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Women and Golf, 1914

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In the early 20th Century, for the most part, golf was a men’s game. One famous amateur golfer/writer of the times, Horace Hutchinson, went so far as to assert, “Constitutionally and physically women are unfitted for golf.” 

I recently came across a old golf book, Rhymes of a Duffer (1914), by Philip Q. Loring. Loring apparently was as odds with Hutchinson. At least he was willing to let a woman into the conversation:

So, I have to confess she was quite apropos
When
 the maiden remarked as she started to go;
“Excepting direction and distance, I’d say,
That drive was as good as I’ve seen today.”

 

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When Tiger was the Master of the Masters

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Tiger’s ball at the penultimate moment

With Tiger finally returning to the Masters this year, it is a good time to remember one of his most famous Masters shots that 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 this recollection.

♦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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Narin Golf Club – 1986

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I just looked at the clubhouse pictured on the Narin Golf Club’s website. It is much larger and more extensive than the one I remember from a family golf trip to Scotland in 1986. Then, if I remember correctly, it was just a single room with a long counter and an elderly proprietor to welcome us. This recollection inspired the four lines below. (Many of today’s golfers may find it hard to relate to the word picture I have drawn.)

Narin Golf Club, Scotland – 1986

The old proprietor ‘s greeting
On a windy cloudy day;
Nothing fancy, nothing false,
You couldn’t wait to play.

Leon S White, PhD

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The Agonies of Golfing

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Edgar A Guest, born in England in 1881, worked for the Detroit Free Press for more than 60 years. He was also a popular poet and a golfer. In part, he used his poetry to agonize over his inability to play better golf. In December 1921 Guest published a poem called “Golf Experience” in Golfers Magazine.  Here are a few excerpts.

I’ve golfed throughout another year,
Drifting snows will soon be here,
And now I view with discontent
This season that so soon was spent;
Once more I dubbed the whole year through,
Nor did I make an eighty-two.
……….
I blundered all through early June,
I could not use my trusty spoon,
But hope still stayed–ere summer fell
I knew I should be playing well
……….
August still found me keeping on
With scores unfit to look upon
……….
The same old dub that was am I,
I don’t improve howe’er I try;
Lessons and practice all in vain,
With me the hook or slice remain
But still to hope I fondly cling,
I know I’ll play the game next spring.

Proses can’t compete with poetry when it comes to extolling the agonies of playing the game and the never-ending hope of improvement.

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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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