U.S. Open Champ and Ace Sportswriter Produced Golf Book of Prose and Poetry

Jerome Travers 1915 Open

Jerome Travers 1915 Open

Grantland Rice

Grantland Rice

The November 1917 issue of The American Golfer includes a column by a writer who used the pen-name  “Sam Solomon” in which he considers the relationship between golf and poetry:

“A certain affection appears to exist between the spirits of this game and the muse of verse. There is an old affinity between golf and poetry. It is natural, surely, that is should be so, when we consider that golf is a thing of Nature and freedom and the open world, and makes a riot of the emotions, and that, again, it is a thing of history and traditions, and colourful romance all the way from the beginning until now. Great pictures have been painted of golfers at their game; statues of golfers have been raised; art and the sport have had much to do with one another, and agreeably so.”

He continues,

“Here in America there has for long been the tendency in the game to versify. Our own pages within the golden covers from time to time bear witness of it. Perhaps Grantland Rice has come nearest of all Americans to the true sentiment coupled with graceful phrasing, and he has maintained the most indispensable quality of dignity. He has known that the truth can often be told in verse better than any other way. In his [poem] “Dedicated to the Duffer” at the beginning of The Winning Shot, and elsewhere in that book, there are some pretty pearls:”

This is the substance of our Plot—
For those who play the Perfect Shot,
There are ten thousand who do not.

For each who comes to growl and whine
Because one putt broke out of line
And left him but a Sixty-Nine.

At least ten thousand on the slate
Rise up and cheer their blessed fate
Because they got a Ninety-Eight.

The Winning Shot (published by Doubleday, Page & Co. in 1915) was actually written by Jerome Travers, a great amateur golfer of the early 20th century who won the U.S. Amateur Championship four times and won the U.S. Open as an amateur in 1915 at Baltusrol. Travers wrote the prose and Grantland Rice, arguably the greatest sportswriter of the first half of the 20th century, wrote the poetry. Rice, of course, is best known for his lines,

For when the One Great Scorer comes
To write against your name,
He marks – not that you won or lost –
But how you played the Game. [Read more…]


The Origin of The Royal and Ancient Game of Golf


With the site of the British Open at Turnberry in Scotland next month, it’s an appropriate time to review what is known about golf’s beginnings.

We know that the earliest written reference to golf in Scotland was in the famous Act of Parliament of 1457. We know as well, as Robert Browning writes in his book A History of Golf (1955), that

“from the Peace of Glasgow in 1502 to the Revolution of 1688, every reigning monarch of the Stuart line — two kings and one queen of Scotland, four kings of the United Kingdom — was a golfer.”

It’s not called “The Royal and Ancient Game of Golf” for nothing!

But what of golf’s actual origin, its “big bang?” Sir Walter G. Simpson in his book The Art of Golf, published in 1887, suggests the following “two shepherds theory:”

“A shepherd tending his sheep would often chance upon a round pebble, and having his crook in his hand, he would strike it away…On pastures green this led to nothing : but one on a time (probably) a shepherd, feeding his sheep on a links—perhaps those of St. Andrews—rolled one of these stones into a rabbit scrape. “

The shepherd then hailed another who attempts to duplicate the feat, but fails. They then deepen the rabbit scrape and begin practicing. Simpson continues, [Read more…]


Golf Instruction With Illustrated Poetical Positions!




Fore, lads! Keep out o’ the line o’ fire,
And I’ll teach ye to drive a ba’,
That’ll flee to the clud, and fa’ wi’ a thud,
Twa hundred yards awa’.

Ye maunna (must not) be stridin’ your legs ower wide,
Like a puddock (frog), across the green,
Nor be haudin’ your elbows pinned to your side,
And lettin’ your nails be seen.

And dinna be bendin’ your chin to your knees,
At an angle o’ forty-five,
Nor wrigglin’, as if ye were treadin’ on peas:
Keep your energy a’ for your drive.

Fix your e’e on the gutta, stride fair, feet square,
Elbows free, gie (give) your back a bit thraw (a small turn)
Heel up; swing your club round the nape o’ your neck,
Whish, click, and the ba’s awa’!

The above, in a slightly different format, appears on page 503 of the Rev. John Kerr’s The Golf-Book of East Lothian published in Edinburgh in 1896. This is clearly an early example of illustrated golf instruction so common in today’s golf magazines and instruction books. But it is surely unique in its description of the three “poetical” positions. The poet was A. P. Aitken, D. Sc., lecturer on Agricultural Chemistry at the U. of Edinburgh and member of the Gullane Golfers, an East Lothian golf club formed in 1868.

Kerr’s book was the first to be written about a golfing area or club. Decent first edition copies are rare, often selling for well over $1000 when available. Joseph Murdoch points out in his book, The Library of Golf 1743-1966, that the first action pictures (not posed) appeared in How to Play Golf by H. J. Whigham published in Chicago in 1897.


Be a Happy Golfer; Just Play and Have Fun


Here is a list of golf books that you might consider to help you improve your game:

The Happy Golfer by H. Leach
Advanced Golf by J. Braid
How to Play Golf by H. Vardon
Golf Faults Illustrated by J. H. Taylor
Golf for the Late Beginner by Henry Hughes
The Golfer’s Pocket Tip Book by G. D. Fox
Modern Golf by P. A. Vaile
Success at Golf by H. Vardon, F. Ouimet, and others.

Though their titles look current, these books were included in an advertisement in the September 1914 issue of the magazine Golf/USGA Bulletin. The first golf instruction book published in the U.S., Golf in America: A Practical Manual, by James Lee, appeared in 1895.

 Of course, if instruction books don’t help enough, you can always take lessons from a Professional. And neither lessons or books will help much if you don’t practice. But then Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers tells us that 10,000 hours or more or practice are needed to excel. What to do? [Read more…]


An Old Golf Magazine and a Poem for Old Golfers


Walter J. Travis

The first issue of the magazine The American Golfer hit the newsstands in November 1908, a little over 100 years ago. It would fold in 1936 during the Depression.

 In the beginning, much of the news provided by the magazine’s correspondents related to amateur golf matches sponsored by local golf clubs in various regions of the country and in Great
Britain. These reports were written under such headings as: “Eastern Department”, “Western Department,” “From the South” and “Foreign Notes.”

 Within a year, the local news reports became more local with “Around Philadelphia” and “Pittsburgh Notes” added to chronicle the activities of the golf tycoons Wanamaker, Havemeyer, Carnegie and Frick. As time went on and golf became more popular, more areas, New York State, Ohio, the Pacific Slope, separately reported in as well. This primary focus on amateur golf was gradually replaced with articles on professional golf and golfers and instruction articles by writers and golfers such as O. B. Keeler, Bobby Jones, Bernard Darwin, Tommy Armour and others.

 Early issues of The American Golfer also included reports on U.S.G.A. sponsored championships, decisions of the Rules of Golf Committee, descriptions of new golf courses and articles on golf history, and golf course maintenance. And from the beginning, the magazine offered its readers golf poems in every issue.

 The first editor of The American Golfer was a transplanted Australian named Walter J. Travis. Grantland Rice, the only other editor of the magazine, wrote of Travis, “In many respects [he] will stand as the most remarkable golfer that ever lived.” Travis began playing golf in late 1896 at the age of 35. He won the first tournament he ever entered about a month later. In 1900 he won his first U.S. Amateur Championship and over the next four years would add two more plus a British Amateur Championship as well. He ended his tournament career by winning the Metropolitan Championship at age 54 in 1915. In this, his last tournament, he beat Jerry Travers, the U.S. Open Champion of the same year. [Read more…]

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