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The Rules of Golf – A Reprise

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Earlier this year we learned that the USGA and the R & A are proposing a sweeping change in the Rules of Golf. Starting, I believe, in 2019, the current 34 Rules would be reduced to 24. I don’t claim that my poem (below) published in my eBook, If Only I Could Play That Hole Again (2013) had any influence on the decision. But I thought the poem was worth reprinting. I am particularly happy with what I wrote in the last stanza. 

THE RULES OF GOLF

The Rules of Golf are not to be broken;
Nevertheless, sometimes they are,
By Pros who should know when to invoke them,
Even when they are close to bizarre.

There are Rules for playing the ball as it lies,
And Rules that relate to the putting green,
Rules for a ball, moved, deflected or stopped,
And others related to “lift, place and clean.”

The Rule Book’s first subject, Etiquette,
Says bunker raking should be in your plans,
But that brings up a delicate subject:
What if no rake and the prints made by fans?

Remember that towel? An unneeded addition,
Placed on the ground somewhat in advance
Of a shot hit from a kneeling position,
For which Stadler got caught for “building a stance.”

And what of the famous scorecard debacle,
When De Vicenzo got himself in a jam.
Caught up in the moment, he missed the error,
His quote when informed, “What a stupid I am . . .”

After Inkster, call it the doughnut rule,
Which has nothing to do with bringing ’em.
But if you’re a Pro, waiting out a delay,
Better refrain from swinging ’em!

“Local” rules may also exist.
Just like the rest, they couldn’t be clearer,
Except when the Pros fail to peruse them,
Because they are posted on some bathroom mirror.

Surely the Pros know the rules in the Rule Book
Still they get DQ’ed for the craziest things.
Remember poor Furyk, late for a Pro/Am
When his cell phone alarm logged zero rings!

Penalties are sometimes imposed by officials,
Walking along and right on the scene.
But now they are aided by enterprising viewers,
Vigilantes with Rule Books watching the screen.

Has all this complexity made the game better?
Maybe the Rules need some serious rethinking.
In the early days, thirteen were plenty,
A judicious review might lead to some shrinking!

 Leon S White, PhD

[The incident referred to in the third stanza (previously cited in an earlier Clerihew) was where in the 2010 PGA Championship Dustin Johnson was penalized for grounding his club in a bunker that did not appear to be a bunker. In the sixth stanza, Julie Inkster was disqualified for swinging a club weighted with a donut while waiting on a tee because of slow play ahead of her.]

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A Golf Poem to Save for the Winter

This blog began in 2008. Since then I have published more than 170 Posts. In addition, I have published two books of golf poetry. The blog has been visited by golfers from more than 125 countries! Needless to say, I am appreciative of this response to my efforts to reintroduce poetry as part of today’s golf readings. But at the same time I understand that those of you who visit this blog have limited time to spend here. Thus my assumption that many of the poems, particularly the early ones, deserve a second chance to be read.

The one below was originally published on this blog in 2009. It was first published about 100 years ago. “Retrospection” was written by W. Hastings Webling (1866 – 1946?), a Canadian writer and poet, and appeared in the magazine Golf in January 1915. Though he was only looking back to the last golf season, the sentiments he expresses still ring true. Also remember that he was writing at a time when match play was preeminent.

I hope you will enjoy reading the poem even though it’s long. But if you fear a long poem as much as a short putt, at least read the first, second to last and last stanzas.

RETROSPECTION

by Hastings Webling

The days are short, the winds are chill,
The turf has lost its verdant hue,
And those who played the good old game
Have slowly disappeared from view.
No longer may we watch the flight
Of golf balls as they gaily soar,
Or hear the chaff of merry wit,
Or echo of some lusty “Fore!”

Ah, well! we cannot all expect
To play the game from year to year;
To hike, like some, to southern climes
And play in balmy atmosphere.
‘Tis better so; for we can rest
And reminisce, while fancy free,
Recall the games of yesterday,
Defeats, and proud-won victory.

And we can sit around the fire
And dream of things we might have done;
Of matches that we thought a cinch
And cups that well might we have won;
And then those scores of “seventy eight,”
Only missed by some short putt,
It all will tend to stimulate
Our fond desire for future luck.

