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Al Capone was a Golfer
Hundreds of Fascinating Facts from the World of Golf
By ERIN BARRETT, JACK MINGO
Conari PressCopyright © 2002 Erin Barrett and Jack Mingo
All rights reserved.
Golf Is ...
"Golf is a puzzle without an answer."
"Golf is an expensive way of playing marbles."
—G. K. Chesterton, author
"Golf is the Lord's punishment for man's sins."
—James Reston, journalist
"Golf is a game with the soul of a 1956 Rotarian."
—Bill Mandel, Berkeley radio legend
"Golf is a game of expletives not deleted."
—Dr. Irving J. Gladstone, golfer
"Golf is an ideal diversion, but a ruinous disease."
—Bertie Charles Forbes
"Golf is the hardest game in the world to play, and the easiest to cheat at."
—Dave Hill, pro golfer
"Golf is so popular simply because it is the best game in the world at which to be bad."
—A. A. Milne
"Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an even smaller hole, with weapons singularly ill-designed for the purpose."
"Golf is like faith: It is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
—Arnold Haultain, Canadian author (1857–1941)
"Golf is the most fun you can have without taking your clothes off."
—Chi Chi Rodriguez
"Golf is a wonderful exercise. You can stand on your feet for hours, watching somebody else putt."
"Golf is essentially an exercise in masochism conducted out of doors."
"Golf is war. And like all wars, if you're not looking to win, you probably shouldn't show up."
—Capt. Bruce Waren Ollstein, author and golf strategist
"Golf is a game where the ball always lies poorly and the player always lies well."
"Golf is not just exercise: It is an adventure, a romance ... a Shakespeare play in which disaster and comedy are intertwined and you have to live with the consequences."
—Harold Segall, golfer
"Golf is a game that creates emotions that sometimes cannot be sustained with the club still in one hand."
"Golf is 20 percent mechanics and technique. The other 80 percent is philosophy, humor, tragedy, romance, melodrama, companionship, camaraderie, cussedness, and conversation."
—Grantland Rice, American sportswriter
"Golf is the hardest game in the world. There is no way you can ever get it. Just when you think you do, the game jumps up and puts you in your place."
"Golf is an awkward set of bodily contortions designed to produce a graceful result."
—Thomas Armour, golfer
"Golf is good for the soul. You get so mad at yourself you forget to hate your enemies."
"Golf is like a cat chasing its tail. You're never going to catch it. The day you think you've got your game down pat, something goes awry and you're back to square one. That's one reason why I love the game so much: the soul-searching, and the never-ending search for the perfect swing."
"Golf is an exercise which is much used by the Gentlemen in Scotland. A large common, in which there are several little holes, is chosen for the purpose. It is played with little leather balls stuffed with feathers, and sticks tipped with horn.... A man would live ten years the longer for using this exercise once or twice a week."
—Dr. Benjamin Rush (1770)
"Golf is not a game of great shots. It's a game of the most accurate misses."
"Golf is like a horse—If you take your eye off it, it'll jump back and kick your shins for you."
"Golf is a game of endless predicaments."
—Chi Chi Rodriguez
"Golf is not a fair game. It's a rude game."
"Golf is 20 percent talent and 80 percent management."
"Golf is not so much a game as it is a creed and a religion."
"Golf is meant to be fun."
"Golf is just a game, and an idiotic one at that."
—Mark Calcavecchia (after failing to make the cut at the British Open)
"Golf is a game where guts, stick-to-it-ness, and blind devotion will get you nothing but an ulcer."
Driving and Putting Through History
Who invented golf? We could go with the Scots, but it's not that easy. The simple fact is that hitting a rock into a hole in the ground is such a no-brainer concept for a game that dozens of nationalities can lay claim to having invented it. Evidence shows exactly that—that the basic game was invented over and over again all over the world.
The Visigoths—known for their plundering and overall pillaging—may have played golf before they overthrew ancient Rome on August 4, 410. But whether they knew of the game before the sack of Rome, this very unrefined lot, many historians believe, certainly played the golf-like game of paganica afterward.
According to historian Ling Hong-ling, the Chinese played a game very much like modern golf five centuries before the Scots. Chuiwan ("hitting ball") was depicted in tenth-century pottery designs and paintings and mentioned in a document that dates back to A.D. 943. Hong-ling believes that early travelers brought the game back to Europe. The game's popularity died out in the 1500s, a few decades after the game was "invented" in Scotland.
French people swear that golf came from their ancient game called Jeu de Mail.
Golf also might've come from an early British game called knur and spell.
