Golf Is . . .: Defining the Great Game

Golf Is . . .: Defining the Great Game

by Paul Dickson

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The unconquerable frustration of golf brings out a rich vein of unquenchable wit and fatalistic humor. Enhanced by historical and modern photographs, this hole-in-one gift book collects incisive quotations related to the sport. Sources range from duffers to pros, including P. G. Wodehouse, G. K. Chesterton, Winston Churchill, Ben Hogan, and many others.


The unconquerable frustration of golf brings out a rich vein of unquenchable wit and fatalistic humor. Enhanced by historical and modern photographs, this hole-in-one gift book collects incisive quotations related to the sport. Sources range from duffers to pros, including P. G. Wodehouse, G. K. Chesterton, Winston Churchill, Ben Hogan, and many others.

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Golf is ... Defining The Great Game

By Paul Dickson

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2012 Paul Dickson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-32035-9



"Golf is a game. Anything where you can drink and do better is not a sport."

—Professional tennis player.


"Golf is a lot like life. It will test your patience. It will dazzle and baffle you with highs and lows, successes and frustrations. Just when you think you've got it all figured out, the game jumps up and reminds you that nobody ever quite gets it."

—Member of the World Golf and Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Halls of Fame.

"Golf is a spiritual game. It's like Zen. You have to let your mind take over."

The Golfer's Book of Wisdom, ed. by Criswell Freeman, 1996.


"Golf is a game of such monumental stupidity that anyone with a brain more active than a cantaloupe has difficulty getting down to its demands."

—Writer and contributor to Golf Digest.

"Golf is a mistake. You must understand this elemental fact if you are ever going to come to terms with it. By rights golf should have remained a solitary Scottish occupation like tossing the caber, which is something a Scot would only be foolish enough to do. Golf is really not a game at all, but a perverse obsession designed to inflict pain on its practitioners that has somehow slipped past the borders of its national origin, and is now played by people who do not realize the true essence of the endeavor."

—Golf Digest, 1983.


"A golf match is a test of your skill against your opponents' luck."

"Golf is a game in which the slowest people in the world are those in front of you, and the fastest are those behind."

"Golf is a game invented by the same people who think music comes out of a bagpipe."

"Golf is a game of opposites: the harder you try the worse you do."

"Golf 's a hard game to figure. One day you'll go out and slice it and shank it, hit into all the traps and miss every green. The next day you go out and for no reason at all you really stink."

"Golf is like catching lightning in a bottle."

"Golf is not so much a sport as an insult to lawns."

"Golf is a noun, not a verb. You play golf, you don't golf."

"Golf is a sport in which the ball usually lies poorly, but the player well."

"Golf is F-L-O-G spelled backward."

"Golf is life. If you can't take golf, you can't take life."

"Golf is like any other aspect of life, only more so."

—Editorial, The Augusta Chronicle, July 17, 2005.

"Golf is like marriage: If you take yourself too seriously it won't work ... and both are expensive."

"Golf is a lot of walking, broken up by disappointment and bad arithmetic."

"Golf is not rocket science."

"Golf is a series of tragedies and the occasional miracle, followed by a cold bottle of beer."

"Golf is the only sport where the lower your score, the better you did."

"Golf is the only sport where the most feared opponent is you."

"Golf is the perfect thing to do on Sunday because you always end up having to pray a lot."

"Golf is the roughest distance between two points."

"Golf is the only thing that depreciates above par."

"Golf is the game that turned the cows out of the pasture and let the bull in."

"Golf is the only sport in which the participants routinely talk to the ball."

—The Boston Globe reported President Bill Clinton's immortal words to his ball after teeing off on a Martha's Vineyard golf course in August, 1993: "Whoa! Momma, stay up."

"If golf is a rich man's sport, why are there so many poor players?"

"Life is a game ... golf is serious."


"One thing about golf is you don't know why you play bad and why you play good."

—Professional golfer who, after winning the 1969 Masters, said "No tournament is harder to win than any other. It isn't any harder to win the Masters than the Hartford Open. You have to get the breaks to win any tournament."