And as to “birdies”—well might I
Write of these in doleful tone;
For they have caused such deep distress
More than I would like to own.
Ah! oft I held them in my grasp
With joy to think how well they’d pay
When someone “holes a ten-foot putt”
And swift my “birdie” flies away.

But such is life, and so is golf,
The things we think so really sure;
The holes we count before they’re won
Are apt to give us one guess more.
But, after all, it is for this
We seek the prizes that may be,
And find the charm both in the game
And in its great uncertainty.

My boy! if skies were ever fair,
If winds should always favor you,
And all your “lies” were perfect “lies,”
And all your putts were straight and true—
If all your drives were far and sure,
Approaches on the green were “dead,”
The joy of combat would be lost
And vict’rys charm forever shed.

After reading this poem, ask yourself how it compares to reading any article in any recent golf magazine. In my view, today’s golf magazine articles don’t relate golfers to the essence of the game nearly as well as poetry like this does. Let me know what your think if you care to.

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A Poetic Response to the Question: What is Golf?

 

Everyone has their own answer to the question “What is golf?” Here is mine, taken from my Ebook “If Only I Could Play that Hole Again.”

     ON COURSE

Golf is a singular way
to take temporary leave
following a zigzag path
in search of a small white ball;

to abandon reality,
but stay the course,
hole after hole;

to create a new story,
always different
to be told to someone
before it’s forgotten.

An extraordinary chance
to pretend for a brief time
no matter how unskilled
that each stroke will be flawless;

to endure the pain of failure
without really failing,
and even if only once a round,

to truly enjoy
the pure pleasure
of hitting the ball rock-solid
or sinking a long tricky putt.

Leon S White, PhD

 

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A Golfer’s Lament: “If only I could …”

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“If only I could play that hole again” is the title of an e-book of my golf poetry. It is a refrain that has either been uttered out loud or at least thought about by almost every golfer after playing a golf hole badly. It is certainly a worthy subject for a poem.

 If only I could play that hole again

If only I could play that hole again
I know that I could shoot a better score
That drive I hit was rather short and right
A second chance would let me make a four.

Instead my second shot is from the trees
It traveled only fifty yards at best
And left me feeling sick and ill at ease

I’m sure if asked my teacher would agree
With all the skill I have but have not shown
I should be lining up a putt for three.

Instead I have a tricky wood to play
A side-hill up-hill lie around a bend
A perfect shot would show that I’m okay.

My swing is perfect but the ball went wide
It disappeared from sight and was not found
Nothing I can do will turn the tide.

Instead of two I’m on the green in six
My second putt lips out my score is nine
Bad luck it is that put me in this fix.

I’d really like to play that hole again
To show off all my talent and my skill
My partners think my attitude is great
But check my chance to make a par as nil.

The e-book that includes this poem and many others is available on Amazon. The link is http://amzn.to/WyVnIz. I hope you will give it a look.

 

 

 

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A Masters Chip for the Ages: Tiger on 16 in 2005

 Tiger's ball at the penultimate moment

 

With Tiger absent from this years Masters, it is a good time to remember one of his most famous Masters shots which he made on the 16th hole in 2005. If you saw it live I would bet that you still remember it. But even for those of you that do and also for those that missed it, I offer my recollection as follows:

♦A Masters Chip for the Ages

From a difficult lie beyond
the steeply sloped sixteenth green

a steely-eyed Tiger sent his ball
to a spot far above the hole,

the ball coming crisply off his wedge,
flew low, bounced once

and rolled on a yard or two
until gravity took over,

causing it to turn sharply,
and start slowly down the slope

towards the hole, speeding up
then slowing again as it got closer.

“All of a sudden,” Tiger’s words,
“it looked really good.”

“How could it not go in?” and
when it stopped, a single turn short,

“How did it not go in?”,
“And all of a sudden it went in.”

It was as if Tiger’s will
had given gravity an assist.

“In your life,” the tower announcer’s voice,
“have you seen anything like that?”

While around him, the patrons’ roar
rose rocket-like, fueled by sheer wonder.

Leon S White, PhD

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The Joys of Life and Golf

I have now been writing this Blog for five years. I began with a discovery –  an unknown literature of golf poetry – and a thought that it would be nice to share some of the best of these poems with other avid golfers. Along the way I decided to include some of my poetry as well.

