‘When War Played Through’ by John Strege

By: Dr. John Wagner

This book was one of my favorite Christmas presents . When I unwrapped it, I saw a picture of General Eisenhower on the cover with a golf club during World War II. I was immediately taken in.

As someone who loves to read about golf history, I found this book a great read. The author writes in a friendly way and makes history fun. The book starts with golf on Pearl Harbor Day in 1941 and ends with the resumption of the Masters and U.S. Open after the troops came home.

It deals with the politics involved in publicizing golf as a good thing for Americans to do even while battles were being fought. The impetus was that our leaders felt we needed recreation for peace of mind. Golf was not always seen as a game for the common man and thus had some PR work to do, but the officials worked on it.

The book explains how Augusta National officials responded to the war effort and how they let cattle graze on their beloved course to raise beef. The fabled site of the annual Masters Tournament also had chickens and turkeys.

Many courses raised vegetables for the soldiers and their families, and some in Great Britain were converted into airfields. Eisenhower loved the game. He had a home on a golf course near London so he could play five holes in between commanding American forces.

Bobby Jones actually saw action during the war. The book also discusses how the great golfers of that time staged matches to raise money for the war effort. In between entertaining the troops, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby played many fund-raising golf matches.

There are other wonderful stories of soldiers and how they used their love of the game to overcome a ruthless enemy. Some of the true stories are sad, yet they show how golf remained an important contributor. I especially liked the chapter on stalag golf and how it helped prisoners of war while away the hours.

“When War Played Through” by John Strege, Penguin Books, 2005, $38.50 (hardcover), ISBN 1592401546

Dr. John Wagner has been a Seattle dentist for 37 years. He’s been published in several dental journals as well as had several articles appear in the turf magazine for Pacific Northwest golf course superintendents. John has served as a guest lecturer at the University of Washington Business School for several years and as a guest lecturer for several dental societies. Dr. Wagner is the co-designer (with Steve Shea of the Berger Partnership) of a golf course in Japan that cost over $120 million and was built by Wadsworth Golf Construction. He’s a Past President of the Washington State Golf Association and the current President of the Pacific Coast Golf Association. John is currently a Member of the USGA Green Section and a Director of the WSGA.