I’m always amazed at the breadth of authors who have written about golf, be it F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ian Fleming or Agatha Christie. But A.A. Milne, the author of Winnie the Pooh wrote about golf as well? He did indeed. Born to a Scottish father, is it any wonder?
Milne wrote about golf in a charming little book published in 1925 by Methuen & Co, London. Titled For the Luncheon Interval: Cricket and Other Verses. The 64 page book has some entertaining little poems about various summer sports including golf. The verses compiled in the book were originally published in the humor and satire magazine Punch.
Alan Alexander (A.A.) Milne was born in 1882 and died in 1956. He was educated at Cambridge and played a fair amount of golf, in the mid-1920s he mentioned he got “his handicap to 9”.
In his autobiography published in 1939 Milne talks about golf. “To-day, I could be happy without a car, I could be happy without a country cottage, but I shouldn’t be happy if I couldn’t be reckless about golf balls, taxis, the best seats at cricket grounds and theatres, shirts and pullovers, tips, subscriptions, books and wine-lists.” While discussing the creative process of writing Milne says, “I have spent many mornings at Lords [Cricket Grounds] hoping that inspiration would come, many days on golf courses; I have even gone to sleep in the afternoon, in case inspiration came to take me completely by surprise. In vain.”
Milne’s biographer Ann Thwaite mentioned his playing golf at Addington, Royal Wimbledon and Walton Heath and that he played at least on one occasion with Bernard Darwin. He called Walton Heath, “about the most difficult course in London, with heather a foot high on each side of a narrow fairway, and a perpetual wind. I play a terrible lot of golf now – always twice and often 3 times a week, and it’s really time I settled down to work again.” After he moved out of London Milne also played the nine-hole course Holtye golf club in Sussex with his son often. The course was a ten minute drive from his cottage in Sussex which is also located near Royal Ashdown Forest Golf Club.
The three page verse in For the Luncheon Interval is titled The First Tee and is a delightful little story about golfing, a few excerpts are below:
The year’s at the full and the morn’s at eleven,
It’s a wonderful day just straight from Heaven,
And this is a hole I can do in seven –
Caddie, my driver, please
I’ve a beautiful swing that I learnt from Vardon
(I practice it sometimes down the garden –
“My fault! Sorry! I get your pardon!”)—
Caddie, my driver please
Milne has references in the poem to the leading golfers of his day including George Duncan, J.H. Taylor and Harry Vardon. Milne’s most famous line about golf is from The Charm of Golf, published in 1920 in, Not That It Matters, “Golf is so popular simply because it is the best game in the world at which to be bad.” It is an essay about being bad at golf and how it can still be enjoyable, and the eternal hope of getting better. In his very English manner, Milne also compares being bad at golf to being bad at cricket and lawn tennis.
“When he reads of the notable doing of famous golfers, the eighteen handicap man has no envy in his heart…The joy of driving a ball straight after a week of slicing…Every stroke we bad players make we make in hope. It is never so bad but it might have been worse; it is never so bad but we are confident of doing better next time. And if the next stroke is good, what happiness fill our soul. How eagerly we tell ourselves that in a little while all our strokes will be as good. And so, perfectly happy in our present badness and perfectly confident of our future goodness, we long handicap men remain.”
Milne also expresses a universal trust about the game, “Golf is a puzzle without an answer. I’ve played the game for 50 years and I still haven’t the slightest idea of how to play properly.”
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