I am pleased to say that over the five years this tiny space on the Internet has attained more than 100,000 page views from more than 120 countries. I am very grateful for all of you who have come and have encouraged others to try the site as well.

In this year-end Post I would first like to share with you a short poem by Robert Frost that I enjoyed and have re-read several times. I include it as an example of how poetry like music can immediately make you feel better.

Dust of Snow
Robert Frost

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

After reading Frost’s poem I thought of a poem that I wrote called “On Course” where I tried to create a feeling of joy about playing the game of golf. I hope you will enjoy it.

On Course
Leon S White, PhD

Golf is a singular way
to take temporary leave
following a zigzag path
in search of a small white ball;

to abandon reality,
but stay the course,
hole after hole;

to create a new story,
always different
to be told to someone
before it’s forgotten.

An extraordinary chance
to pretend for a brief time
no matter how unskilled
that each stroke will be flawless;

to endure the pain of failure
without really failing,
and even if only once a round,

to truly enjoy
the pure pleasure
of hitting the ball rock-solid
or sinking a long tricky putt.

“On Course” is included in both of my books, Golf Course of Rhymes – Links between Golf and Poetry Through the Ages and If Only I Could Play That Hole Again.

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A Golfer’s Poetic Lament – Winter is Coming

Francis Bowler Keene, who graduated from Harvard University in 1880 wrote a poem that should appeal especially to golfers who live in snowy areas of the country. In his title, Keene uses the word “monody,” meaning lament, to set his tone.  (A suggestion: To have the most fun with this poem, read it out loud and speed up towards the end.)

A Golfer’s Monody, After the First Snowfall

No greens, no tees;
.     No fragrant breeze;
No harmony of happy-hearted birds;
.     No verdure deep;
.     No roaming sheep;
No faithful collies, watchful of their herds;
.     No sunny glade;
.     No woodland shade;
No ferny path beneath the rustling trees;
.     No springy turf;
.     No murmuring surf;
No passing hum of honey-laden bees;
.     No motors fleet;
.     No golfers’ meet;
No lazy caddies lolling day by day;
.     No warning call;
.     No flying ball;
No contest in the fine and friendly fray;
.     No clubs to wield;
.     No drive afield;
No plaudits as the ball, far-driven flies;
.     No close-trimmed lawn;
.     No bunker’s yawn;
No hidden hazards lurking with bad lies;
.     No brassy swift;
.     No niblick’s lift;
No ringing click of iron, clear and clean;
.     No cleek’s true swing;
.     No mashie’s fling;
No careful putt along the velvet green;
.     No Club-nights gay;
.     No moonlit bay;
No dinners marked by mirth and merry jest;
.     No music bright;
.     No dancers light;
No broad verandah thronged with happy guests;
No winding walks;
No golfers’ talks;
No genuine delight for every member;
.     No matches more;
.     No games galore;
.     No joyous strife;
.     No zest in life;
.     November.

This poem is included in my book, Golf Course of Rhymes – Links between Golf and Poetry Through the Ages available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

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Golf Poetry from the Majors

On occasion I have been inspired to write a poem about a Major event. These have previously been published in Posts on this Blog, but I thought that for Masters week I would put them together. These poems are also included in my new Ebook, If Only I Could Play That Hole Again which is available on Amazon for the Kindle and Kindle app.

Starting with last year’s Masters here is how I saw Bubba’s memorable sweeping hook:

♦Bubba’s Master’s Shot

About B.W. let’s be candid
Fortunate that he’s left handed
If he had hit a slice instead
“Our usual shot,” all we’d have said.

Another Master shot that will always be remembered, is Tiger’s 2005 chip show on the 16th hole:

♦A Masters Chip for the Ages

From a difficult lie beyond
the steeply sloped sixteenth green

a steely-eyed Tiger sent his ball
to a spot far above the hole,

the ball coming crisply off his wedge,
flew low, bounced once

and rolled on a yard or two
until gravity took over,

causing it to turn sharply,
and start slowly down the slope

towards the hole, speeding up
then slowing again as it got closer.

“All of a sudden,” Tiger’s words,
“it looked really good.”

