Happy Anniversary Golf!

By: Bob Spiwak

You won't find it on your calendar, but March of 2009 marks the 552nd anniversary of an edict issued by Scottish King James II that banned golf in the country.

It came in 1457 as Scotland was in danger of invasion by England - one of many wars in the region over the centuries, and the King's arsenal consisted of bows and arrows and archers that twanged them against the enemy. Thus was archery the primary sport in the land. However, football (soccer or rugby) was on the rise as was golf as a pastime for the masses.

As the king looked out of his battlement one day, he noticed that the bowmen aiming at targets were rather off the mark. No cow, horse, house or milkmaid was immune from getting the shaft.

This prompted the king to take action, and here we join him in the castle like a fly on the wall.

"Scribe, cum hither," yelled James the eye-eye.

Soon the scribe appeared. "Ya roong fer me, yer gress?"

"Aye," replied the king, "I've oon aydict fer ya to bay rittin."

"Lit may boot oop the coompyoter. This p-say iss nae bonnie ta bay gitten warm."

Finally, as the king paced anxiously, the scribe announced he was ready to take dictation from the dictator.

Said the king, "That the fute-bal and golfe be ooterly cryed doon and nay be vied."

"Whut d' ya mane by vied," asked the scribe as he tapped on the keyboard.

"It manes usyt, ya toiny fool," retorted the king.

"Usyt it shall bay," said the scribe. "Beggin yer pardon. If a peasant sooch as i do nay oonderstand, others will nay know." The king nodded his head.

"Thayer bay more ta the edict, but fer now print it oot, 'n hev the ryal puster payple make thim fast agin walls 'n posts throo oat the kayngdom."

" 'N wile yer at it, drop boy th' shoppe uph the ryal arsinl and hev Tommy Armourer pruduse arras more bonnie then what be flyin aboot the links."

Just then a round object about an inch in diameter flew through the stained glass window, broke the glass and exploded into a shower of feathers.

"Tis the rimnants uv a golfe ball, yer majesty."

"Aye," replied James, "and ya kin see why oy hate this fookin' game." (Half a millennium later, golfers are still unknowingly quoting the king, in many worldwide languages.)

He continued, "Cood it only bay that our archers had the skill of William Tell."

"The who?," asked the scribe.

"Nay, ya dimwit. I nay spake of the towne musicians, boot the mon who shot an apple from the haid of his son."

"Ya mean," said the astounded scribe, "The bye had a compooter atop his haid? Tha be too hoondrit years ago."

"Do yer dooty mon and go tay th' toon and post my aydict. Ye're doomber then a stoomp, ya scamp. Compooters were nay invinted thet long agoo."

Thus it came to pass that the edict was posted throughout the land. A few ignored it and were sent to the gaols. This, however, did little to dissuade many others. We have no record of whether the edict was formally rescinded, but golf eventually became the leading manner of entertainment in Scotland, surpassing even downing drams of Johnnie Walkerweiser.

Ultimately, years later, Mary Queen of Scots took up the game and was frequently seen on the links. As much as she loved the game, Mary was not very good and, in the manner of the times, was beheaded 40 years after James II's edict.

There are many explanations for her execution, the two most logical being violation of the edict, and more likely, shaving strokes in a match with the Poojah of Baloop in Dubai.

Author's Note: The name Apple is a registered trademark, and I take full responsibility for its usage while adding that I received no compensation for its mention in this article.

Bob Spiwak took up golf in 1953 as a respite from the rigors of selling bibles door-to-door in North Dakota. Though suffering a four-year lapse, he's back to being a fanatical golfer. Now a contributing editor for Cybergolf, Spiwak has written articles for almost every golf magazine in the Western world. Bob's most treasured golf antiquity is a nod he got from Gerald Ford at the 1990 Golf Summit. Spiwak lives in Mazama, Wash., with his wife and several pets next to his fabled ultraprivate Whispering Rattlesnakes Golf & Flubbers Club.

Story Options

Print this Story