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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

High Resolution Front Cover_5932050

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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If Golf Balls Could Talk

6oldBalls_

I woke up this morning before the alarm rang and pretty quickly arranged the following four lines in my mind:

If golf balls could talk
What would they say?
That might depend on
Who put them in play.

So I quietly got up, left my still sleeping wife and headed for my study. In the next hour or so I pretty much completed the poem below. Now I can get my mind back on track and read today’s New York Times.

IF GOLF BALLS COULD TALK

If golf balls could talk
What would they say?
That might depend on
Who put them in play.

Jordan’s ball
Might explicate
On why all the pleading
When it’s too late.

Nicklaus’s ball
Might just tweet
‘Bout the good old days
When it couldn’t be beat.

Michelle’s ball
Might take a chance
And comment on
Her putting stance.

Tiger’s ball
Might make no sound
It’s bored after all
From sitting around.

Michelson’s ball
Might try to lay claim
To Lefty’s success
In his brilliant short game.

Tom Watson’s ball
Might talk a ton
‘Bout the five British Opens
The Champion Golfer won.

And,

Bubba’s ball
Might just complain
That it never goes straight
And is always in pain.

So,

What about your ball,
What about mine?
They might just keep silent
And that would be fine.

Leon S White, PhD

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A Poet’s Version of How Golf Began

Title page of %22Art of Golf%22

To celebrate the seventh anniversary of this Blog, I have reprinted below the first Post which was published December 19, 2008. Since then more than 180 Posts have been added.

In addition to the Blog, I have written two books, Golf Course of Rhymes – Links between Golf and Poetry Through the Ages” and “If Only I Could Play that Hole Again.” Both are available on Amazon.com.

But what pleases me most is that this Blog has attracted readers like you from more than 130 countries! Poetry and golf go together. To get the most out of both takes a little more time and effort, but the rewards are there for the taking.

Thanks for visiting my Blog. I hope you will return from time to time to search through all the poetry that it now includes.

Now, here is Post number one:

“Golf’s long and colorful history is well documented. It origins, however have always been uncertain. Sir Walter Simpson, an early golf historian, writes in The Art of Golf, published in 1887, that golf at St. Andrews probably began when a shepherd idly hit a stone into a hole with his crook.

An anonymous nineteenth century poet gives us a charming poetic version of this apocryphal story.

When Caledonia, stern and wild
Was still a poor unkilted child,
Two simple shepherds clad in skins,
With leathern thongs about their shins,
Finding that dullness day by day
Grew irksome, felt a wish to play.
But where the game?  In those dark ages
They couldn’t toss—they had no wages.
Till one, the brighter of the two,
Hit on a something he could do.

He hit a pebble with his crook
And sent the stone across a brook;
The other, tempted then to strike,
With equal ardour ‘played the like,’
And this they went with heart and soul
Towards a distant quarry-hole,
With new success contented
‘Twas thus the prehistoric Scot
Did wonders by an idle shot,
And golf was first invented.

Welcome to Golf Course of Rhymes. The above is an example of the kind of post I intend to offer. The emphasis will be on golf stories, humor, history and even a little instruction. My primary purpose is to entertain, but I hope to contribute to your golf education in new and different ways as well.”

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Duffers Yet

Lord Darling

From Wikipedia:

“Moir Tod Stormonth Darling (Lord Stormonth Darling, 3 November 1844 – 2 June 1912) was a Scottish politician and judge. He was Member of Parliament for Edinburgh and St Andrews Universities from 1888 to 1890 and served as Solicitor General for Scotland during the same period.
From 1890 to 1908 he was a Lord of Session. In 1897 he was President of the Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Club and gave the Toast to Sir Walter at the club’s annual dinner.
In 1900 he featured in a set of Copes cigarette cards of well known golfers. The card, numbered 49, depicts him standing in a bunker and is entitled “Duffers Yet”.”

If you are a collector of golf poetry, you soon discover that the title of the Lord’s cigarette card is, in fact, the title of a poem he wrote:

              Duffers Yet

By Lord Stormonth Darling|
(With apologies to the Author of Strangers Yet.)

After years of play together,
After fair and stormy weather,
After rounds of every Green,
From Westward Ho! To Aberdeen:
Why did e’er we buy a Set—
If we must be Duffers yet?
Duffers yet! Duffers yet!

After singles, foursomes, all
Fractured club and cloven ball,
After grief in sand and whin,
Foozled drives and putts not in,
Even our caddies scarce regret
When we part as Duffers yet.
Duffers yet! Duffers yet!

After days of frugal fare,
Still we spend our force in air:
After nips to give us nerve,
Not the less our drivers swerve:
Friends may back, and foes may bet,
And ourselves be Duffers yet.
Duffers yet! Duffers yet!

Must it ever then be thus?
Failure most mysterious!
Shall we never fairly stand
Eye on ball or club in hand?
Are the Fates eternal set
To retain us Duffers yet?
Duffers yet! Duffers yet! *

*This first appeared, without the third verse, in Edinburgh Courant in 1869, and was respectfully dedicated to the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers.

(The poem is taken from a book, Stories of Golf by William Knight and T.T. Oliphant published in 1894.)

