Golf Poetry and the Promotion of Pain Remedies

In the 1650 edition of his book  Hesperides, the English poet Robert Herrick included this short poem.


If little labour, little are our gains:
Man’s fortunes are according to his pains

“No pain, no gain,” right or wrong, has been celebrated in all sports. In golf consider Mark Reason’s comment on Tiger Wood’s 2008 U.S. Open win:

It is surely the single greatest sporting achievement of all time. The man could barely stand. His left knee was like tangled spaghetti. His tibia was fractured in two places. Yet Woods beat the world’s best standing on one leg.

But pain not only brings gain, it also brings products to treat it and training methods to avoid it. Here is part of a Q & A with the professional golfer Ray Floyd in November 1996:

Q. At the Vantage you said you were pain-free for the first time in a long time. Is that still the case?

RAYMOND FLOYD: Absolutely. I am now taking just my three Advil a day and that is terrific.

However, Advil has its detractors. This is from a recent Internet ad for Flexcin, a joint inflammation treatment for “golfer’s elbow,” among other ailments:

Are you popping Ibuprofen or Aleve just to keep participating? You know it’s not good for you. . . . Now with Flexcin, there’s an alternative that is permanent! Try Flexcin and become active again.

Golfers who played over 100 years ago and read The Golfer magazine (10 cents an issue, a dollar a year), were regularly regaled with ads, some of them in verse, for Johnson’s Anodyne Liniment (that also targeted “golfer’s elbow” as in the ad above). (See  an earlier Post for details.) Now I have found that Johnson’s went even further to promote its product. The April 1898 issue of The Golfer included a full page poem by an anonymous poet, which can only be described as an unabashed endorsement for Johnson’s Liniment! This “epic poem” matches “Grim Pain” against “The Knight of the Links.” Read on (preferably out-loud) to find out who this heroic Knight was.

The Knight of the Links

Grim Pain appeared on the Links one day,
To find a foe who could say him nay;
He had fought with many, had conquered all,
And now he would tackle, the “gay Golf ball.”

But an old-time warrior who bore the seal,
Of public approval on burnished steel;
Threw down the gauntlet to Pain and said,
“You will fight with me this day instead.”

“I have only to cross his steel, thought Pain,
When he will be numbered among the slain;
He may try to win, but I shall write
One conquest more on my tablet to-night.”

Pain had harrowed Golfers with fever of fire,
He had vexed their joints in his devilish ire,
Had strained their muscles, and made them sore
With bruise “Golf arm” and aches by the score.

Now where e’er he struck, this Knight of old
Parried his thrusts and defied his hold;
Then Golfers arose and laughed him to scorn,
“Hail, Knight of the Links! Pain’s power is gone.”

Then Pain gave up the unequal fight,
For the Golfer’s arm was cured quite,
The Knight which kind fortune to him had sent,
Was called “Johnson’s Anodyne Liniment.”

Apparently Johnson’s lived on for many years. However, in 1932 its advertising claims were found to be fraudulent by the Food and Drug Administration. The Knight was finally stripped of its armour.


Golf Opposites

One suggestion often given to new golfers is to learn by studying what a good professional does when practicing or playing. Learning from the pros extends to poetry. I often get ideas from the best poets. For example, I recently began to read the poetry of Richard Wilbur, one of the great 20th century American poets. Among the many, many poems Wilbur has written, he wrote a series of word-play poems having to do with opposites. Here is a short example (more can be found in his book, Collected Poems 1943 – 2004):

The opposite of doughnut? Wait
A minute while I meditate.
This isn’t easy. Ah, I’ve found it!
A cookie with a hole around it.

Taking Wilbur’s idea as a starting point, I wrote two golf “opposite” poems.


What is the opposite of club?
It might be ball, but there’s a rub.
If you don’t hit it well enough,
The opposite of club is muff!


The opposite of away is home;
That wouldn’t crack a putter’s dome.
But if you’re away and in a match,
Then I would say there is a catch.
You putt first and so recast,
The opposite of away is last!

Leon S. White, PhD

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