A Golf Poem You Can Relate To


Edgar A. Guest (1881-1959) was born in Birmingham, England and came with his family to Detroit when he was 10. In 1895 he began working for the Detroit Free Press as a copy boy. By 1904 he was writing a weekly column. And eventually he started a daily column that in time consisted almost exclusively of poems. At the height of his popularity his column was carried by 300 newspapers. At age 50 he began a weekly radio show and 20 years later, NBC broadcast his “A Guest in Your Home” on TV. Over his lifetime he wrote more than 20 books of poetry. He was also a lifelong golfer and a few of his 11,000 or more poems had golf themes. The following poem, “Yesterday” could only be written by a seasoned lifer on the links.


I’ve trod the links with many a man,
And played him club for club;
‘Tis scarce a year since I began,
And I am still a dub.
But this I’ve noticed as we strayed
Along the bunkered way:
No one with me has ever played
As he did yesterday.

It makes no difference what the drive;
Together as we walk
‘Till we up to the ball arrive,
I get the same old talk.
“Today, there’s something wrong with me,
Just what I cannot say,
Would you believe I got a three
On this hole—yesterday?”

I see them top and slice a shot,
And fail to follow through,
And with their brasseys plough the lot,
The very way I do.
To six and seven their figures run,
And then they sadly say:
“I neither dubbed nor foozled one,
When I played—yesterday.”

I have no yesterdays to count,
No good work to recall;
Each morning sees hope proudly mount,
Each evening sees it fall.
And in the locker room at night,
When men discuss their play,
I hear them, and I wish I might
Have seen them—yesterday.

O dear old yesterday!  What store
Of joys for men you hold!
I’m sure there is no day that’s more
Remembered or extolled.
I’m off my task myself a bit,
My mind has run astray;
I think, perhaps, I should have writ
These verses—yesterday.

This poem is included in my book, Golf Course of Rhymes – Links between Golf and Poetry Through the Ages, available at


Some Four Line Observations on Golf

Short poems have their place as well. This week I offer a few four liners in hopes that one or two may linger with you for a while.

From a 1901 issue of Golf Illustrated, an observation made more specific many years later by Bob Toski’s question: Where would you rather be on your drive, in the rough, or 15 yards shorter but in the fairway?

Good people of every sort
Come listen to my song,
‘Tis better to be straight and short
Than to be crooked and long.

From an 1891 issue of Golf, a timeless truth,

Golf without cessation
Brings naught but vexation;
Golf in moderation
Is pleasant recreation.

From a poem, “The Wicked Fairy” by Reginald Arkell,

I hit the ball as clean and true
As any decent pro would do;
I mark the line, I watch it fall —
And then it isn’t there at all.

Two four-liners written by Bert Leston Taylor (1866-1921), an American columnist, humorist, poet, and author. who wrote a column for the Chicago Tribune from 1901 to 1903 and then again from 1909 until he died.


The rain is raining all around,
It falls on turf and tee;
But I don’t care how wet I get—
I made that hole in three.


A golfer, when he plays with you,
Should speak when he is spoken to,
And keep his score card free from fable;
At least so far as he is able.

And four lines offered anonymously, in the form of a stanza from the Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam, that take up where Taylor’s four lines left off,


Some take a Brassey when they play the Game
Or with a Cleek carve out the way to Fame;
And some there be who but a Pencil Stub
Have used, and yet have Got There just the Same.

(From Lyrics of the Links by Henry Litchfield West, p. 58)

Finally, four lines that I wrote in answer to all those Titelist ball ads,


The Pro V-1 from Titleist
The pros who play it do insist
With length and spin it beats them all—

Except for someone’s Nike ball.


Slow Play – Even In the Old Days of Golf

Take From the LA84 Foundation's Digital Archives

Take From the LA84 Foundation's Digital Archives

The cartoon is from the September 1913 issue of The American Golfer. The related story centers on the slow play of a talented young American amateur named Heinrich Schmidt, from Worcester, MA, who lost to Harold Hilton in the sixth round of the 1913 British Amateur Championship at St. Andrews. Here is how the article describes the characteristics of Schmidt’s play,

…his deliberative methods anterior to making the making of a shot, the painstaking care in sizing up the situation before selecting the particular club requisite for the stroke, the practice swings indulged in through the green and the same scrupulous care, only very much more so, when the sacred precincts of the putting -green were reached.

Later in the article, the writer admits that the British critics have a point,

Our players generally are painfully slow, even in friendly matches, aggravated ten-fold in competition.

Earlier still, in the December 1901 issue of the magazine Golf, an anonymous poet succinctly and most colorfully describes his attitude towards slow play,


A malison[curse] upon the man who thinks by taking thought
That he can lengthen out his drive or hole the putt that’s short.
Upon each separate blade of grass he meditates eternally,
Awhile the field upon him wait and objurgate [castigate] infernally.

Reginald Arkell (1882-1959) was a British script writer and comic novelist who wrote many musical plays for the London theatre. He was also a poet who published a book called Playing the Games in 1935 (London: Herbert Jenkins Limited). And presumably Mr. Arkell was also a restive  golfer as his poem, A Public Nuisance, makes clear.

A Public Nuisance

You know the fellow,
I have no doubt,
Who stands and waggles
His club about.

Empires crumble
And crowns decay:
Kings and Communists
Pass away.

Dictators rise
And Dictators fall—
But still he stands
Addressing his ball.

Arkell seems to be describing a tardy golfer, but then again he could have been characterizing a lame political leader of the time. Any thoughts?



Golf Ball Poetry Continued

Woodley Flier

From Old Golf Auctions Limited

An earlier Post featured a golf ball poem that was part of a Spalding advertisement. “My Favorite Ball,” another golf ball poem, was published in the magazine Golf in July 1900. Its claim to fame is that it plays on the names of golf balls that were popular at that time. I am not an expert on old golf balls, but did look through a number of early golf magazines to try to find the actual names being parodied.


The Blazenger, the Pewtertown,
Atrippa, Would-be Flyer,
The Oysterburgh of some renown—
Of all I’ve been a buyer.

The Cockley and Obobo too,
The Marsity and Skewflite
Have seen me, each in turn, go through
Full many an old and new flight.

Withe B-2 White I’ve tried my hand
And many an N.G. lost,
While Coopinson and also Grand
Have added to the cost.

All these and many more I’ve tried,
But none so good as my ball
On the club-house porch, as I sit beside
A fizzling, cold, Scotch high-ball.

Here is what my research turned up:

Would-be Flyer…Woodley Flier
B-2 White………….A.I. Black
N.G. ………………..

If anyone can help out with the blanks or find a better match than “Davidson” please leave a comment.

“My Favorite Ball” was written by Walter N. P. Darrow (1863-1926), a West Point graduate who rose in the ranks to become a General. The New York Times, in reporting his death, wrote,

[General Darrow] was for more than twenty-five years a member of the cottage colony at the Profile House [an exclusive summer-hotel in New Hampshire], and one of the first to introduce the game of golf in the White Mountains.

I found another of General Darrow’s poems in the November 1901 issue of Golf.


He could not hit that low white ball
When standing on the tee
Because he had too often hit
A “high-ball,” don’t you see?

So when the “high-balls” he forswore
And took the Keeley cure,
He soon found out that he could hit
The low ones far and sure.

The moral’s clear, my golfing friend,
No matter who may scoff,
If on the ball you keep your eye
It surely will be off.

And, vice-versa, it is true,
When all is said and done,
If off the ball you take your eye
You’re apt to find it on.

Let’s hope the General limited his preoccupation with high-balls to his poetry, at least while playing.

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