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Not With a Bang

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When asked at a President’s Cup press conference last week if he would play again, Tiger Woods responded, “I don’t know what my future holds.” Recently it was also reported that in his attempt at recovery he had gone beyond putting and was now hitting shots with his wedges. These reports led me to the following (with apologies to T.S. Eliot),

Not With a Bang

If Tiger is through,
Then so ends our riches –
Not with a bang,
But 60 yard pitches.

Leon S White, PhD

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Reflecting on the 2017 Open Championship

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July 24, 2017

If you saw yesterday’s final round of the Open, I hope this week’s verse may reflect your feelings as well.

Reflecting on the 2017 Open Championship

Viewing an awesome Open finish,
Like the one we saw today;
Other reminders not really needed,
Why it’s golf  we watch and play.

Leon S White, PhD

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Old Golf Axioms

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As an old mathematician, I like axioms, even if they are related to golf rather than to probability theory. I found the ones below in Robert H. K. Browning’s classic book, “A History of Golf.” Please excuse slight liberties taken in turning them into a rhyming poem.

Old Golf Axioms*

Here are three axioms I discovered in Browning.
Basic but true, please take them down,
That driving is strictly an art,
Approach play a science apart,
And putting’s an inspiration – this one is crowning.

Leon S White, PhD

*From Robert H. K. Browning’s “A History of Golf”

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Golfing Truths

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I’ve been offering some of my four line golf poems for a while now. But such short verses of golf advice or “wisdom” certainly didn’t begin with me. Below are two on the same theme from an earlier time.

From the December 1875 issue of Blackwood”s Edinburgh Magazine:

The apple-faced sage with
His nostrum for all,
“Dinna hurry your swing, keep

     Your e’e on the ball.”

And from the English Golf Magazine of February 1891:

In playing strokes of every kind,
     This rule remember above all:

Let confidence possess your mind,
     And “keep your eye upon the ball.”

And we still have to be reminded today!!

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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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Robert H. K. Browning’s “The Pilgrims’ Progress” Revisited

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Robert Browning (1812-1889) was a famous English poet. Robert H. K. Browning (1884-1957) was a scholarly golf historian from Scotland who became prominent as the editor of Golfing, the premier British golfing periodical, from 1910 to 1955. H.K. Browning’s major claim to fame is his book, A History of Golf, which the late Herbert Warren Wind described as “…far and away the finest one-volume history of golf.”

Like his namesake, Browning was also wrote poetry, though he always weaved golf themes into his subject matter (as far as I know). However, has poetry did have standing. In an earlier Post (January 10,2011), I quoted what Samuel L. McKinlay, another noted Scottish golf writer, wrote in the Afterword to the Classics of Golf’s edition of Browning’s golf history book:

“One good critic thought Browning’s light verse among the best of his
generation, but it was so widely scattered a month different periodicals
as to defy any attempt at collection.”

McKinlay singled out “The Pilgrims’ Progress” as one of Brownings longest and best poems. McKinlay writes that the poem “describes in rhymed couplets the exploits of four London golfers who set out ‘to golf all August around the North.’” He then provides what he describes as “some lovely lines” from the poem:

Then off through Dirleton, cool and shady,
To Muirfield, Archerfield, Aberlady.
They golfed at Gullane, on ‘One’ and ‘Two’
The played Longniddry and Luffness New.

And at  St. Andrews, they

Laughed in the ‘Beardies’, despaired in ‘Hell’,
But played the first and the last quite well.

McKinlay, being a West of Scotland man, cites his favorite lines,

Troon and Prestwick — Only and ‘classy’
Bogside, Dundonald, Gailes, Barassie.

Since publishing these lines, I have searched the Internet from time to time in the vane hope of finding the intact poem. No luck. However, recently, totally by chance, I happened on a website called pasturegolf.com and there I found the following,

Troon and Prestwick — Old and “classy”
Bogside, Dundonald, Gailes, Barassie.
Prestwick St. Nicholas, Western Gailes,
St. Cuthbert, Portland — memory fails —
Troon Municipal (three links there)
Prestwick Municipal, Irvine, Ayr.
They faced the list with delighted smiles—
Sixteen courses within ten miles.

The eight line were described in the Blog as a “Local Scottish rhyme” with no mention of Browning. 

So in almost six years, I have now been able to add six lines. And though they clearly complete one section of the poem, we are still left with the task of searching for the remaining missing lines. If any one who reads this can help, please leave a comment. I will, of course, continue my search as well. 

I tell people that I do research in golf poetry and they laugh. My fun lasts longer.

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A Story About the Open Championship of 1913

 

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Frustration is a feeling that is familiar to all golfers. The following is a story of political frustration that spilled over to golf.

In England, starting in 1866, a women’s movement known as the suffragists began working for the vote. In 1903, a violent offshoot of this movement, called the “suffragettes,” instituted militant means to force the issue. One of their tactics was to destroy the turf at golf courses. It was reported in the May 1913 issue of The American Golfer “that if they could manage it, the ‘wild women,’ as they are being called, meant to do some considerable harm to the [Royal Liverpool Club] and interfere as far as they could with the success of what is expected to be the biggest championship meeting that has ever taken place.”

The article goes on to say that “in the emergency the club called on the villagers to assist them in the protection of the course… These efforts were successful and the 1913 Open Championship went off without any problems.”

An unknown poet provided an eight line remedy for this golf course terrorism in the April 1913 issue of The American Golfer.

               The Remedy

When Suffragettes deface our greens
By various unlawful means,
What shall we golfers do to these
Intolerable Divottees?

Clear is the answer in our rules,
Plain to be read by even fools:
“Replace the turf!” and why not let
It be above the Suffragette?

Sometimes you just can’t do better than a poem to make a point.

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Oakmont, W.C. Townes and a Missing Poem “Found”

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W.C. Fownes

The Oakmont Country Club, site of this year’s United States Open, has a long and colorful history. It was designed and built in 1903 by a Pittsburgh industrialist, Henry Clay Fownes. But Fownes, apparently anticipating longer balls and better clubs, laid out an extremely difficult, bunker-laden course. Henry, known as “H.C.” and his son William Clark Fownes, Jr., named for his uncle and known as “W.C.”, who together managed the course,were determined to make even the best golfers work hard to make pars, let alone birdies.

Two tales, one apocryphal and the other true, illustrate the role the W.C. played in keeping Oakmont on the edge. The two stories also mark two different time periods, the first in 1915 when poetry was often used to poke fun at something or somebody; the second in 1945, when a poetic opportunity was missed for lack of a verse writer.

The first story was told in verse at first banquet hosted by members of the Midiron Club on February 2, 1915 at the Hotel Schenley in Pittsburgh. The club itself consisted of 25 members, officials from local clubs including both H.C. and W.C. The banquet brought together “four hundred of the country’s most noted golfers and sportsmen, many of who had journeyed from far distant points to be present at the festal board.” The quote is from an article in the February 1915 issue of Golf Illustrated and Outdoor America.  The article goes on to describe a raucous evening of entertainment by the members, including the following song to the tune of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” which included these final seven line,

We may be short on science
  As we stand upon the tee,
And dig a thousand divots
  As we wander o’er the lea,’’
But when it comes to singing
  We’ve got bogey up a tree,
As the Midiron marches on.

After the song, some members of the club put on a skit. (Not ever being a member of a private club, I cannot comment on current practice.) The setting was “The Tom Morris Golf School.” The skit took the form of a question and answer session in which one of the members, W. H. Duff, a prominent Pittsburgh lawyer, played the role of the teacher. The script begins with the first of the two stories I referenced above, the one told in verse,

“Teacher: Willie Costin (another member), have you any criticism to make of the Oakmont Country Club?

