martes, 7 de junio de 2011

Golf In The Year 2000

On entering the hall we moved across it into another not quite so large, in which there were a great many men hanging about.

“We must see if we can get you the loan of a set of clubs and a coat,” said Adams, crossing the hall. He soon returned.

“It’s all right,” he said “young Lawson is laid up just now, so you can have his clubs and his coat as well; it will just fit you; you’re both much about the same make. Come along and we’ll try it on.”

We went into a long-shaped room with mirrors running down the centre of it, and boxes all round the sides. Mr. Adams went up to one of the boxes, and, opening it, produced a coat which he helped me on with.

It fitted perfectly, and felt nice and easy to golf in. We went back into the hall and forward to a large window, at which most of the men were congregated. The reason was that the teeing ground was just in front, and on a large board facing the window was the name of the man whose turn it was to play. As soon as each name was put up on the board a voice just above the window called it out in loud, clear tones. This, I afterwards discovered, was not a human voice, but was produced by the phonograph
and worked in conjunction with the board outside. At every change of name a little bell sounded.

I was struck with the amount of order and the quietness with which everything was carried out. No one was on the teeing ground except the player and his opponent. Not even a caddie. On my remarking upon this to my friend, he replied:
“Oh, yes, they have their caddies; there they go.”

Two players had just driven off and were leaving the teeing ground, and sure enough behind each followed what I supposed was the caddies Mr. Adams spoke of; a perpendicular rod about four feet long, supported on three wheels, the whole rather resembling a small tricycle with a small mast stepped where the saddle should have been. This rod was weighted at the foot and hung on the wheels, so that it was always perpendicular, however steep the gradient it was going up or down. On this contrivance the clubs were carried, and the players seemed to drag the whole affair after them. It seemed to me a poor substitute for the good old-fashioned caddie, about whom so many stories are told, and who were always ready with advice, and good advice too. My nineteenthcentury memory recalled a lad who, one morning, on each successive putting-green, showed me the line to the hole by saying it lay “owre that yelley fleur.” I may mention that there was not a “yelley fleur” on the whole links; and that my friend was not a teetotaler.

As we watched this couple and their queer mechanical caddies the voice shouted "Walter Adams,” and simultaneously his name appeared on the board outside. “Come on,” he said, “it’s our turn.”

We went down a broad flight of steps on to the green. At the foot of the steps we were met by two caddies—for I suppose I must give the things the old name. They had come from immediately below the room we had been in; but they didn’t require to be drawn or indeed worked in any way. They simply followed wherever we went, at a distance of twelve feet or so, and regulated themselves to our pace, stopped when
we stopped, and so on. Their wheels shot out spikes when necessary, so that they might not slip going up steep bits, or through bunkers and places of that kind. My friend explained that we had a sort of magnet behind our jackets which attracted them, but at the same time did not allow them to come nearer than the twelve feet before mentioned. Of course you could go up to them when they had stopped; but when you moved on they remained stationary until you were the twelve feet away, and not till then did they follow.

Each carried its clubs in an oblong box, where they lay with the heads exposed, as in my own time. I took out what I supposed was a driver. It was a very powerful weapon with a remarkably thin shaft, which, on closer inspection, turned out to be made of steel—indeed the head, too, was made of that metal. The shaft terminated in a little white disc, under glass, with figures on it and a hand like the face of a very small watch.

There was another small disc on the sole of the club. This one was, however, quite plain. My friend, seeing my look of astonishment, said:
“Ah! I thought we would show you something new in the way of clubs. What do you think of that, eh?”

“It seems a wonderful weapon,” I replied; “but what are all those dials for?”

‘That one,” he said, pointing to the one at the top of the shaft, “registers every stroke you take with the club. It is on every club, and as the strokes you have taken with each club are registered, the total of the set is your score for the round. At the end of the round your clubs are handed in to the secretary, who with his clerks counts the scores and awards the prize-money accordingly. You must understand that every day there is, so to speak, a competition. Every player pays five shillings before starting the round. This money is divided into two parts: one half goes to keep up the green, pay salaries, of which there are a good many,
taxes, & c.; the other half goes in prize-money. There is one scratch prize and about six handicap. We have got handicapping as near perfection as possible, for you see we have a record of every round a man plays, and by taking his average from day to day, and from week to week, we soon arrive at his right figure. Every man keeps an account with the secretary, and at the end of the week draws his winnings, that is to say, if he has any. Some men make quite a good thing of it.”

“You are very far advanced in golf, I see, as well as everything else. But what is this for?” I said, pointing to the dial on the sole of the club.

“Oh, that,” he answered, “registers the length of your drive—at least, of your carry. The head is a wonderful little piece of mechanism, with about as much work in it as in a watch. You see the face is slightly detached from the rest of the head; it is fixed to it by an immense number of small springs, which indeed almost fill the head, so that the propelling power of the club is greater than could be got from the shaft alone. But we must start. I think that couple in front are far enough ahead. Is the grip all right?” he added, looking at me.

“It’s rather thick,” I replied, “but it will do, I think.”

“Oh, we’ll soon put that all right,” he said. He took my club, and, screwing something at the top, reduced the grip. The balls, which didn’t seem, judging from appearances, to have undergone any marked change, having been teed, my companion motioned me to drive.

I addressed myself to the ball, and in the middle of my swing a voice which seemed to come from close behind me called out “Fore,” in a way that quite put me off, and made me top my ball.

