Bernard Darwin on Golf

Overview

Bernard Darwin could easily have settled into a privileged life as a respected lawyer, one who just happened to be the grandson of Charles Darwin.

But his conventional upbringing didn't prevent him from choosing a different path, abandoning the relative security of the legal profession to follow his first and only passion-the game of golf. While Darwin was no slouch on the links-he was captain of his golf team at Cambridge and twice reached the semifinals of the British Amateur ...

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Overview

Bernard Darwin could easily have settled into a privileged life as a respected lawyer, one who just happened to be the grandson of Charles Darwin.

But his conventional upbringing didn't prevent him from choosing a different path, abandoning the relative security of the legal profession to follow his first and only passion-the game of golf. While Darwin was no slouch on the links-he was captain of his golf team at Cambridge and twice reached the semifinals of the British Amateur Championships-he achieved far greater notoriety with his pen than with his club.
Starting as a weekly columnist, and then a regular contributor, for The Times of London, he was soon acknowledged as one of the finest essayists in Britain (always signing his columns "Our Golf Correspondent"). He also contributed to Country Life for almost fifty years. Bernard was the first writer ever to elevate the discussion of golf beyond a simple reportage of events.
This collection gathers the finest of Darwin's writing, and is a celebration of a life devoted to a love for the game of golf.

Bernard Darwin was the golf game's most revered writer. He was a prominent authority on Charles Dickens and was the editor of The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The best golf book ever."—Travel & Leisure Golf magazine

"One can open a book of Bernard Darwin's to any page, find any line, and be entertained by it."—Ben Crenshaw

"Nobody ever knew more about golf than Darwin or wrote about it so intuitively."—Herbert Warren Wind

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781592286287
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/1/2004
  • Series: On Series
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 6.62 (w) x 8.92 (h) x 1.12 (d)

Meet the Author

Bernard Darwin was the golf game’s most revered writer. He was a prominent authority
on Charles Dickens and was the editor of The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.

Jeff Silverman, a former columnist for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, has
written for The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and several national magazines.
He is also editor of The Greatest Baseball Stories Ever Told, Classic Baseball
Stories, Lardner on Baseball, The Greatest Golf Stories Ever Told, Classic Golf Stories,
and The Greatest Boxing Stories Ever Told.

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Read an Excerpt

"The People in Front"
from Playing the Like
1934

Hazlitt thought it one of the best things in life to be known only as "the gentleman in the parlor," and certainly it is a pleasant title. There is something so respectable about its anonymity, and yet it suggests all the romance of wayfaring. Other titles formed on somewhat similar lines suggest nothing but feelings of hatred and contempt. Such is that of the large class of golfers whom we call simply "the people in front." When the clocks have been put back and darkness falls prematurely on the links, they are more than ever detestable.

It is true that they are not, as a rule, in the least to blame for the delay; so much we grudgingly admit, but it does not make their little ways the less irritating. They waggle for hours; they stroll rather than walk; they dive into their monstrous bags in search of the right club and then it is the wrong number, but they are not sorry that we have been troubled; their putting is a kind of funereal ping-pong. We could forgive them all these tricks, from which we ourselves are conspicuously free, if it were not for the absurd punctilio with which they observe the rules. They will insist on waiting for the people in front of them when it must be palpable even to their intellects that the best shot they ever hit in their lives would be fifty yards short.

The one thing to be said for them is that when they are in front of somebody else they can give us a little malicious gaiety. Some while ago I was playing on the same course as was an eminent person. My partner and I started in front of him, but others of our party were less fortunate. For some time we could not quite understand why there were several empty fairways behind us. Then we noticed that on the tees couples were rapidly silting up. It was as if a river had flowed placidly on until there was thrown a mighty dam right across it. As in our old friend, "Horatius,"

The furious river struggled hard
And tossed his tawny mane,

but the dam held; in front, steadily, methodically on went the eminent person, studying both ends of his putts with all that intense power of forgetting for the moment the affairs of State which is the hallmark of his class. And I am bound to confess that we laughed, like Mr. Manzalini, "demnably."

