The first golf book published in the United States, in 1895 was James Lee’s Golf in America. Today’s featured book was one of the first ten or so books published on the subject in the states, preceded bya small handful of others including An A.B.C. of Golf (1898), The Golfer’s Alphabet (1898), The Golficide (1898), The Golf Girl (1899), A Hand-Book of Golf for Bears (1900).
Golf Don’ts : Admonitions that will help the novice to play well and the scratch men to play better was published in 1900 by Doubleday, Page & Co in New York and written by H.L. Fitzpatrick (Donovan & Jerris F9070). The book is 114 pages and a small 4 ½ x 7 inches in size.
H.L. stands for Hugh Louis Fitzpatrick, and as Joe Murdoch outlines in The Library of Golf, Fitzpatrick was the first golf reporter in the United States. He covered the very first tournament, held prior to the formation of the U.S.G.A. in 1894 for the New York Sun and would go on to become its golf editor. His obituary stated that he was the author of books on what can only be described as an eclectic group of subjects: golf, horses and poultry.
Organized into nine chapters, it is most accurately called a book of advice for golfers, as opposed to a book of instruction. Think of it as Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book done one hundred years earlier and in yellow. The book’s title comes from the fact that every paragraph of the book starts with the word “Don’t.”
I like Fitzpatrick’s approach, which is basically, stop whining and play the game. Read this book once and we can probably scrap the 603 page Decisions of the Rules of Golf that the U.S.G.A. and R & A publish. Some examples from the book:
“Don’t blame the course, the club or the lie for your wretched shots.”
”Don’t complain if an ill wind blows your ball about. It is an ‘agency outside the match’ that must be endured.”
“Don’t cavil because a ball in motion is stopped by an agency outside the match, or by the fore-caddie, for it must be replaced and the occurrence submitted to as a “rub of the green.”
“Don’t carry your business or professional worries to the tee. Remember the round should tone up the mind as well as the muscles.”
“Don’t putt short – the hole cannot come nearer to you. Be up! It was “young Tom” who said that Tom Morris, Sr., only failed to be a grand putter because the hole was usually a yard too far away.”
The rear cover of Golf Don’ts
A few of his Don’ts are a bit dated, but provide interesting historical context in an era when tees were made of sand and insulting your caddie was apparently fine:
“Don’t build a tee like a lighthouse.”
“Don’t think it snobbish to have the caddie make your tees, if he is smart enough.”
His final chapter is titled, “Men, Women and Misses” and contains some great wisdom, some of it excerpted below:
“Don’t change your style because you are not winning. It was Lincoln who said not to “swap horses while crossing a stream.”
“Don’t groan over a miss, like a boy who has been eating green apples. Better smile, even though you have to force it; then try, try again.”
“Don’t sneer at the “duffer” who turns in the flagrantly bad score in the handicap. Courage in this respect is proof of a better golfing future. If given to the cynical, sneer rather at the fairly proficient golfer who never returns a card at a competition unless it is a low one.”
“Don’t cheat. Remember, O tempted Mortal, that every wrong deed of intention, yea, every mere peccadillo, is seen and scored against you by the shades of the grand golfers of old, who from their sun-kissed clouds are the guardians of the links.”
Amen to that!