Golf Widows in Prose and Poetry

Mrs. Pastern was a woman with an air of bereavement, who 20 yrs. ago would have been known as a golf widow. Mr. Pastern was the brigadier of the golf club’s locker room light infantry, who would shout: “Bomb Cuba! Bomb Berlin!”

This quote is from a description of the story “The Brigadier and the Golf Widow” by John Cheever that appeared in The New Yorker in November 1961.

Actually the term “golf widow” goes back to at least 1890 where an illustration titled “A Golf Widow” appeared in Horace Hutchinson’s famous Badminton Book Golf.

Montrose (a town in Scotland) is … the site of the first recorded ‘golf widow’. She was ‘sweet Mistress Magdalene Carnegie’ who married the son of the 4th Earl of Montrose, James Graham. His diaries record that he played golf with his future brother-in-law, the Laird of Lusse, on the 9th November 1629, the day before his wedding,and then a few days later he sent to St Andrews for new clubs and repairs to his old ones as well as playing more golf. However his controversial lifestyle caught up with him in 1650, after he had become 5th Earl himself, when he was hung, drawn and quartered in Edinburgh at the Grassmarket as a traitor, when he backed the wrong side in the English Civil War.

In June 1915, Grantland Rice published a poem, “The Golf Widow Speaks” in The American Golfer.


You have kicked in with a serum for the Great White Plague;
You have uppercut the Typhus on the jaw;
You  have copped an anaesthetic
To relieve the diptherethic
And the rest of it you’ve cut out with a saw
But tell me, gentle doctors, ere the mortal coil is off,
Is there nothing you’ve discovered in the medicated trough
That may curb the raging fever of the game called “goff”?

You have cantered into Gangrene with a knock-out punch;
You have hammered Scarlet Fever to the ropes;
You have even found the answer
To a mild degree of Cancer,
And you’ve killed the drug enticement of the dopes.
But tell me, learned doctors, is there nothing you can do
For hydrophobic horrors in the heads of husbands who
Can only rave of Stymies and a Perfect Follow Through?

More next week.


  1. I absolutely love that poem! I’ve been having a hard time finding a plaque or copy of it to buy somewhere, though. I want to get one for my parents’ 25th wedding anniversary! (that’ll go over well, lol…)
    Have any idea what the “mild degree of Cancer” that they had remedied was? Just curious. Thanks!


  1. […] second poem continues our series “celebrating” the golf widow. This poem, “The G. W.” was written by Miriam […]

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