Golf and the Great War

The American Golfer, a popular golf magazine of a 100 years ago,  included a monthly column called “Foreign Notes” written by Henry Leach, its British correspondent. Leach wrote for the magazine for many years bring its readers the golf news from Great Britain. It should not be surprising, then, that after the start of the First World War, Leach often included war news when it intersected with golf.

Leach reported on professionals, amateurs and caddies that had signed up to serve; there were many in each category. He also reported the deaths of a number of well-known golfers, men and women. And once in a while he included a story that showed how inescapable golf is even in war-time. An example from the March 1919 issue:

Shorty after the British forces occupied Bagdad (sic), a course was laid out, and when it was completed thoughts were soon turned to contemplation of the first championship of Bagdad. A competition was duly organized, and the news of it spread for miles and miles over the surrounding country where the British golfers were. . . .

An English club  professional  named Hardman, a gunner in the War and three days travel from the course, resolved to play. And with a score of 70, won. Leach ends his piece with “Such is a little romance of the war and golf.”

The American Golfer also occasionally included a poem that related to the War. In the June 1915 issue, a poet who signed as “Hari-Kari” contributed a long poem titled “Any Links in War Time.” It begins:

There’s a ceaseless pulse o’er the course all day like the throbbing of phantom drums,
And we strain our ears in the midst of our stroke for the news that never comes;
The dormy house is an hospital—it’s all that it’s wanted for;
And the oldsters play their round per day, but the boys have gone to the war.

The fourth stanza continues:

I am told three score of the Club, or more, are serving the country now,
For Colonel Bogey is no old fogey when once it comes to a row.
There’s twenty-one of the caddies gone, and we’ve lost our assistant pro;
And our greenkeeper’s son died saving his gun—he was one of the first to go.

And the poem ends with these lines:

We think no shame to stick to the game that has kept our youngsters fit
And sent them forth to the game of War with the genuine golfer’s grit.
But though perforce we stick to the course, our hearts are away in France,
As we pray that the guns may spare our sons in “the day” of the great advance.

I wonder what impact Leach’s reporting and poems like this one had on American readers of the magazine.

Note: Since I wrote this Post I have found out that “Hari-Kari” was a pseudonym used by Robert H. K. Browning. Also since writing this Post I have written three Posts that including Browning poems written under his own name.

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