A plague that has blighted St Andrews since the fifteenth century...
Then said the LORD unto me, "Out of the north shall come a plague upon all the dwellers of the land.” (Jeremiah 1:14)
To say that the pastime once known as “stick and balls” is a bugbear of mine is an understatement. By my reckoning, golf is one of the true horrors of our age, and here at St Andrews we are uniquely culpable for fostering this so-called “game” upon legions of vulnerable pensioners across the globe. So read on, mes enfants, to learn the true story of St Andrews’ original sin.
As with many of history’s other great tragedies (The Five Year Plans, Eurovision), golf was a terrible idea from the get-go. Right off the bat (or whatever it is they use), the underlying uselessness of the infernal sport was recognised by Scotland’s king, James II. Justifiably shocked that his subjects were abandoning their traditional martial pastimes, such as archery and drunken brawling, James swooped in to ban golf shortly after its inception in 1457. James, who later blew himself up with his own cannon, was clearly a man of considerable foresight.
Somewhat surprisingly, golf’s first confirmed fatality had to wait over a century to enter the history books, although many a heart attack on the ninth green is sure to have eluded the written record. This curious incident occurred at Leith in 1593, and saw three golf-addled Scottish Lairds swap the fairway for flintlocks: the “gunfight on the green” that ensued being one of the few interesting things ever to happen on a golf course.
Indeed, if I were able to make one suggestion to those who run St Andrews’ very own Old Course, it would be to inject a bit of that same passion back into the sport. Currently golf courses suffer from a reputation as “purgatory with putters,” and function simply as nurseries for those too old, rich or incontinent to have anything better to do with their time. Even if many notable golf aficionados, such as Jeff Bezos (Blofeld with a business degree), and Donald Trump (words unnecessary), would be best left cloistered with the caddies, there is another breed of golfer altogether worthy of our sympathy.
He (or occasionally she) is a victim of the invidious societal pressures which impel perfectly virile 60-year-olds to give up all hope of betterment or self-improvement, and to instead take up golf. Robbed of the chance to indulge dormant passions or interests, this particular breed of golfer has been condemned to spend their “Golden Years” swearing under their breath at a small plastic ball. Their plight is worsened by the fact that it is often their own families who pack them off, brand-new set of irons in hand, to see out their days in what ultimately amounts to a pastoral Dignitas.
Of course, this is most convenient for their offspring, who can be safe in the knowledge that whilst homo golfius may tip the odd grand down the drain on a new Swing Caddie SC200 Plus Launch Monitor™, they are unlikely to substantially diminish any greedily awaited inheritance with spending on art, fast cars or younger women. This enforced dullness bears all the hallmarks of a coming crisis; with pensioners currently holding upwards of 37% of the nation’s wealth, we desperately need to ensure that as little of this money as possible ends up festering away in golf clubs. The reason for this is simple: the capricious whims of wealthy old people are vital to the advancement of our society, arts and culture. Think of Cosimo de’ Medici, blowing 600,000 Florins (upwards of $500 million today) on the pervy nude art which kickstarted the Renaissance. Or Louis XIV, who bequeathed us both Versailles, and his stable of saucy mistresses (amongst many other sublime aesthetic achievements). Or possibly even the great literary patron Emperor Augustus, who for all his faults, never once played a round of golf.
The point then, is clear. Golf is a needless (and needlessly expensive) distraction from all that is good about life. Let it be clear that this is not mere spittle-flecked invective on the part of the author; one day common sense will triumph, and the “opium of the pensioners” will be consigned to the dustbin of history.
Until that glorious day comes, remember to duck whilst crossing the Old Course.
Image: Adobe Stock
Illustration: Liza Vasilyeva