“Golf Dings A'”

This year  may not have been the greatest for golf, professional and otherwise, but it was a great year for golf poetry.  This Blog got more than 20,000 page views and the subject of golf poetry was featured in a May Wall St. Journal article.

Hopefully, 2011 will be an even bigger year with the publication of my book, Golf Course of Rhymes — Links Between Golf and Poetry Through the Ages, by Golfiana Press.

Some of the golf poetry of old was written by Scottish golfers who read or sung their poetry at club meetings. One of those golfers was David Jackson, Captain of the Thistle Golf Club, in Levin. He published his “songs and recitations” in a short book of 32 pages in 1886. Last August I wrote a Post that featured one of his poems. Jackson and the other club house poets wrote about golf with an enthusiasm, love and respect and a kind of innocence that was unique to that time. Jackson’s “Gouff Dings A'” loosely translated as “Golf Surpasses All” is a good example. Subtitled, “Sung at a Convivial Meeting,” here, to begin with, is the Chorus:

For Gouff dings a’, my boys, Gouff will aye ding a’
With joy we’ll swing our Clubs and Cleek, and drive the bounding Ba’;
Then over bunkers, braes (hills), and bent, we’ll gang (go) out twa (two) by twa,
With hearts elate and mind content–oh, Gouff dings a’.

And here are a few of the stanzas. Remember this was sung in the 1880’s:

Oh, hoo (how) are ye a’ the nicht (night), my friends? I hope I see ye weel (well),
Yer Clubs a’ in guid (good) order; yer Cleeks and Irons like steel.
I’ve just looked in for half-an-hour to ha’e a joke or twa
About our jolly game o’ Gouff–for Gouff dings a’.


The Gouff belongs to Scotland, but its spreading sure and far;
You’ll find a Golfing-Course, my boys, wherever Scotsmen are;
In Africa,in India, in America, ’tis the same,
Australia and our Colonies pay homage to the game.


King James the Fourth, he loved the game; but had to put it down,
In case his men forgot the way to fight for King and Crown.
No wonder that he banned it, boys–if a’ that’s said be true,
They played the game through a’ the week, and on the Sunday, too.


I met a chap the other nicht, he was looking unco (strangely) blue;
Said I, “My boy, what can annoy a lively lad like you?”
“‘Tis a’ about the Golf,” he said, while tears ran ower his cheeks,
“The wife and I have had a row, and she’s burnt my Clubs and Cleeks.”


Then, let us swell the mighty throng of Princes, Lords, and Kings
Who have enjoyed the game of Golf above all other things
And wish success to every one, let him be great or sma’,
Who loves the jolly game o’ Gouff–for Gouff dings a’.

So next Friday night when you “take a cup of kindness yet,/ for auld lang syne,” take one as well for  David Jackson and the game he describes so lovingly.


Another Poem for a Winter’s Day

Last December I published a post titled “Golf Poetry for a Winter’s Day.” It included a poem called “Retrospection.” If you want a succinct description of the essence of golf, I encourage you to click here and read (better recite) the last two stanzas.

This December’s poem for a winter’s day is called “A Dirge for Summer.” It was written by Robert Risk, a Scottish poet and golfer, and appeared in his book, Songs of the Links, published in 1919.


Gone are the days when by the swinging sea
We lounged and smoked between two sunny rounds,
Gone are the times of loitering by the tee;
The summer has been driven out of bounds–
No penalty is writ in white and black,
Whereby we are allowed to call it back.

Gone are the jocund evenings when we start,
High-tea’d and confident of light and weather,
Forgetful of the office and the mart,
Of debts and duns and the Golf-maniac’s blether;
Those perfect evenings, clear, and dry, and bright,
Have vanished wholly in the Ewigkeit. [eternity]

Gone is the crowd about the starter’s box,
And no one waits to-day at those short holes,
Where the procrastinating putter mocks
The men behind and harrows up their souls;
Void the grey town o’scarlet down and cleek
(I’ve half a mind to go there for a week).

For now, we must from Saturday to Saturday
Neglect our game–a week’s a weary time–
And each one brings a coorser and a watter day
(Kindly excuse a Caledonian rhyme),
For we are entered on the Golfer’s Lent,
The season of his deepest discontent.

Yet on the dim horizon looms afar,
No larger than the neatest niblick head,
A little scintillating, faithful star,
Though over all the heavens is darkness spread;
Through all the winter waste it sends a greeting,
The constellation of Next Year’s Spring Meeting.

When I read this poem it makes me think that over the last 100 years the game has changed much more than its players.

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