Let’s Talk About Golf

It seems to me unfair that golf is often labelled as staid and conservative. Nick Hornby started a revolution that allowed serious men to write seriously about football. Golf is still something that serious men snigger at.

Not only is that unfair but it leaves neglected a wealth of writing on golf that ranks as up there with the best in all sports. Writers like Bernard Darwin and Grantland Rice are among the finest sports journalists – the finest journalists – that we’ve ever had. PG Wodehouse, who I must admit other people are more slavishly devoted to than I am myself, churned out a fair few words on the game that have survived the shifting sands of time.

Nowadays authors like Mark Frost and Lawrence Donegan are using their different styles to give us new insight into the game and its history. Donegan is a bumbling heir to George Plimpton, Frost brings the history of the game alive. John Fenstein remains the only golf related winner of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award (A Good Walk Spoiled in 1996) but Frost’s biography of Bobby Jones is one of the best books I’ve ever read on any subject.

This wealth of literature gives us a wealth of quotes. And so, presented here in no particular order, is my entirely subjective list of the 10 greatest ever golf quotes. The only criteria for inclusion is that I like them.

1. “They call it golf because all the other four letter words were taken.” Ray Floyd

Aha Raymond! Possibly this slipped out after a bad round. But who’s not felt the same. A good quote to lighten the atmosphere when you or a friend is turning the air around the long rough blue with a compelling and imaginative litany of swear words to describe the green keeper, the course, the clubs, the ball and the game itself.

2. “Unlike the other Scotch game of whisky drinking, excess in it is not injurious to health.” Sir Walter Simpson

A fave because it shows, with humour, how golf is right up there as an icon of Scottish life. Two points though Sir Walt: Scotch is a drink not a native of Scotland – and not all of us like whisky!

3. “If God had wanted man to play golf he would have given him an elbow less left arm, short asymmetrical legs with side hinged knees and a trapezoid rib cage from which diagonally jutted a two-foot neck topped by a three-eyed head.” Alan Coren

The late Alan Coren sums up perfectly the frustrations of the game. But that frustration is part of its beauty. Be warned: in some of the artisan clubs in the former industrial heartlands of Scotland there will be players who actually do look like this. And the men are even worse!

4. “You may be a princess but if you hold the club like that you will always be a hooker.” John Jacobs to Princess Lillian of Belgium

Please God let this one be true. In fact this a quote that’s so good it probably doesn’t matter if its true or not. Not one to try on the girlfriend though.

5. “Done, Through, Washed Up” The Atlanta Constitution

The press had spoken. This headline was written about Jack Nicklaus the week before the 1986 Masters. The Golden Bear won the tournament. A quote that reminds us that every truly great athlete has the ability to confound all expectations. And a reminder to hacks like myself that journalism and hubris are often embarrassing bedfellows.

6. “He goes after a golf course like a lion at a zebra….he tries to hold its head under the water until it stops wriggling,” Jim Murray

This is a metaphor mangling of the highest order. But, because the quote was about Seve, it somehow almost makes sense.

7. “I owe a lot to my parents. Especially my mother and father.” Greg Norman

Sorry Greg but a classic sportsman quote here. David Beckham would probably have been proud of this one!

8. “I started drinking four years after I started playing golf. And I started playing golf when I was four.” John Daly

The Wild Thing probably gets a laugh out of this one. For me though it sums up the self destruct tendency that seems to haunt top sportsmen. Quotes like that make it hard not to think of Long John Daly as golf’s George Best.

9. “You can make a lot of money out of golf. Ask any of my ex wives.” Lee Trevino

Trevino, for so long golf’s clown prince, had to be included somewhere.

10. “That was a great game of golf, fellas.” Bing Crosby

Crosby’s last words are the last word on golf quotes. He died after completing his round. There are worse ways to go.

Agree with me? Or I have missed some of your favourites out? Leave your comments and share your all time top golfing quotes.

6 Responses to “Let’s Talk About Golf”

  1. Carroll Bobb says:

    Be Hogan – on Practice tee – Excuse me Mr hogan but how do you back up the ball when you hit into a green – Ben, answers why would want to know I have seen you hit and you are never past the pin.

  2. Tom says:

    Hi Bob

    David did come under serious consideration for the top ten. Unfortunately though he borrowed that quote from the late George Best.


  3. Bob Brancato says:

    To paraphrase David Feherty………

    “I spent my money on fast cars, women, and whiskey. The rest I just wasted.”

  4. Sridhar Natarajan says:

    Those were some really nice quotes but here are three of my favourite-:

    “The difference in golf and
    government is that in golf ———George Deukmejian
    you can’t improve your lie.”

    “If you are caught on a
    golf course during a storm
    and are afraid of lightning, ——– Lee Trevino
    hold up a 1-iron. Not even
    God can hit a 1-iron.”

    How did you make a
    twelve? I had a long putt —–Clayton Heafner
    for eleven!!

    “The first time I played
    the Masters, I was so
    nervous I drank a bottle of ——–Chi Chi Rodriguez
    rum before I teed off. I shot
    the happiest 83 of my life.”

    p.s. ok, make that four!

  5. Tom says:

    It was a toss up for Trevino quotes. Maybe I’ll do a Top Ten Trevino quotes one of these days! Thanks Tom

  6. Carroll Bobb says:

    To avoid being struck by lighting on a golf course – stand and hold up a one iron because even God can’t hit a one iron !!!!! Lee Trevino

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