"Golf is an awkward set of bodily contortions designed to produce a graceful result."

—Professional golfer who was a wounded and decorated veteran of World War I. His 25 PGA victories—including three Majors—have earned him a place in the World Golf Hall of Fame.


"I think golf is good for boxing, but the reverse is far from being the case."

—The former heavyweight boxing champion, 1939.


"Golf is the only sport where you can be on the field, so to speak, while they're playing. You can't do it in football, you can't do it in baseball. This is just one of those unique experiences that you can't duplicate in any other professional sport."

—Quoted in The Boston Globe, September 1, 2010.


"Golf is unique and unpredictable and sometimes one shot can put you on top. Other times it can knock you right down."

—Quoted on July 19, 1994, the eve of the British Open at Turnberry.


"Good thing about golf is that you can make up for what you didn't get in baseball. Don Drysdale gave me trouble with the Dodgers, but I beat him in golf. Sandy Koufax, best pitcher I ever faced, I want to beat him next. The Dodgers were always tough on us, but I'm not finished with them. Go Cubbies."

—Hall of Fame Chicago Cub quoted in the Chicago Tribune January 10, 1985. He also said, "Baseball reveals character; golf exposes it."


"Golf is the equivalent of crack for middle-aged white men."

—From his Boston Globe column, July 15, 1990.


"In golf as in life it is the follow through that makes the difference."

—The Irish novelist, playwright, theatre director, poet, and avid golfer.


"Golf is the only major sport that is controlled by the people who play the game."

—As PGA Commissioner, the AP, December 31, 1973.


"Golf is great exercise, particularly climbing in and out of the carts."

—Golf writer for The Detroit News, 1991.


"Golf is played by twenty million mature American men whose wives think they are out having fun."

—From his syndicated column of April 10, 1977 in which he also said that it was "... a game, a sport, in which grown men flog, flail, flush, fracture and foul a green landscape on which 18 holes are hidden."

"Golf is sex in the afternoon. It is an old man's Marilyn Monroe who, in the transition of 18 holes becomes Golda Meir. It is the only game in which the player seduces himself."

—In his column, December 15, 1975.


"Golf isn't like other sports where you can take a player out if he's having a bad day. You have to play the whole game."

—American professional golfer.


"One reason why golf is so popular with women is that it is one of the few sports in which you can compete and socialize at the same time."

—American professional golfer who won 27 LPGA Tour events during her career.


"Golf is a game where guts, stick-to-itiveness and blind devotion will always net you absolutely nothing but an ulcer."

—Professional golfer. Another variation also attributed to Bolt: "Golf is a game where guts and blind devotion will always net you absolutely nothing but an ulcer."


"Golf is 'Cow-pasture pool.'"

St. Louis Post-Dispatch writer and editor.


"Golf is the only sport where you have a lot of time to think about your shot. You stare at your ball, walking around and lining up and you start thinking, 'I've got water on the right, out of bounds on the left, high grass here.' You start thinking about all these problems, so you have to be very strong mentally. That's why I can really appreciate the mental toughness of these guys."

—NFL quarterback on playing a tournament at Pebble Beach, quoted in The San Francisco Chronicle, June 10, 2010.


"Golf is a game you can never get too good at. You can improve, but you can never get to where you master the game."

—American professional golfer who played on the PGA Tour and won the 1967 Masters Tournament.


"Golf is not, on the whole, a game for realists. By its exactitudes of measurement it invites the attention of perfectionists."

—From Tumultuous Merriment, 1979.


"Golf is one of many great things Scotland has given the world. In fact, golf is the only instance of a country exporting its landscape, because golf courses the world over generally resemble a bit of Scotland. Kentucky has done something similar, but less healthy, with fried chicken."

—From his golfing column in The Guardian, July 22, 2006.


"Golf is an acquired taste, like poison gas."

—From his column in The Washington Post, April 22, 1993.


"The fascinating thing about golf, is that in a four-hour round, a player will only come into contact with the ball for five minutes. The rest of the time will be spent thinking about his shots. It is a game played almost entirely in the mind."

