Golf: An Unofficial and Unauthorized History of the World's Most Preposterous Sport

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As a serious player, a high handicapper, or simply a baffled onlooker to the awesome nonsense that is golf, have you ever wondered why, say, the golf balls have dimples, and the tee is both the thing you stick in the ground and the place you hit from, and the hole is so small, and the courses have all these big pits full of sand where any sane person would put grass?

Well, so did noted humor writer and avid hacker Henry Beard, who brought twenty-first-century computer ...

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Golf: An Unofficial and Unauthorized History of the World's Most Preposterous Sport

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Overview

As a serious player, a high handicapper, or simply a baffled onlooker to the awesome nonsense that is golf, have you ever wondered why, say, the golf balls have dimples, and the tee is both the thing you stick in the ground and the place you hit from, and the hole is so small, and the courses have all these big pits full of sand where any sane person would put grass?

Well, so did noted humor writer and avid hacker Henry Beard, who brought twenty-first-century computer search-engine technology to bear on this thousand-year-old game, tapping the internet's inherent capacity to confer a thin veneer of authenticity to far-fetched accounts of great moments in the history of golf, warped portraits of its legendary players, and fanciful conjectures about its origins and evolution.

Employing an easy-to-read and simple-to-fudge timeline format, he chronicles the amazing process through which this screwy pastime with wacky equipment and loony rules played for penny wagers by a bunch of bored-silly shepherds was gradually transformed into a screwy sport with wacky equipment and loony rules played for million-dollar purses by superstar athletes.

As he peers through the mists of time to the birthplace of the game, Beard resolves once and for all its many mysteries, like where those weird-looking pants came from, when the fi rst telling of the "Hit, drag Harry" joke was, what a Stimpmeter is, and who dreamed up the idea of those stupid blimps.

Here, then, in one convenient golf-bag-side-pocket-sized volume is a rich, wildly embroidered, ludicrously embellished tapestry of colorful fabrications and highly entertaining but thoroughly dubious speculations that tell the tall tale of golf— the game that deranged the world.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439169933
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 12/8/2009
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.60 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Henry Beard attended Harvard University and was a member of the Harvard Lampoon. He went on to found the National Lampoon with Douglas Kenney and served as its editor during the magazine’s heyday in the 1970s.

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Read an Excerpt

INTRODUCTION

When I first set out to write a book tracing the origins and charting the evolution of this strange sport in which a number of special clubs are used to hit a small, stationary ball into a series of widely spaced holes in the ground, I encountered pretty much universal reactions of befuddlement and disbelief from my fellow players that could probably best be summarized as, “Who gives a rat’s patootie about the history of golf? Just tell me how in hell to play the stupid game.”

I was tempted to respond by quoting the famous admonition made by the great philosopher George Santayana (16-handicap, played a big fade, a demon with the flat stick)—namely, that those who do not study history are condemned to study much more difficult subjects like trigonometry, Latin, or Russian literature—but I realized they had a point.

After all, this frustrating, infuriating, but ultimately captivating pastime has plenty of far more pressing mysteries to unravel than the question of where it came from—truly knotty problems like taming a snaphook, or battling the yips, or curing a case of the shanks.

And, honestly, who cares whether the head case who dreamed the whole thing up was a Scottish whackjob, a Dutch whackjob, or even a Chinese whackjob? We still have to figure out how to slash a ball out of hip-high rough, or blast a sand shot from an unraked footprint in a bunker, or hit a duffed drive off the ladies’ tee with dignity.

Well, the fact is that the numerous and often quite detailed accounts of the genesis and growth of golf really do have much of practical value to offer even casual students of the game, who can derive immediate and tangible benefits from little more than a passing familiarity with a few key items in the sport’s rich chronology.

For instance, if your tee shot on a water hole lands in the drink, you might want to remind your fellow players of the royal decree promulgated by King James in 1606 guaranteeing “safe, free, and fair passage over all ye waters and washes of ye realm, be they firths, lochs, tarns, burns, runnels, sloughs, fens, or bogs, for all and sundry, and for their goods and chattels, without hindrance, fee, or penalty, from now and for all time.”

Similarly, a golfer who finds his or her ball in an obstructed lie behind a large tree would do well to recall Admiralty Order 27 issued by the Sea Lords of the Cinque Ports in 1557 reserving prime stands of timber for future use as spars in ships of the Royal Navy and requiring all persons to take such steps as are reasonably necessary to preserve particularly fine woodland specimens from harm, including, of course, preventing the damage that could be caused by a blocked shot that chipped the bark of an obvious candidate for conversion into the mast of a frigate.

And a competitor facing a hopeless downhill double-breaking twenty-five-foot money putt on the 18th hole of a Sunday skins match might choose to cite the Edinburgh Council’s prohibition of 1592 against “playing golf in time of sermons” and insist on a draw, perhaps accompanying his opportune recollection of the ban on Sabbath play with a sharp slap to his forehead to display remorse at his prior forgetfulness of the obligation to engage in more appropriately pious pursuits on the day of rest.

Now surely, out of a sense of respect for the time-honored customs and centuries-old traditions of golf, and in recognition of the memorable exploits on the links of so many legendary players celebrated in its chronicles, you owe it to yourself and, yes, to the very spirit of this great game, to take a do-over on that tee shot that got wet, throw that stymied ball out into the fairway, and pick up that putt.

And in any event, always bear in mind that, as was so aptly remarked by the noted essayist and critic Ralph “Wild-o” Emerson (a scratch player but inclined to spray his drives, hence his nickname), the only reason it’s called “golf” is that all the other four-letter words were already taken.

© 2009 Henry Beard

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2014

    I was very disappointed with this book and would not recommend i

    I was very disappointed with this book and would not recommend it to anyone. There is almost no factual information about the history of golf. It is simply a time line of made up bits that attempt to be funny but aren't. Don't buy this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2010

    She also loved this Book

    Makes a great gift too.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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