“How could it not go in?” and
when it stopped, a single turn short,

“How did it not go in?”,
“And all of a sudden it went in.”

It was as if Tiger’s will
had given gravity an assist.

“In your life,” the tower announcer’s voice,
“have you seen anything like that?”

While around him, the patrons’ roar
rose rocket-like, fueled by sheer wonder.

In July 2012, Na Yeon Choi won the U.S. Women’s Open by four shots over Amy Yang. As the fourth round began, Choi held a six shot lead. And at the turn, she still led Yang by five. Then it got interesting.
Again the newspapers and magazines have told the story of the last nine holes in straight forward prose. I thought it would be fun to re-cast this minor epic in a more traditional form.

♦Na Yeon Choi – U.S. Women’s Open Champion

She was cruising along with a five shot lead
And just nine more to play
But the ever-present golf gods
Had not yet had their say!

As she turned for home with a  big Open lead
Fans saw her name on the cup
Especially now with it down to a match
And she was the one five up.

But the golf gods knew the score as well
And on ten they went into action
Soon enough Na Yeon Choi
Was losing more than just traction.

Her drive went out and couldn’t be found
She was back on the tee for her third
When her putt finally sank she was up only two
But surprisingly undeterred.

A resolute Choi bounced right back
With a birdy on eleven
The golf gods were clearly hard at work
In the depths, then close to heaven.

The down and up would continue
From the next tee into high weeds
But a brilliant wedge put her ball on the green
And she holed with a perfect read.

On thirteen the gods gave one final scare
Her ball hit two rocks, au revoir
But dry it remained miraculously
Choi then made an up and down par.

In the end the golf gods seemed to remember
A dream from way way back
When Na Yeon first said “I just want to be there,”
While watching Se Ri Pak.

Accepting the cheers as she walked up the last,
Her win beyond a doubt
Standing where her hero had stood
She finally putted out.

“I’m here right now and I made it.” she said
After winning ─ though I would wager
The thought that was foremost in her mind —
Like Se Ri, I’ve won this Major.

You may remember at the 2009 British Open at Turnberry, Tom Watson needed a four on the final hole to win his sixth Open championship. Unfortunately he didn’t do it. Thus, he lost his chance to make history as the oldest golfer to win a major. He was 59 at the time. Shortly after, I wrote the following poem to pay tribute to Watson’s heroic but failed effort.

♦Watson At Turnberry – The 2009 Open

From the tee at eighteen
He looked down towards the home hole
Like a pitcher with a one run lead looks
Toward home plate needing one more out.

As he drove his ball
We knew what the magic number was.
When the camera showed a safe white speck
We exhaled in unison and counted one.

Now it was an eight iron to the green
Or was it a nine?
A question to be answered twice,
The first time by Watson alone.

He was thinking nine but hit the eight
And as we watched with growing anxiety
The ball bounced hard and rolled too far.
We held our breath and counted two.

Again a choice: to chip or putt.
“One of the best chippers of all time,”
The words of an old pro in the booth.
But the third stroke would be a putt.

From off the green the ball raced up
Then by the hole a good eight feet.
He said he had seen grain.
Down to one, we saw trouble.

Once more a putt to win the Open,
But this was not a kid with a dream,
This was a Champion Golfer five times over.
Yet now we feared the worst.

While he took two short practice strokes
We lost interest in counting.
And as the ball rolled weakly off his putter
We lost all hope as well.

“I made a lousy putt,” Watson’s words;
“Then it was one bad shot after another.”
A self-stated epitaph marked the close:
“The Old Fogy Almost Did It.”

And so the golf writers lost their story
To an illustrious sage from an earlier time.
It wouldn’t be about Watson winning – or losing,
But how he had played the Game.

In 1970 Doug Sander missed a short putt on the final hole at the British Open that cost him the Championship. Here is a reply,

♦An Open Putt Remembered

The putt was less than three feet long
Just how could anything go wrong?

For sure he knew the stakes were high
But could he really run it by?

Doug looked as cool as cool could be
His poise was there for all to see.

But as his putter made its sweep
And those who watched made not a peep.

The ball escaped its aimed-for goal
And did not end up in the hole.

The question was, how could he miss
An easy putt as short as this?

The answer—simple, known to all:
Pressure putts don’t always fall.

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