GOOD READ:The Art of Golf

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Sean Dudley
By Sean Dudley

British niche publisher Oleander Press has reprinted this wonderful nineteenth century volume by the Scottish barrister and golf obsessive Sir Walter Simpson. Oleander boss Jon Gifford says he found the volume while digging through the archives of the Cambridge University Library, and I would commend it to any golf enthusiast. It might not contain much about course architecture, but Simpson obviously knew a decent course when he saw one – he was twice captain of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers.

Simpson's discussion of the merits of golf as a recreation as against other popular options of the day – notably cricket – is worth the price of admission alone. But the single best passage – and one of the funniest pieces of golf writing I have ever read – is, paradoxically, his explanation of why golf has not (or had not, at that time) developed a literature of its own. He describes a golf romance which he has read, though only in manuscript, as it had failed to find a publisher: a young woman from St Andrews was pursued by two suitors, and vowed to marry the one who scored lower on Medal day. One of her gallants was so keen to win her as a bride that he went to all kinds of lengths to put his opponent off, and succeeded posting the better number. But alas! "The lady would not give her hand to a score of 130!" This is genius.

Oleander Press, £14.95

This article first appeared in issue 15 of Golf Course Architecture, published in January 2009.

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