The Haskell-Gutty Controversy in Verse

“The Haskellisation of Golf” is the title of an article by the famous English amateur golfer and writer, Horace G. Hutchinson, that appeared in the October 17, 1902 issue of Golf Illustrated, a weekly golf magazine. Hutchinson discusses the question of whether the gutty ball should be replaced by the recently invented Haskell ball. For background see a previous Blog entry, Haskell on the Brain,

At the same time, Hutchinson wrote his piece, a poet with the initials F.J.K. wrote a poem to the editor (they did such things 100 or so years ago) in which he versified on the pros and cons of switching to the new balls.

THE NEW BALLS                                                                                            

To the Editor of Golf Illustrated

Dear Sir,

Two of the questions of the day,
We read, in circles polished,
Are whether women ought to work,
Or kissing be abolished?

But though these interesting queries
Might be discussed for ages,
They pale and pall before the one
Appearing in your pages.

The merits of the rubber-filled
American invention
From golfers one and all demand
Their very best attention:

And week by week your paper has
An interesting series
Of answers published in response
To these important queries:

Whether, in driving from the tee,
The golfer finds his task ʾll
Be simpler if he once employs
A Kempshall or a Haskell?

And if he finds that owing to
These aids so adventitious
His skill improves all around, or fate
Is, as before, capricious.

And does the new ball benefit
Our mediocre players,
And help them to attain the art
Of Braid, or Herd, or Sayers?

And if, supposing this is true,
Another finds it hard on
His excellence, a player like
Taylor or a Vardon?

And further with what liveliness
This substitute for gutta
Behaves when struck with iron clubs,
Or aluminium putter?

And yet, again, if general use
Will spoil our English courses,
And whether, this being so, there are
Remedial resources?

These questions of the day,
(With which, cf. the title page,
“Golf” is incorporated.

And there one finds set forth, in turn,
Assertion and denial
Of faults and merits in the ball
By those who’ve given it trial.

One hears that certain clubs demand
Restrictive legislation,
To save the gutty from the Trans-
Atlantic innovation.

Now I, unmasked, advise each man
To try, in strict seclusion,
This full-of-rubber novelty,
And draw his own conclusion.

About the distance of his drive
He’ll wax enthusiastic,
But later on he’ll wish his ball
Was rather less elastic.

About the cost he may well feel
Supremely apprehensive,
Seeing that every ball is so
Atrociously expensive.

So, if he thinks with me, he will
Abide no rubber filling,
But use an English ball, for which
He’ll pay an English shilling!


Of course, issues surrounding the capabilities of golf balls continue. Recently John Solheim, Chairman and CEO of Ping, suggested that instead of a single Ball Distance Rating (BDR) limit (how far a ball can go) there should be three. In addition to the current BDR, there would one shorter and one longer. (See  Golf Digest article) Then we would have to endure ads for the longest short ball, the longest long ball, etc. I’d rather go back to the Haskell!

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