Generally, as was said before, the people in front are not the real culprits. "I know it's not their fault," we say in the tone of the man who, as he broke his putter across his knee, exclaimed, "I know it's only a d—d game." That being so, it ought to make no difference to us who are the people for whom we have to wait. We should go no faster and no slower if Bobby Jones and Harry Vardon were playing in front of us instead of that old lady who scoops the ball along with a club that goes up so obviously faster than it can ever come down. I suppose we must be golfing snobs, because it does make a great difference. To be kept waiting by the eminent (I mean the eminent in golf) is to be reconciled to the inevitability of things, whereas we always believe that the scooping lady could get along faster if she tried. Moreover, there is the disquieting hope that she may lose her ball. It would be of no real help to us if she did, but instinct is too strong for us. Every time her ball is seen heading for a gorse bush our heartfelt prayers go with it, and though attainment will swiftly prove disenchanting, it is a great moment when at last she waves us on and we stampede courteously past.

It is at that precise moment that we are most likely to hit our own ball into a gorse bush, for it is a law of nature that everybody plays a hole badly when going through. To be there and then repassed is one of the bitterest humiliations that golf can bring; it must be akin to that of being rebumped by the boat so gloriously bumped the night before. But, of course, no rational being will endure it; far rather would we surrender the hole and make a rapid though undignified rush towards the next teeing ground. By this time, it is true, we are hot, flustered, and angry, and wish that the woman had kept her ball on the course. Nevertheless, we shall soon be wishing that the new people in front will lose theirs. What fools we are! and in nothing more foolish than in this matter of passing.

My original list by no means exhausted the crimes that can be committed by the people in front. They can call us on and then, finding their ball in the nick of time, go on themselves, but that is an offense so black and repulsive that I cannot write about it. They can try over again the putt they have just missed, and this crime has become more fashionable since we have been taught to admire American assiduity in the practicing of putts. They can take out a horrid little card and pencil, and, immobile in the middle of the green, write down their horrid little score. In that case, however, there is compensation, for there is no law of God or man that can prevent us from letting out a blaring yell of "Fore!" To see them duck and cower beneath the imaginary assault may not be much, but it is something. They may think us ill-mannered, but what does that matter? The worst they can do is write an article about the people behind.

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Table of Contents

Introduction ix
I On Himself
On Being a Darwin 5
My Earliest Golfing Days 15
My First Open 19
A Second Visit to America 23
Confessions of a Practicer 33
A Golf Writer's Revenge 37
II The Spirit of the Game
Golfing Reveries 43
The Sounds of Golf 47
The Humor of It 51
The People in Front 55
On Being Dormy 59
Down Memory Lane 63
Golf as a Soporific 67
Lovelock's Mile 71
Crime or Folly 75
Bad Useful Golf 79
Absit Omen 83
Silence Is Golden 87
The Golfer and the Crossword 91
The Golfer's Cigarette 95
A Fresh Start 99
The Black Flag 103
Mixed Foursomes 107
The Dissembling Golfer 111
The Pampered Golfer 115
Providence and Politeness 119
Card and Pencil Golf 125
III Faults, Fixes, and the Tools of the Trade
"A Little Too Much Massy" 131
Go to the Best Doctor 135
A Musical Cure 139
To Underclub or Overclub 143
The Terrible Choice 147
The Knot in the Handkerchief 151
Cures and Cathedrals 155
Nine Inches 159
The Rebirth of a Golfer 163
Aces of Clubs 167
Black or Silver 171
Alien Clubs 177
The Ball That Cannot Be Sliced 183
The Winds of Heaven 187
The Ladies 191
IV The Players, Ridiculous and Sublime
The Happy Golfer 197
Portrait of a High-Handicap Golfer 201
Francis 207
The Man from Titusville 211
Ghastly, Horrible, but True 217
The Immortal Bobby 223
The Small Colossus: Hogan at Carnoustie 239
Hydes and Jekylls 243
V A Golfer's Almanac
New Year's Eve Cheer 249
Stripping For Action 251
Out-Of-Season Joys 255
The Golfless Holiday 261
The Evening Round 265
Stormy Weather 269
Autumn Comes 273
A Mid-Winter Night's Dream 277
The Frozen Player 281
A Christmas Story 285
Nailed Shoes Over Waterloo Bridge 289
A Christmas Sermon 293
The Last Round 297
VI Fields of Play
Architectooralooral 303
In the Rough 315
The Heart of a Rabbit 319
Aberdovey 323
The Links of Eiderdown 333
St. Andrews in August 337
Muirfield in Winter 341
The Old Course 345
VII Crossing the Pond: The Atlantic Monthly Dispatches
The Golfer's Emotions 353
The Perils of Golf 365
Bad Manners in Golf 375
The Ailing Golfer 387
Golf in a High Wind 397
VIII Valedictory
Giving Up the Game 407
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