George Plimpton once observed about sports writing, “The smaller the ball, the better the prose,” and we couldn’t agree more. Golf offers some fantastic, observant, entertaining and whimsical prose.
We offer some of our favorites below as inspiration for collectors of golf books:
— Bobby Jones from Down the Fairway (1927) describing how he relaxes when playing a tournament.
“I have a good dinner in the evening in my room, prefaced by two good, stiff highballs, the first taken in a tub of hot water; the finest relaxing combination I know; and then a few cigarettes and a bit of conversation, and bed at 9 o’clock”
— E.P. Leigh-Bennett from Some Friendly Fairways (1930).
“Anyone who has experienced the peculiar lure of Cornwall’s remote places: anyone who has stood on a Cornish shore and sniffed the air and listened to the wild dirge of its great sea : lived its sequestered, simple life, will be with me appreciatively in the spirit while I dwell for a moment in the abstract on one of the St. Enodoc tees.”
— Dell Leigh from Golf at Its Best on the LMS (1925) describing his journey across the Irish Sea to play golf in Northern Ireland.
“A most comfortable railway boat lying alongside. The nightcap (with soda) before the big open coal fire in the saloon. Bed in a warm and well-appointed cabin. The awakening to early morning tea in Belfast harbour…The soft Irish air.”
— John Updike from Golf Dreams (1996)
“I had spent my youth in a cloistered precinct of the middle class where golf was a rumored something, like champagne breakfasts and divorce, that the rich did.”
“All swing thoughts decay, like radium. What burned up >the course on Wednesday has turned to lead on Sunday. A swing thought is the golfer’s equivalent of the rock climber’s Don’t Look Down.”
— Horace Hutchinson describing the National Golf Links of America in C.B. Macdonald’s Scotland’s Gift (1927)
“My own opinion of the qualities of this course is so high that I am almost afraid of stating it too strongly. I had a fear that Mr. Macdonald might be seeing a swan in what was really not a more glorious bird than a goose when he gave me descriptions of his course in the making. It has no weak point.”
— P.G. Wodehouse
“Golf…is the infallible test. The man who can go into a patch of rough alone, with the knowledge that only God is watching him, and play his ball where it lies, is the man who will serve you faithfully and well.”
– Rex Lardner from Out of the Bunker and Into the Trees (1960)
“Golf is a game. Nothing more. You are convinced. Then a funny thing happens on the way to work during the week. You meet other golfers, your friends and business acquaintances, and the talk gets around to slicing a drive or making a birdie, and the pulse quickens, the face flushes, the raw courage inside you begins to assert itself. Golf lunacy is getting ready to strike again. You think about your game on the way home. This is bad. “
— A.A. Milne from Not That it Matters (1920)
“When he reads of the notable doing of famous golfers, the eighteen handicap man has no envy in his heart…The joy of driving a ball straight after a week of slicing…Every stroke we bad players make we make in hope. It is never so bad but it might have been worse; it is never so bad but we are confident of doing better next time. And if the next stroke is good, what happiness fill our soul. How eagerly we tell ourselves that in a little while all our strokes will be as good. And so, perfectly happy in our present badness and perfectly confident of our future goodness, we long handicap men remain.”
— “The Oldest Member” speaking in P.G. Wodehouse’s The Clicking of Cuthbert (1922)
“Golf is the Great Mystery. Like some capricious goddess, it bestows its favours with what would appear an almost fat-headed lack of method and discrimination. Giants of finance have to accept a stroke per from their junior clerks. Men capable of governing empires fail to control a small, white ball, which presents no difficulties whatever to others with one ounce more brain than a cuckoo-clock. Mysterious, but there it is.”
– Henry Longhurst writing about the Old Course at St. Andrews
“What is the secret? Partly, I think that before playing any shot you have to stop and say to yourself, not, ‘what club is it?’ but ‘what is it exactly that I am trying to do?’ There are no fairways in the accepted sense of the word; just a narrow strip of golfing ground which you use both on the way out and the way in, together with huge double greens, each with two flags. From the tee you can play almost anywhere, but, if you have not thought it out correctly according to the wind and the position of the flag, you may find yourself teed up in the middle just behind a bunker, and downwind. At this point fools say the course is crazy. Others appreciate that the truth lies nearer home. It is more like a jig-saw puzzle than a golf course.”