A DROLL GAME
"Golf," Mark Twain famously remarked, "is a good walk spoiled." His view, shaped by his own mixed record at the game, has been shared by generations of other frustrated golfers. A. A. Milne, the British children's author and occasional writer on golf subjects, expressed the matter in less succinct terms but just as pungently. "Golf is popular," Milne said, "simply because it is the best game in the world at which to be bad."
Retaining one's sense of humor despite any reverses has always been one of the most difficult challenges of the game, and the literature of golf has played an important part in helping golfers maintain a crucial focus on emotional equilibrium. As early as 1892, in A Batch of Golfing Papers, Andrew Lang imagined the incongruity of Socrates struggling with his stroke on the links. P.G. Wodehouse's droll prose skewered the hopelessly addicted golfer in The Heart of a Goof (1926?). More recently, cartoonists like Herb Middlecamp and Reg Manning have exposed the lighter side of the game, and John Garrity has rendered an essential service to all struggling golfers by describing the most bizarrely conceived and pitifully maintained golf holes and golf courses throughout America.
In the end, perhaps no one has better represented the grudging acceptance of the follies of golf than Bob Hope. As one of America's most durable and popular entertainers, Hope made golf jokes, golf quips, and golf puns a regular part of his comedic arsenal. In countless venues on the military front lines from the 1940s onward, Hope strode the stage, tossing one-liners and sharp asides to the assembled troops, his golf club always in hand as the inevitable prop. In Bob Hope's Confessions of a Hooker; My Lifelong Love Affair with Golf (1985), the comedian sums up a career devoted to seeing humor in the unlikeliest of settings and in making the impossible game of golf a tolerable experience for all his fellow sufferers.