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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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If Golf Balls Could Talk

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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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The Paradox of Golf

The following poem appeared at the beginning of a column on New England golf in the May 1915 issue of The American Golfer. A golfer using the pseudonym “Bunker Hill” wrote the column. The poem was not given a title but “ The Paradox of Golf” might fit.

My drive is erratic, my brassie’s the same,
My irons are atrocious, and awful my aim,
My mashie is tearful, my putting worse still,
My scores have the look of a dressmaker’s bill;
My legs are a-weary, my wrists are quite lame,
But I am most happy—I’m playing the game.

That a 100-year-old poem can still speak for all of us duffers today, reflects the enduring and endearing appeal of the game. And from my (clearly biased) point of view, poetry says it best.

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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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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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Reading Golf Poetry Out Loud

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It’s a new year so, let’s try something new and different.

The fun of reading golf poetry out loud is something that I have emphasized on this Blog. Now we are going to put this idea to the test – that is, with your help.

When talking to groups about golf poetry, I always have them participate by reading a poem out loud along with me. So I thought – why don’t I try that with you as well. So this is what we are going to do. Let’s take the poem I always use, “The Lay for the Troubled Golfer” by Edgar A Guest and begin by just considering the first stanza. (In the next Post we will read the whole poem.)

I have recorded the first stanza as you can see below. So, if you like you can listen to my reading first.

Note: If you are looking at this post on my website then just click on the triangle at the left side of the audio bar. However, if you are reading the Post on email, then you will have to switch to my website at https://golfpoet.com/2015/01/06/reading-golf-poetry-out-loud-2/ to be able to follow the poem text while I’m reading it.

After your first reading, you can either read along with me the second time or just read out loud by yourself. Either way I hope that you conclude, as I have, that reading out loud adds to the fun of reading golf poetry. (Note: for those of you who do not use English regularly, consider this an opportunity to practice speaking.)

Here, then is the first stanza of “The Lay for the Troubled Golfer.”

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!

 

And below is my reading:

 

Remember if you want to continue and read the whole poem out loud look out for the next Post that will be coming soon.

 

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December Golf

 

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My apologies for being slow to put out a new post. I have been battling the flu for a while (even though I dutifully got my flu-shot last October). I am finally starting the feel better and put together what is now my annual four-liner bemoaning Winter. Nothing new, just another observation on what separates golfers who are warmer and from those who are colder at this time of year.

DECEMBER GOLF

Golf in December, a delight for those
Not burdened by four layers of clothes;

Advice or tips no matter the source,
Of little use on a snow-covered course.

 
Two other comments. For the golfer who has everything and is interested in the history and literature of the game, please consider my book, Golf Course of Rhymes – Links between Golf and Poetry Through the Ages, available at Amazon (http://amzn.to/11b2H2k) and other web bookstore locations

Also next year, if I can figure out how to do it, we will be reciting some poetry together. In this way I hope to encourage you to read poetry out loud.

Finally, I would like to wish my readers from over 120 countries a very happy holiday season and lower scores next year. Thank you for coming back to read golf poetry from time to time. There are more than 160 poems about golf on the pages of this Blog. When you have time explore a little using search words. The top 10 are fine, but there’s a lot more.

aside

Here are three four-lines verses that I would like to share with you on a beautiful late September morning in New England:

THE YIPS PURE AND SIMPLE

The yips occur when you can’t control
The direction or speed of the ball you roll.
You have the yips if you shake your putts
Frequent attacks can drive you nuts.

CHANGING ODDS

Heard said that trees are nine-tenths air,
If your ball gets over you hardly care;
But if it’s low and lost from view –
No more than even that your ball gets through.

NEVER MISS

To make a putt without a doubt
A mind-trick to apply:
Pretend that you’ve already missed
And this is your second try!

Leon S White, PhD

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