Belgium's game called chole goes back to the 1300s. Although similar to golf, both sides played the same ball, and at certain intervals, the opposing team had the opportunity to hit the ball into any available hazard.
The Dutch game of kolven, which was played on any surface including ice, may have been golf's predecessor. The supporters of this theory insist that the word tee came from the old Dutch tuitje (pronounced "toytee"), meaning "mound;" golf came from kolfe ("club"); and putt came from put ("hole").
Kolven at least has the distinction of being the first golf-like game played by colonists in the New World: Historians have found a warrant from 1657 for the arrest of three Dutch immigrants in Fort Orange (now Albany, New York), charged with skipping church and playing kolven on Sunday.
Two years later, Fort Orange issued an ordinance to "forbid all persons from playing 'het kolven' in the streets."
Whatever its earlier roots, linguists say that the word golf comes from an ancient Scottish word gowf that meant "to strike."
What the L!: Goiff and goff were the preferred spelling and pronunciation of "golf" during the 1500s and the 1600s.
Regardless, golf eventually emerged in Scotland. Whether it was indigenous or—like kilts and the bagpipe—imported from somewhere else, the game became so popular that King James II feared that his army was spending too much time playing it instead of practicing their archery. On March 6, 1457, he decreed that "Fute-ball and Golfe be utterly cryed down" (banned) as a threat to his army's readiness to do battle against England.
King James IV reaffirmed the embargo in 1491. However, it was a "Do as I say, not as I do" situation—he is the first player of golf for whom we have documentation. A notation in the Lord High Treasurer's accounts shows payment of 14 shillings to a bow-maker for making "the King's golf clubbis and ballis." From that point on, the treasurer's records showed numerous golf-related expenses for replacement balls and even a gambling debt to the Earl of Both-well for 14 shillings lost on the links.
After a peace treaty with England, Scotland's ban against golf was finally rescinded by King James IV in 1503, except "in tyme of sermonis" on Sunday.
Perhaps King James should've kept the ban. Scots became very good at golf ... but their archery abilities got rusty. When the 1503 peace treaty fell apart ten years later, the Scots suffered bloody defeat by English archers at the Battle of Flodden in 1513. Scotland lost not only many men and a number of their royals but a king as well: King James IV was killed in battle.
Church records from Scotland in the sixteenth century show that parishioners were severely fined the first two times they were caught playing golf on the Sabbath. The third time, they were excommunicated.
King James IV's notorious granddaughter, Mary, Queen of Scots, was the first known female golfer. Before she lost her head for other reasons, she gave her life to golf. History tells it that when Mary Queen of Scots heard the news of the murder of her husband (who also happened to be her cousin), she was in the middle of a game of golf. By all accounts, she scandalized her subjects and the clergy by continuing to play her round, and then playing again just a few days later. (The fact that she hated her husband, likely arranged his murder, and then married his murderer just three months later didn't help, either.)
Mary's son, James VI, was also an avid golfer. He spread the habit to England when he became its king. As England's James I, he helped heal the church/golf split, in that he was the King James who authorized the first English translation of the Bible.
James I made two golf-related proclamations. One appointed William Moyer, an expert crafter of bows, as Royal Golf Club Maker. The other forbid the purchase of golf balls from Holland, upon which golfers were spending "no small quantitie of golde and silver," and assigned a twenty-one-year monopoly of ball making to one James Melvil. (This latter proclamation some historians point to as evidence of golf's Dutch origins.)
Despite golf's popularity in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, it took some 150 years before the game became institutionalized and formalized. In 1744, the Company of Gentlemen Golfers of Leith (Scotland) became the first golf organization, and their thirteen rules were the earliest known written golf code.
The original thirteen written rules of golf had a few variations from the ones we play now. For one, the green of the previous hole was the tee of the next hole—players were to start within a club's length from the last hole. Once a ball was played on a hole, no substitute ball could be introduced. And if a player lifted his ball out of water or "watery filth," his opponent got to play an extra stroke.
What is now known as the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews wasn't formed until ten years later. In 1754, its twenty-two founding members adopted golf rules that were almost identical to the Leith Club's. St. Andrews' many holes proved more popular than Leith's five, which eventually led to the standardization of the golf game to conform to St. Andrews'.
Still, golfing organizations didn't exactly go "Fore!" and multiply. In 1864, more than a century later, there were only thirty-three known golfing clubs—thirty in Scotland and three in England.
The first permanent golfing club in the Western Hemisphere was the Royal Montreal Golf Club, which was established in 1873.