—The author of The Mental Game Plan: Getting Psyched For Sport, 1996.


"Golf is a natural fit for us. It satisfies the spirit. You're out in the grass and the trees. You're out there with nature. You're not really competing with each other, you're competing against the golf course. I think it fits well with Native American society. Not all Native Americans get a chance to play, but I'm hoping that will change."

—Four-time winner of the Oglala Nation Open.


"The problem with golf is I have to deal with a humiliation factor."

—The 41st President to Dan Jenkins, then writing for Golf Digest, 1990.


"Golf is the only game in which a precise knowledge of the rules can earn one a reputation for bad sportsmanship."

—Irish humorist. From his book, How To Become A Scratch Golfer, 1963.


"Golf puts a man's character on the anvil and his richest qualities—patience, poise, restraint—to the flame."

—Professional golfer who won 27 tournaments on the PGA Tour between 1964 and 1970.

"Think ahead. Golf is a next shot game."


"Let's leave this clear. Golf is a bourgeois sport. The fact that golfers ride around on little carts just shows what a lazy sport it is. I respect all sports, but there are sports and there are sports. Do you mean to tell me this is a people's sport? It is not."

—The President of Venezuela, who has moved to shut down the nation's golf courses as symbols of capitalist decadence, quoted in Newsweek International, August 31, 2009. P. J. Crowley, the Obama administration's assistant secretary of State for public affairs, came out swinging in response, and was quoted in The Hill: "I wish to protest the unwarranted attack by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez on the game of golf," Crowley said, "Considering that the hemisphere celebrated the victory of former caddy and son of Argentina in the Masters over a good-old-boy who built a public course in his hometown in Kentucky, and we cheered as a relative unknown from South Carolina won the People's Open on the country's finest public course at Bethpage Black, we were in awe as a 59-year-old man held off the greatest golfers of the world for 71 holes on Linksland in Scotland where the game of golf was created, and now we are on the eve of the season's final major, where the favorite to win is arguably the greatest golfer of all time and whose heritage literally spans continents—so the suggestion by Mr. Chávez that golf, a truly global sport, is bourgeois is a mulligan."


"Golf is an expensive way of playing marbles."

—English essayist and author.


"Golf is played in a manmade Eden, a garden. The setting is made beautiful to refresh the senses, and when you step onto the course you have a second chance at paradise."

—From Golf for Enlightenment: The Seven Lessons for the Game of Life, 2003.

"Golf is the most brilliant game ever invented! What other game could turn seemingly intelligent and sane people into complete lunatics in a matter of seconds."



"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"

—On BBC Radio by Alastair Cooke on December 27, 1974. Though attributed to Churchill, this is based on a traditional quote which can be found as early as the August 6, 1898 Journal of the American Medical Association in an article by Irving C. Rosse entitled "Golf from a Neurological View-Point," which opens with this line: "Long before the Columbian rediscovery of America our hardy Caledonian ancestry amused themselves by playing the royal and ancient game which has been defined as 'the putting of little balls into little holes with instruments very ill adapted to the purpose.'" The quote has also been attributed to Woodrow Wilson, who actually made a similar remark in 1916. [Q.V.]


"Golf is an open exhibition of overweening ambition, courage, deflated by stupidity, skill soured by a whiff of arrogance. These humiliations are the essence of the game."

—British journalist, television personality, and BBC broadcaster.


"Oh, I'm too young for golf; that's an old man's game."

—Said to Gene Sarazen while President; Sarazen reported this in The Rotarian, August, 1935.


Excerpted from Golf is ... Defining The Great Game by Paul Dickson. Copyright © 2012 Paul Dickson. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Paul Dickson has written eight bat and ball books (one on softball, seven on baseball) and is working on the third edition of his Dickson Baseball Dictionary, as well as a new work, The Unwritten Rules of Baseball. He also writes narrative 20th century American history and compiles word books. He lives in Garrett Park, Maryland, with his wife, Nancy.

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