As the note says, the poem was published in 1869. Yet the sentiments expressed, particularly in the last stanza, are ours as well – at least on occasion. The game has surely changed since 1869, but the emotions remain the same. Amazing!

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Opposites at St. Andrews

St. Andrews

Continuing on the theme of opposites in golf (see the previous Post and others in the Blog), this poem considers some opposites at the Old Course.

OPPOSITES AT ST. ANDREWS

Beware when playing the Old Course
It’s not like a home course round
The differences are many
Opposites abound.

For example, at St. Andrews
You’ll have to walk all parts
No riding at the Old Course
It doesn’t offer carts.

On a typical day at St. Andrews
You are sure to feel the breeze
But look in all directions
You won’t see any trees.

Humps and bumps all over
It’s not like a walk in a park
More than a hundred bunkers
Take heed if you’re out after dark.

They started with eleven fairways
But twenty-two holes to play
The walk was out to eleven
Then in the opposite way.

But twenty-two were too many
So they came up with a plan
To reduce the number to eighteen
And modern golf began.

Leon S White, PhD

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Opposites in Golf: Neither Fat or Thin

At the golf course today, after I hit a drive straight down the middle, one of my playing partners ask, “Do you have a poem about hitting a perfect drive.” Here is my response:

NEITHER FAT OR THIN

The opposite of “hit it fat”
Is “hit it thin” and that is that.
But I would rather hit it right
And watch the ball in perfect flight.

Leon S White, PhD

I have posted other opposites poems. To see them click on the category “opposites in golf” in the right hand column.

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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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1_TIGER_461

 

Since Tiger Woods has retreated from PGA Tour events, golf “scholars,” have offered Tiger a wide array of “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” to bring him back to championship form. Some have suggested that Tiger is finished as a front runner. As I have remarked in other Posts, maybe 100 years ago, situations like Tiger’s would be commented on not only in prose, but also in poetry. Since I am currently the (self-appointed) resident golf poet, here is my contribution regarding Tiger’s troubles:

Tiger Should or Shouldn’t

The ailing failing Tiger Woods
Is being hounded by the “shoulds”

 Should do this, should do that
To get away from where he’s at.

He should Harmon-ize again,
But this is now and that was then.

He should get his head on straight,
It’s not his swing, let’s not conflate.

Tiger Woods should come alive,
Else golfing revenues take a dive.

The “shouldn’t” folks are out there too
Telling Woods what not to do.

He shouldn’t bulk up quite so much,
It’s causing him to lose his touch.

He shouldn’t listen to any coach
Trusting instead in his own approach.

Or maybe Tiger shouldn’t care
And just move his glutes to a rocking chair.

But I’m bettin’ when Tiger comes back
He won’t look like any hack.

Leon S White, PhD

And for those who would like to practice their oral poetry reading skills,

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In my last Post (just below) I offered readers like you the chance to experience the fun of reading a poem (in this case a golf poem) out loud. To begin, I suggested reading the first stanza of a classic golf poem called “The Lay for the Troubled Golfer” by Edgar A. Guest. I included a recording of my reading of the stanza, which offered the opportunity to read the stanza along with me.

Now we move on to the whole poem. It is included below and is followed by my recording. If you are inclined, try reading the poem along with me. If you would like to comment on the experience I would appreciate the feedback. But the main thing is to enjoy the experience.

The Lay for the Troubled Golfer

By Edgar A. Guest

 His eye was wild and his face was taut with anger and hate and rage,
And the things he muttered were much too strong for the ink of the printed page.
I found him there when the dusk came down, in his golf clothes still was he,
And his clubs were strewn around his feet as he told his grief to me:
“I’d an easy five for a seventy-nine—in sight of the golden goal—
An easy five and I took an eight—an eight on the eighteenth hole!

“I’ve dreamed my dreams of the ‘seventy men,’ and I’ve worked year after year,
I have vowed I would stand with the chosen few ere the end of my golf career;
I’ve cherished the thought of a seventy score, and the days have come and gone
And I’ve never been close to the golden goal my heart was set upon.
But today I stood on the eighteenth tee and counted that score of mine,
And my pulses raced with the thrill of joy—I’d a five for a seventy-nine!

“I can kick the ball from the eighteenth tee and get this hole in five,
But I took the wood and I tried to cross that ditch with a mighty drive—”
Let us end the quotes, it is best for all to imagine his language rich,
But he topped that ball, as we often do, and the pill stopped in the ditch.
His third was short and his fourth was bad and his fifth was off the line,
And he took an eight on the eighteenth hole with a five for a seventy-nine.

 I gathered his clubs and I took his arm and alone in the locker room
I left him sitting upon the bench, a picture of grief and gloom;
And the last man came and took his shower and hurried upon his way,
But still he sat with his head bowed down like one with a mind astray,
And he counted his score card o’er and o’er and muttered this doleful whine:
“I took an eight on the eighteenth hole, with a five for a seventy-nine!”

 

Here is my recording of the poem. Just click on the sideways diamond. And don’t worry about perfection, just recite and have fun. It’s a great poem to read out loud.

 

If you have time, please leave a comment. Thanks.

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