Volumes of The Golfing Annual were published in the United Kingdom beginning in 1888 for a period of twenty-three consecutive years. Among other content The Annuals’ contained essays and poems by contributors of the period including Horace Hutchinson, Sir Walter Simpson, and H. S. C. Everard. The original Annuals (D & J G28810 through D & J G29470) got progressively larger as the series went on; the first volume was 226 pages and the final one was 760 pages.
Donald M. Wilson III and Bob Grant published a limited edition book, A Journey through the Annals of The Golfing Annuals 1888-1910, reproducing key content of The Annuals. Produced by Grant Books in 2011, the single volume was done in a limited edition of 450 copies, the first 75 of which have slip cases. Rather than reproducing the entire contents of each volume as they were originally done, the 500-page book picks interesting selections and organizes them thematically. As Sir Michael Bonallack writes in the book’s introduction, “there are many wonderful surprises to be found in these beautifully written articles.”
The first Annual was done with a green cover (with a variant cover in red) and was edited by C. Robertson Bauchope, who died after it was produced. Subsequent Annuals were done in green cloth with gilt lettering, and volume three forward were edited by David Scott Duncan, who at one time served as the captain of the Royal Musselburgh Golf Club.
A Journey through the Annals of The Golfing Annuals 1888-1910
Because Annuals are difficult to find and usually cost about $500 each A Journey through the Annals affords the collector the opportunity to appreciate the contents of these interesting volumes without a large outlay of money. Bauchope’s original intent was to move away from the standard approach taken at the time, which was essentially a dry recitation of facts. His approach was to have the writing be “sunny rather than in somber hues.”
The book excels at bringing back to life what golf was like in the British Isles in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Consider this passage about the Carnoustie Golf Course written by Wm. C. Honeyman. “But as no town near a golf green is of the faintest interest to a golfer, the place may be summed up as flat, stale, and unprofitable. With a fine contempt for the comfort of their best patrons, the railway company have placed their station a quarter of a mile past the golf green, and the wade back to the clubhouse on a hot day through a perfect waste of sand more than ankle deep is a fine test for the temper.” Writing about the course itself, “If St Andrews be considered the best green, and North Berwick the most dangerous, Carnoustie may fairly rank third, as it combines many of the good qualities of the first and the dangers of the second, with the expansiveness of both.”
The fold-out maps in the volume bring new life to the historical understanding of many important courses. Maps in the book include the St. George’s Golf Club, Burnham, Littlestone, the North Devon and West of England Golf Links, Hoylake, Alnmouth, Troon, Dornoch, Forres, Montrose, Carnoustie, St. Andrews, and Aberdovey.
A color map reproduced in A Journey Through the Annals
The ability to curate a volume such as this is an art. Picking and choosing the right contents requires a broad understanding of the game’s history; and organizing them in a thoughtful manner takes skill and a sense of proportion. Wilson and Grant have succeeded perfectly.
— John Sabino