Pupil: You bet I have and it is in poetry. Here it is:

Bill Fownes stood by a green one day,
When someone holed in four;
“I’ll put a stop to that,” said he,
“I’ll build two bunkers more.”
And sure enough he build them both,
Where they could sure be seen;
The first one right before the tee,
The other on the green.”

So W.C.’s reputation as a bunker builder was well established in the Club’s early years.

Fast forward to 1945 when Oakmont hosted a World War II Bond exhibition match. In a practice round, Sam Snead, one of the star attractions, discovered an alternate route to No. 7 and hit his tee shot to the right. He ended up making a birdie. The next day, satisfied with his ploy, he hit the same drive again and much to his surprise found his ball in a brand-new bunker. He made a bogey. It turned out that the superintendent had called W.C. and W.C. had ordered a new bunker to be built before daybreak. A great story, just waiting for a poet’s touch.

It’s now 71 years later, but I can’t resist a try at filling in that blank.

W.C.’s Revenge

In ‘45
At an Oakmont match,
The Slammer saw the light;
At the 7th a bird,
Routine shots deferred,
Instead a drive to the right.

The next day Snead
Again aimed right
And hit his drive but then;
The exact same shot
In a sand trap caught,
W.C. had struck again.

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Versed Golf Instruction

  Olive Geddes

 

Thomas Kincaid, a medical student in Edinburgh, seems to have written the first poem solely about golf. It appears in a diary he kept from January 1687 to December 1688. (For more information see “A Swing Through Time” by Olive M Geddes.) Kincaid’s poem below, also turns out to be the first poem devoted to golf instruction!

Gripe fast stand with your left leg first not farr
Incline your back and shoulders but beware
You raise them not when back the club you bring
Make all the motion with your bodies swinge
And shoulders, holding still the muscles bent                   (5)
Play slowly first till you the way have learnt
At such lenth hold the club as fitts your strength
The lighter head requires the longer lenth
That circle wherein moves your club and hands
At forty five degrees from Th[e] horizon stands             (10)
What at on[e] stroak to effectuat you dispaire
Seek only ’gainst the nixt it to prepare.

The eighth chapter of my book, Golf Course of Rhymes – Links between Golf and Poetry Through the Agesincludes some other historical instructional poems that I found in my research on golf poetry, as well as a few that I have written. One of mine, “The Pre-shot Routine,” goes as follows:

♦Pre-Shot Routine

Before you start your driver back to swing
Go through a drill that’s sure to help a lot.
This pre-shot set of steps will be the thing
That makes your drive a satisfying shot.

Just stand behind the ball and take a glance.
Look down the fairway taking hazards in.
Select a target, give yourself a chance,
To put your second shot beside the pin.

Now place your driver just behind the ball.
Then aim the club-face at the mark you chose.
Align your feet, remember to stand tall
And swing into a perfect ending pose.

The ball went wide, the bads outweighed the goods.
Well, before the swing you looked like Tiger Woods.

NOTE: This blog now contains more than 180 Posts. If you are looking at this Post on the Internet, you can find other Posts by selecting one of the categories in the list to the right. You also may be able to scroll down. In any case I wanted to offer you the opportunity to search around within this Blog. By doing so you may find a poem that you’ll want to share with golfing friends.

 

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New Book: Opposites in Golf – Portrayed in Poetry as Opposed to Prose

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For me, poetry is a lot about having fun with words and ideas. That is how I would describe my new book, Opposites in Golf, which consists of a series of 32 poems where each takes a golf related term and uses rhyme and reason to search for its opposite. Here is an example from the book,

HOME AND AWAY

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.

The poetry is simple, funny and wise and turns the language of golf on its head. It’s meant for golf enthusiasts looking for a different but rewarding and unique golf-related experience. Just the antidote for a bad shot or a bad round. The book is small enough to stick in a golf bag, but smart enough not to be left there.

Opposites in Golf is now available on Amazon, Amazon in the United Kingdom,  Amazon France, and other European countries. It sells for $4.50. Please take a look for the fun of it.

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