“Sir,” I said, turning quickly round to my companion, for he was the only other person on the ground, “it was not customary in my day to speak when a player was addressing himself to his ball, much less to shout ‘Fore’ in the middle of his swing.”

Mr Adams said nothing. He only smiled, and, taking a club, prepared to drive off. In the middle of his swing he again called out “Fore,” much to my astonishment.

“Is this a new rule?” I asked him. “Must you always call ‘Fore’ in the middle of your swing?”

“I didn’t call ‘Fore,’ he answered, with a twinkle in his eye. I felt very much inclined to call him a liar, but restrained myself. We moved on, followed by our peculiar caddies. We were not long in coming to my ball which I had topped. I looked at it and then at my clubs. To tell the truth I was not very sure which one to take, some were of such curious shapes.

“That’s your club,” said Mr. Adams, taking from my set a club with a funny-looking oblong sort of head. It seemed to have been put on the wrong way, and you hit with its nose. A small bit also projected behind, making it something like a polo-stick on a small scale. I took this weapon, and again, in the middle of my swing, there came a shout of “Fore,” which of course gave me such a start that I missed my shot once more. I fairly lost my temper this time.

“What do you mean by trying to put me off in this manner?” I shouted. “If that’s the way you win your golf matches nowadays, the less I know of golf in the year 2000 the better.”

“Take it easy,” Adams replied, with another laugh, “and I'll explain.”

“Explain!” I said “I don’t see what there is to explain.”

“That long sleep of yours has evidently not destroyed your temper,” he said, with a quiet smile; “but as I said before, I did not call ‘Fore’ in fact, I believe it’s years since I called ‘Fore’ while golfing. You take a swing without hitting the ball; watch me instead, and see if I speak.”

I did so and sure enough the voice again shouted “Fore;” but it evidently wasn’t my companion’s doing, as his lips had remained tightly closed.

Somehow the sound seemed to come actually from myself. I was more puzzled than ever. Adams burst out laughing at my look of amazement.

“My dear fellow,” he said, still laughing, “it’s your jacket. Another new invention for you. The sound comes from under your arms when you swing. It acts like a concertina: draws the air in when you take the club back, and when you bring the club down out comes the voice.”

“Well,” I said, “you have certainly brought golf to a nice pass. The clubs keep their own score; your jacket shouts ‘Fore,’ your caddie keeps his mouth shut—everything seems to be turned topsy-turvy. You ought to have an invention for swinging the club, and all you would have to do operations.”

“Oh, it’s not quite so bad as that yet,” he answered ; “but there’s no saying what it will come to.”

The course at St. Andrews was not what it was in my day. All the whins had disappeared, and we played, going out, along by the sea, and came in on the old course, though it had been entirely re-planned. I need not go over the round: suffice it to say I ‘got my licks’—I won’t tell you by how many. There were still eighteen holes in the round, though much longer ones than I had been accustomed to, and I wasn’t sorry to get to the last. But like every golfer, I must have excuses for my bad play. To begin with, that beastly jacket was one—and a very good one—it was always putting me off. My companion soothingly explained that it might be some little time ere I got used to it; and that when I once did so I would never notice the sound. He said that, for his own part, sometimes he never even heard it. I thought to myself it wouldn’t be a bad plan at first to stuff one’s ears with cotton wool or something of that sort to deaden the sound.

And the clubs—a queerer collection I never saw. As I said before, they were all made in one piece, and were of steel. The faces all protruded about half an inch beyond the place where the shaft and head met. The heads were very small, which gave the clubs the appearance of hammers, and some looked as if you could reverse them and play lefthanded. Of course, though the clubs were entirely of steel, they were painted so that they did not look so very unlike the old tools. There were no irons in the set—at least, what nineteenth-century people understand as irons. Golfers seemed to have gone back to the old baffy in a sort of way.

The heads of the clubs they played approaches with were larger, the faces very much laid back, and slanting diagonally across the head. To look at these you would imagine you would slice everything. My companion showed me how to use them in order to put a cut on the ball and stop it. He himself did it wonderfully, laying a ball quite dead if he chose. But the niblick was the funniest of the lot. It had a double head, and when you swung it, it revolved like the paddle-wheel of a steamboat,
only very much faster. You addressed the ball with the one head, while the other came up behind the shaft, it being of course quite stationary.

As soon as you swung the club the two heads began to revolve—the opposite way from a paddle-wheel, of course—and threw the ball out of the bunker, with no end of sand. You had to look out for your eyes if there was any wind.

I must not forget the balls—they are quite worthy of description. To all appearance, as I have said, they were the same as we used in ’92; but though innocent enough to look at, they had more work in them than even the heads of the clubs. In the centre of the ball was a small chamber of compressed air; outside that was a rim of some hard substance like gutta-percha, about a quarter of an inch thick; then came the shell of the ball, which was made up of oblong little blocks, of the same hard, white
substance before mentioned. These blocks were each separate, and fixed to the inside layer by strong springs—four springs to every single square—crossing each other. When they were all fixed on the ball quite resembled one of the old-fashioned gutties. Even handling them you did not detect the difference, and the flying power was extraordinary.

So you see that with all those new inventions taken into account, it was hardly to be expected I could play much of a game to start with. Adams had taught me a thing or two after all, but I determined to get into form, accustom myself to the new clubs, and see if I couldn’t turn the tables on him. “It’s not the clubs that make the golfer, after all,” I said to myself, consolingly.

J. McCullough
Golf in the Year 2000

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