The first golf club in the United States? It's in dispute. The Oakhurst (West Virginia) Golf Club is said, without documentation, to have had a founding date of 1884. The Dorset (Vermont) Field Club has equally undocumented claims that it was organized in 1886. Our call on the whole mess? The Foxburg (Pennsylvania) Golf Course, which has documentation to show that its golf course was built in 1885 and its charter became formalized in 1887.
It wasn't until the end of the nineteenth century that golf took off like a straight shot to the green. By 1900 there were golfing organizations all over the world and more than 2,000 in England alone.
The first professional golf tournament was sponsored by the Prestwick (Scotland) Golf Course in 1860. Called the Open Championship, it attracted eight professional golfers and a considerable degree of skepticism: after all, could somebody playing for money be trusted to abide by the rules of the game, since a true gentleman played only for the honor of winning?
The Prestwick competition eventually became known as the British Open, the name it bears today.
Early golfing clubs were as dedicated to drinking as they were to driving ... which helps explain why the British Open trophy is a claret jug.
The early days of the British Open consisted of playing the same nine holes four times in a single day. Ending before dark was always a challenge, so it became a tradition for frontrunners to bribe poorly scoring competitors to quit early and speed up the game.
The very first golf manual was published in England. Written by H. B. Farnie in 1857, it was called—sensibly enough— The Golfer's Manual.
The first American book on golf, Golf in America: A Practical Manual, was published in 1895. Up until that point, most Americans were terribly confused by the game, as inadvertently revealed by an explanatory article in the Philadelphia Times:
It is sometimes agreed that the game shall be won by him who makes the largest number of holes within a given number of minutes, say twenty or thirty. ... Each player places his ball at the edge of a hole designated as a starting point. He then bats it ... toward the next hole. As soon as it has started he runs forward ... and his servant, who is called "caddy," runs after him....
As far as anyone knows, the first photo of someone playing golf in the United States was taken in 1888.
Horace L. Hotchkiss was in his sixties when he organized the first seniors' golf tournament at the Apawamis Club in Rye, New York, in 1905, attempting to prove that golf wasn't just a young person's game. It was a huge success, and the United States Seniors Golf Association was formed twelve years later.
The Ryder Cup was started in 1926 by Samuel Ryder, a wealthy English businessman who made his fortune from selling penny packets of flower seeds.
Samuel Ryder's idea of good prize money? "I'll give $5 to each of the winning players," he offered. "And I'll give a party afterwards, with champagne and chicken sandwiches." Eventually he was convinced to put up $250 for a solid gold trophy instead.
Golf by the Numbers
"Golf is a game in which you shout 'Fore,' shoot six and write down five."
1 in 8,606: One often-repeated estimate as to the odds of making a hole-in-one—that averages out to one in every 478 rounds.
1 in 13,000: The estimate of companies that sell hole-in-one prize insurance to golf tournament organizers, or about one in every 722 rounds.
According to the Professional Golfers Association (PGA), a male professional's or a top amateur player's chances are 3,708 to 1 (an average of one hole-in-one every 206 rounds); a female pro's odds are 4,648 to 1 (one every 258 rounds). However, the average player's odds are only 42,952 to 1 (one every 2,386 rounds).
49: Holes-in-one made by golf pro Mancil Davis, who had more in his career than any other pro.
$85.70: The average cost of a weekend's green fees in Hawaii, the most expensive state in which to play golf.
$23.80: The average cost of a weekend's green fees in South Dakota, the cheapest state in which to play golf.
6: Tiger Woods' age when he got his first hole-in-one. However, at the time he failed to beat the record for youngest hole-in-one, which had been set by a five-year-old.
3: The age, in 2001, of Jake Paine of Lake Forest, California, who smashed Tiger Woods' record. He teed off with his Snoopy driver and hit the ball a soaring and rolling 48 yards, directly into the cup.
$180,000: The initiation fee of the most expensive golf and country club in the United States, not including monthly dues. The club in question is the Vintage Club of Indian Wells, California.
$900,000: The amount awarded to Retief Goosen for winning the U.S. Open in 2001.
$500: The amount awarded to Gene Sarazen for winning the U.S. Open in 1922.
$28,000: The price of a four-passenger, fully loaded deluxe Deusenberg Estate Golf Car, including CD players and rack-and-pinion steering.
101 mph: The speed that a driver travels when swung by a typical "accomplished" golfer.
7: The world record for the number of golf balls balanced on top of each other.
10 percent: The percentage of all professional golfers who are single and unattached.
35: The mean age of those players who tour with the PGA.
Excerpted from Al Capone was a Golfer by ERIN BARRETT, JACK MINGO. Copyright © 2002 Erin Barrett and Jack Mingo. Excerpted by permission of Conari Press.
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