This week’s article is not a theological treatise on the universally accursed game of what the Scots call golf. But it could be!
The ancient story goes something like this: Back about 600 years ago some boys tending sheep in the fields of Scotland decided to entertain themselves by creating a game that would help pass the time as they tended to their duties caring for the sheep. So they grabbed what was at hand and came up with an obscure game relegated to the British Isles for most of 500 years - golf. The tools for this game were a cudgel and a round stone. I can’t be sure, but I’d be willing to bet that the pilgrims who first settled in America weren’t just escaping a British monarchy that stifled their desire to worship God in their own way. No, I’m thinking certain Scottish, English, and Irish wives were prodding and encouraging their husbands to sign on to the next sailing ship to America to escape the insipid game of golf that had obviously befuddled their minds.
I can see it now – the husband has been in the fields all day planting the barley, harvesting the wheat, and tending to the flocks. But in truth, the poor devil has been sneaking off to play the infernal game of golf! As luck would have it, a neighbor lady, known for a loose tongue, sees the man making his way to a field set aside for playing “The Game.” This neighborhood gossip feels it is her duty to inform her neighbor of her husband’s meanderings on a golf course, signifying a neglect of his responsibilities to his family. Thus another ticket is purchased for a slow boat to America.
So it was off to the New World for many a poor soul who had been stung by the golf bug. Ha! But in the New World there was no golf! It took about 250 years from the time the pilgrims landed in Virginia in 1607 before golf arrived on the shores of New England in the middle of the 1800s. I have played several of the oldest courses in the United States. A couple of them resemble the sheep fields they once were.
The English champion, Harry Vardon, traveled to the United States in the early 1900s to play some exhibition rounds to show these unwashed, uncouth Americans the gentleman’s sport of golf. Two American boys were fully taken with the game, watching Vardon and his partner, Ted Ray, perform for the mesmerized Americans. Francis Ouimet became proficient enough in golf that he challenged the Englishman to a match – and won! Well, Katy bar the door! That’s all it took to have golf become an emerging national sport in the United States.
The other boy who was enamored with golf was Bobby Jones. More than any other golfer of note, Jones stamped a pedigree on golf that lasts to this day. Bobby Jones was your quintessential Southern Gentleman, hailing from Georgia. Because golf cost money, and the American middle class had not emerged as yet, golf was a sport enjoyed by the wealthy and highbrow in society. And it remained so for most of the first half of the 20th Century. It continues to be considered a gentleman’s sport. And because of the efforts of the famous female athlete and Olympic champion, Babe Didrikson, women were brought into the game of golf as well.
Following the victories over Japan and Germany in World War Two, an economic boon followed in the United States transforming many in the working class to a new status – the American Middle Class. Things changed: 5-day work weeks; 8-hour days; two-week vacations; decent pay with raises and bonuses; and the ability to buy a car. This also introduced leisure time for everyone. Golf took off as a sport in this environment. Add to that the advent of television and golf was here to stay.
This brief history of golf is intended to point out the callousness of the golf gods who torment players of the game incessantly – mercilessly. These denizens of whatever passes for the spirit world’s Nirvana, Heaven, Paradise, Kingdom Come, Happy Hunting Ground, Glory or whatever, they have no heart!
If you are a golfer, or you’re married to a golfer, you understand fully what I am saying. For those of you who are clueless, let me simply say, “Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be golfers!”
The list of things that golf does to a person is literally endless. The amount of money a golfer will spend on equipment, golf togs, and all manner of do-dads and gizmos is embarrassing. And we are so easily convinced that the newest golf ball will fly farther and straighter; that the newest set of clubs will allow us to hit the ball with power and authority; and that the latest style of golf shoe will give us an edge when addressing the ball.
Woe is me! For just when I believe I’m getting the hang of this diabolical game, and my scores are causing me to thump my chest in pride, the golf gods sprinkle “stupid dust” on me and I forget how to play. Oh, I try, but I look pathetic, thrashing away with my clubs trying to hit this nefarious ball, only to hear the golf gods chortling from their denizen of golfdom. They are heartless. I am doomed!
How bad is it? The first chance I have this week will find me on the golf course. Do you hear it? They’re laughing at me!
I need help.