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All golfers enjoy a good yarn, and most of us have a few amusing stories about exploits we’ve witnessed on the fairways. Many of the tales that get bandied around clubhouses across the UK have entered into the folklore of the game and, occasionally, they evolve or are repeated so many times that their origin and authenticity become a little vague.
Below we’ve chosen a few of our favourite golfing stories that we’ve collected from various sources over the years. Some may be true, others possibly not, but all made us chuckle when we heard, or read them. The identity and home club of the storytellers has been changed to save any blushes.
I was playing in the Saturday Medal when my playing partner sliced his ball wildly from the second tee, out of bounds, over the wall surrounding the course and into a neighbouring garage forecourt. We both winced as we heard an ear-splitting shattering sound. His Titleist had gone straight through the windscreen of a parked car. As we made our way tentatively down the fairway, a rather square looking fellow vaulted the wall and began walking purposefully in our direction, holding a golf ball up in the air. “Your bleeping ball just smashed my windshield,” he shouted. “My goodness, I’m terribly sorry,” said my playing partner. “I just hit a horrible slice.” “Well, what are you going to do about it?” Raged the man. “I suppose I’ll try strengthening my grip a little,” he replied, without a hint of sarcasm.
Ingemar Hawkins-Bellhop, Biddlesthwaite GC
There’s a chap at our club renowned for his appalling temper on the golf course. He’s a regular club-snapper and has been pulled up in front of the committee a few times for his choice language on the links.
In the club championship one year, he had a three-foot putt to extend his match on the 18th green. With a decent sized crowd watching on from the clubhouse verandah, his ball lipped out so he lost by a hole. He stormed over to his golf bag, picked it up and threw it, impressively, into the middle of the pond protecting the front of the putting surface.
He stamped off towards the car park, only to return minutes later. We watched on from the clubhouse as he waded into the pond and retrieved his bag. He dragged it to the water’s edge, opened a side pocket and pulled out his car-keys and wallet. He then lobbed the bag and remaining contents back into the water. The club pro did well out of that little episode!
Trevor Spoutlock, Martley on the Mould GC
In a club knockout match some years ago, my opponent and I played seemingly good shots to the par-3 4th hole, with both balls flying high and straight towards the pin. But, as it’s a raised green, it wasn’t possible to see how the shots had finished. When we made the climb to the putting surface only one ball was visible, just a couple of feet shy of the pin. My opponent crept up towards the hole and let out a shout of excitement upon seeing the other ball lying in the cup.
It was at this point we realised we were playing exactly the same model of ball, with the same number and with no discernible markings. It was impossible to be absolutely certain which was whose, so we were forced to march back down the hill to play three off the tee.
I now mark my balls up very carefully.
Marvin Berry, Upper Goddleswick GC
The Scottish Quick-step
An American journalist talked to GM about the Scottish obsession with playing quickly. He recounted his visit to one famous club where he’d twice had amusing experiences with regards the pace of play.
On a visit a few years ago, he and an English journalist had been taken out by the secretary who had been quick to point out that three-balls were only very rarely allowed on the course.
“Now this is not normally the done thing,” he said with lilting Scottish brogue, “And I should advise you that a three-ball here will take no longer than 2 hours and 50 minutes.”
They drove off the first and the secretary charged away at a mighty speed. The journalists were jogging to keep up and picking up left, right and centre as they struggled to maintain his pace. Then the English writer’s mobile phone rang (appalling etiquette in itself,) but he was forgiven when it turned out to be his wife who had gone into labour. Hasty goodbyes were said and the Englishman headed back towards the clubhouse. The secretary turned to the American and said, “Right, we’re now a two ball and I should advise you that a two-ball here will take no longer than 2 hours and 35 minutes, so we better step on it.”
Another time at the same club, the American journalist was chatting to the starter as he waited to tee off. Just sharing a bit of trans-Atlantic banter. As he was told to make his way to the tee he jokingly asked the starter, “Say, before I tee off, what’s the course record here?” “I believe it’s 1 hour and 56 minutes,” was the starter’s deadpan reply.
A challenging scenario
Playing on the second day of my annual boys’ trip, at a club I won’t name for fear of reprisals, I must confess to feeling a touch hungover on the first hole. But, after a difficult couple of moments, I dug deep and decided to concentrate fully on the task in hand. I went through my pre-shot routine and stood up to the ball.
Just before I was about to pull the trigger, I heard a shout from the starter’s box, “Would the gentleman on the ladies tee please move back to the boxes.” I was in the zone and, unperturbed, I settled over the ball for a second time.
“Sir, please move off the ladies tee and back to the men’s boxes,” the voice persisted. Now I was a touch more rattled, but I decided to ignore the cries and just get on with the testing shot I was facing.
“For the last time, would the gentleman on the ladies tee please move back to the yellows.”
This time I decided action was required so I stood up from my shot, turned around and retorted, “Would the gentleman in the starter’s box please stop shouting and allow me to play my second shot!”
Robespierre McNaughton, Haverford Springs GC
Two versions of the same story now that give a little glimpse of golf’s battle of the sexes:
It was a quiet day in the shop with only a few players on the course. A chap came in and paid a green fee to go out and play as a singleton. I watched from the pro-shop window as he made a few elegant looking practice swings before launching a beautiful drive, high and straight and 275 yards down the centre.
I continued to watch to see if he would stick his approach on the green. He didn’t, he shank/topped it right into a copse of trees. He pitched out delicately to the fairway then, with only 120 yards or so to the flag, missed the ball completely. He settled over it again and hit a great shot to about six feet above the hole. A tough downhill putt, granted, but I was very surprised when he struck it so hard that it rolled clean off the front of the green. He chipped up tidily to within a foot, then horse-shoed out before nonchalantly tapping in back-handed.
When he came off the 18th green, I went to meet him in the car park for a chat. “What on earth was going on down the first there?” I asked. “Oh, I’m practising for the mixed foursomes.” He replied.
Mick Chamberpot, Head Pro at Tootley Common GC
And the other side of the coin:
I was walking my dog at my home course and stopped to watch a woman teeing off the 13th. She took out her driver and took a wild swing at the ball, hooking it violently way out of bounds and into a river. She put another ball down and made a far more controlled swing, sending it beautifully, straight down the fairway. I walked along beside her and stopped to watch her approach. She took out a wedge – surely not nearly enough club with 175 yards left. She gave it everything but, as expected, the ball came up well short of the green. She pitched on nicely to 10 feet or so then raced her putt six feet by before calmly holing the return.
“Sorry, I must ask,” I said. “You played that hole rather strangely and I was wondering why?” “Just practising for the mixed foursomes.” She replied.
Edna Cumberland, Barton Marshes GC
And finally, one that is true:
Playing in the English Amateur Championship of 1974 at Moortown Golf Club in Leeds, Nigel Denham was a little bold, and a touch left, with his approach shot to the 18th hole. His ball bounced off a path and flew through an open door at the side of the clubhouse.
At that time the clubhouse was not deemed out of bounds so Denham went to look for his ball. He just followed the shouts, as it had ricocheted off a wall and into the bar, where it had come to rest under a table. With numerous drinkers egging him on, Denham looked at the situation and wondered if a shot might be possible. He moved the table and chairs and saw he could make a swing. He opened one of the windows overlooking the 18th green and played a delicate chip off the carpet, his ball snuck through the window and landed on the green. It rolled up to within five feet of the hole and, of course, he holed the putt for a miraculous par four.
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Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly.
Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?
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