Frank Stableford : A Life in Golf, Medicine and War

Dubbed “The Patron Saint of hackers everywhere,” a new book detailing the life of Frank Stableford was published last year by Ryan Publishing in Victoria, Australia. The 236-page book follows the 88-year life span of this accomplished surgeon and avid golfer. Educated at Queen’s College, Birmingham, Stableford was a plus one handicap and was a member of various golf clubs in the United Kingdom including Wallasey, Royal Liverpool, Royal Portcawl, and Glamorganshire.

The book is beautifully illustrated, and in particular its subtle use of color is especially noteworthy and serves to show off several watercolors done by Harry Rountree that are featured throughout. Following a recent trend among hardcover titles, the book was issued with an illustrated cover but without a dust jacket.

The book was thoughtfully written by Bob Edwards, a member of the Yarra Yarra Golf Club near Melbourne, which seems to have embraced the Stableford scoring system more than any club in the world. He notes that Yarra Yarra holds five competition days a week, every week of the year and that 80% of them are Stableford events. The first competition played using Stableford’s rules was held at the Wallasey Golf Club near Liverpool in 1932.

Stableford developed the system as one that would bring more pleasure and fairness to the game (the latter is an oxymoron for sure, since there is no such thing). His inspiration was a particularly windy day where he thought it unfair to higher handicap golfers to compete against par (or at the time, the old bogey system.) His system awards points in relation to a fixed score at each hole. If the player’s score is two or more over the fixed score no score is returned (the player receives a 0). If the player scores one over the fixed score they receive 1 point; if they score the fixed score they receive 2 points; one under the fixed score receives 3 points and points of 4, 5, and 6 are received for two, three. and four under the fixed score, respectively.

The beauty of the Stableford system is that it keeps players in the game even if they are not playing particularly well or if they get off to a poor start. Rather than ripping up their scorecard or giving up, the Stableford system gives hope that a good score on any particular hole can bring them back into the competition.

A portrait of Frank Stableford done by J.A.A. Berrie which hangs in the Wallasey clubhouse

Like Dr. Alister Mackenzie, Stableford was a physician who served in the Boer War. He was described as being tall and erect with a military bearing. His long heavily waxed mustache is a joy to behold and was apparently as intimidating as it looks in the portrait above.

Henry Longhurst had this to say about Frank Stableford: “I doubt whether any single man did more to increase the pleasure of the humble club golfer.” Stableford achieved a rare feat in the game of golf, indeed; after all, how many golfers have their name memorialized into the rules of golf (rule 32b)?

Click to view the book on Amazon: Stableford: A Life in Golf, Medicine and War


— John Sabino

Website of Valuable Book Group, LLC

About valuablebook

Valuable Book Group specializes in rare, collectible and valuable golf books. We are avid collectors ourselves obsessed not only with playing the game, but also its history and the literature of the game.
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