out loud.


If you have time, please leave a comment. Thanks.


Reading Golf Poetry Out Loud


It’s a new year so, let’s try something new and different.

The fun of reading golf poetry out loud is something that I have emphasized on this Blog. Now we are going to put this idea to the test – that is, with your help.

When talking to groups about golf poetry, I always have them participate by reading a poem out loud along with me. So I thought – why don’t I try that with you as well. So this is what we are going to do. Let’s take the poem I always use, “The Lay for the Troubled Golfer” by Edgar A Guest and begin by just considering the first stanza. (In the next Post we will read the whole poem.)

I have recorded the first stanza as you can see below. So, if you like you can listen to my reading first.

Note: If you are looking at this post on my website then just click on the triangle at the left side of the audio bar. However, if you are reading the Post on email, then you will have to switch to my website at to be able to follow the poem text while I’m reading it.

After your first reading, you can either read along with me the second time or just read out loud by yourself. Either way I hope that you conclude, as I have, that reading out loud adds to the fun of reading golf poetry. (Note: for those of you who do not use English regularly, consider this an opportunity to practice speaking.)

Here, then is the first stanza of “The Lay for the Troubled Golfer.”

His eye was wild and his face was taut with anger and hate and rage,
And the things he muttered were much too strong for the ink of the printed page.
I found him there when the dusk came down, in his golf clothes still was he,
And his clubs were strewn around his feet as he told his grief to me:
“I’d an easy five for a seventy-nine—in sight of the golden goal—
An easy five and I took an eight—an eight on the eighteenth hole!


And below is my reading:


Remember if you want to continue and read the whole poem out loud look out for the next Post that will be coming soon.



December Golf




My apologies for being slow to put out a new post. I have been battling the flu for a while (even though I dutifully got my flu-shot last October). I am finally starting the feel better and put together what is now my annual four-liner bemoaning Winter. Nothing new, just another observation on what separates golfers who are warmer and from those who are colder at this time of year.


Golf in December, a delight for those
Not burdened by four layers of clothes;

Advice or tips no matter the source,
Of little use on a snow-covered course.

Two other comments. For the golfer who has everything and is interested in the history and literature of the game, please consider my book, Golf Course of Rhymes – Links between Golf and Poetry Through the Ages, available at Amazon ( and other web bookstore locations

Also next year, if I can figure out how to do it, we will be reciting some poetry together. In this way I hope to encourage you to read poetry out loud.

Finally, I would like to wish my readers from over 120 countries a very happy holiday season and lower scores next year. Thank you for coming back to read golf poetry from time to time. There are more than 160 poems about golf on the pages of this Blog. When you have time explore a little using search words. The top 10 are fine, but there’s a lot more.


Here are three four-lines verses that I would like to share with you on a beautiful late September morning in New England:


The yips occur when you can’t control
The direction or speed of the ball you roll.
You have the yips if you shake your putts
Frequent attacks can drive you nuts.


Heard said that trees are nine-tenths air,
If your ball gets over you hardly care;
But if it’s low and lost from view –
No more than even that your ball gets through.


To make a putt without a doubt
A mind-trick to apply:
Pretend that you’ve already missed
And this is your second try!

Leon S White, PhD


Above and Below Par

below par

From time to time I have published Posts that include poems in which I explore opposites in golf, for example, the opposite of putting or lying. You can find the previous Posts by clicking on the category “opposites in golf” in the column on the right. I owe the idea to a famous American poet, Richard Wilbur, who wrote two books, Opposites and More Opposites “for children and others.”

If you have the time read this poem out loud. This will slow you down and hopefully you will get more from your reading. (Applying this lesson to your golf swing might help as well.)


When you say about a chap, that he’s above par
Exactly what it is you mean, depends on where you are.

 If you’re on a golf course,  you’re referring to his score
Which relative to even par is at least one stroke more;

 But in a different setting, above par means
Excellent, outstanding, even sterling genes.

So above par’s opposite is that which golfer’s seek
Otherwise below par is really rather weak.   

However when below par play leads to an above par score
Then the seeming opposites are opposite no more.

Leon S White, PhD

Note: My last Post was on WW I. I plan at least one additional Post on this subject, but it will take me a while longer to put it together.


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!”


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 258 other followers

%d bloggers like this: