Major RJM Warren-Dawlish M.C. has been Secretary of Royal St Luke’s Golf Club in
Suffolk since 1985. A leading authority on the Rules of Golf, guerrilla tactics and continental
drift, he has graciously agreed to publish items of his correspondence is these columns.
The opinions, prejudices and obsessions expressed are his alone and do not (necessarily)
reflect those of Golf International or Golf Today.
EDITED BY PROF. DAVID PURDIE - ILLUSTRATION BY SANDY ROBB
Royal St. Luke’s Golf Club (Est. 1603)
pulsa inveni repulsa
From; The Secretary,
1 Links Road,
Suffolk SU3 1GC
Golf was formally introduced to the United States in 1888 with
the founding in Yonkers, NY, of the St. Andrew’s Golf Club,
presently enjoying its 125th anniversary celebrations.
Incidentally, this 125th lark seems to have begun with Royal
Belfast GC, at which I received an invitation to speak.
“But why a 125th ?” said I to the Captain on the phone.
“Sure, we had such a grand time at the Centenary” came the
Ulster brogue, “and sure we’ll all be dead by the 150th!”
I went. As usual with Ulster golf, it was marvellous.
Anyway, back to
the Land of the Free
drop. John Reid, a
Scottish emigrant and
friends played their
first games on a
routed through an
orchard: Hence, the
sobriquet ‘The Apple
Tree Gang’ for the
founders of the St
However, balls and
clubs had crossed the
Atlantic long before
Reid teed it up
among the fruit trees.
Known originally as
The Ancyent &
of the Golff, the game
popular in Scotland
to get itself (and ‘ye
fute-balle’) banned in
1457 by a furious
King James II because
of their interference
with archery practice.
The Scottish Army
was then regularly
involved in a series of
events with its
English counterpart and the King wanted the air full of feathered
arrows, not feathery golf balls.
The union of Scotland and England in 1707 precipitated a
great series of emigrations that took the Scots all over the former
British Empire and wherever they went they took their
beloved game with them. The first club in the Americas was
Royal Montreal in 1873, but the game itself preceded any Club
by well over a century, arriving in Charleston, South Carolina
Now, how was it that golf remained essentially the same
game on both sides of the Atlantic? The question initially
seems odd, until one reflects on what happened to other
Great British field games in the hands of our American
cousins: cricket metamorphosed into baseball and rugby into
American football. The changes are major: after a hit, a baseball
‘batter’ sets off at high speed in the general direction of
mid-off, while footballers consistently get away with outrageous
forward passes. However, similarities remain. The distance
from pitcher to batter is the same as from bowler to
batsman – while a score
in football still remains a
‘Touchdown!’, despite the
helmeted and armoured
scorer flinging the ball
skywards as he crosses
So why has golf
escaped the Darwinian
evolution of the other
field sports? Enter
Charles Blair MacDonald
Thanks to his membership
of the Rules
Committees of both the
R&A and the USGA – and
to his seismic personality
(measuring over 8.0 on
the Richter Scale) golf did
not follow the trend. It
remained on parallel
tracks except for rare
divergences such as the
Schenectady Putter and
the size of the British
But what if… What if
the game had been left to
evolve in America, unrestrained
by its ties to the
Old Country? What then?
A fascinating question.
I have been discussing
this with Anthony Pioppi,
author of several books on the US game and a fellow
Machrihanish Dunes devotee.
To understand what could have happened, says Anthony,
you need to understand the American sports mentality. There
is a deep and overt military terminology in all US games. A
long pass in football and a long home-run in baseball are both
referred to as ‘bombs.’ The top of the batting order in baseball, or the scorers in basketball are ‘Big Guns’,
while in both hockey and basketball, the more
deft scorers are ‘snipers.’
In football, quarterbacks fire ‘bullets’ from the
‘rifle’ they have for an arm. Got it? Sport is a
Americans are also not fans of what they see
as ‘unfair’ (i.e. unpredictable) bounces. That is
why their courses are lush green, where balls
land and behave themselves stay put. Sharp
kicks to left or right on firm, brown, summer
links are loathed and cursed. In other words
Rubs of the Green are despised – and would
have been rubbed out, though not with a ‘rubber’.
What about The Rules? Take the 14-club rule:
The US is a country that worships all-you-can-eat
buffets. Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.
You wouldn’t send an army to battle with a
limit on its weapons, would you? Of course not.
Carry as many clubs as you like – and have your
caddy bring more. Follow the mantra of our
“I have Principles – and if you don’t like ’em, I
Fourteen clubs indeed – it’s a restraint of
What about The Hole? Take that restrictive 4¼
diameter cup. Far too small! George Thomas,
author of Golf Course Architecture in America
thought there was far too much emphasis on
putting. Putts would be counted as a half-stroke
and the cup as a half-foot – i.e. 6 inches, minimum.
Bombers cannot be deft with a pocketknife.
Putting and quiche are for cissies. Driving of all
sorts in the States, is for real men. Big heads; big
grips; big cars; bigger trucks; the biggest nuclearpowered
aircraft carriers on Earth. Yeah!
Take Architecture: The US is a country that
thinks carpet-bombing wins every war. With no
time for nuance or strategizing so, carpet-bomb
the fairways! This style of golf course was the
norm as Robert T. Jones changed the way
Americans viewed golf courses. A born huckster
in the P.T. Barnum mould, Jones gave himself
the middle name of Trent because he thought it
sounded good. He waxed poetic about the Old
Course and the links of the British Isles – and
then convinced Greens Committees to let him
disregard their heritage.
Jones created long tees, referred to as ‘runways,’
for his human B52s and pinched landing
areas with no preferred side from which to
approach the green. He put hazards in front of
putting surfaces, forcing approach shots to be
flown in and not run on. Long hitters, especially
long bombers, were to be given the greatest
reward in the Home of the Brave...
Enough. The game grew to fame in America
and came of age in 1913 when a skinny kid
called Ouimet won the US Open. I leave for that
course, The Country Club at Brookline outside
Boston, next week to speak at their Centennial –
and, if I survive the carpet-bombing, I shall
report in GI’s next issue.
Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine