de Vos: A nick in the ol’ niblick |

de Vos: A nick in the ol’ niblick

Jon DeVos
Staff Photo |

“The people who gave us golf and called it a game are the same people who gave us bag pipes and called it music” – Anon

Reduced to basics, golfers whack a ball with a stick until they die, a narrative perpetuated by golfers who wouldn’t be caught dead in plaid golf shorts. Playing a different U.S. golf course daily, it would take 42 years to play them all, and you’d walk about twice around the planet.

A name that probably does not come to mind as the World’s Greatest Golfer is Kim Jong il. Until his death in 2011, he was leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea. At the grand opening of the Pyongyang Golf Course in 1993, Mr. Kim picked up a golf club for the first time in his life, teed off and shot a 38-under-par round of 34 with 11 holes-in-one. The exceptional feat was like totally verified by the sworn statements of all 17 of his bodyguards. This is, of course, the same Kim Jong il who brought rain to North Korea when he frowned and, did you know, he never defecated, not even once in his life. Don’t scoff! There are 17 sworn statements to prove it.

Golf in the U.S. has been going through a gradual decline for the last decade, the number of courses has fallen from a high of 16,052 to a current 15,372 and the number of new courses opening is at an all-time low. Devotees attribute this to overbuilding exuberance in the previous two decades with supply exceeding demand.

Even still, golf courses in America take up almost 2,500 square miles, about the size of Delaware. All the football, baseball, soccer fields and tennis courts combined don’t add up to half that.

The French, the Scots, the Dutch and the Russians all claim they started golf. The Chinese brag that they were playing golf three hundred years before Christ. A Scottish king’s decree in 1457 banned the game because it interfered with archery practice, adding that, “It looketh like a silly game.” The king himself, however, went on to become an avid golfer and eased the ban to include only a pause for the duration of the Sunday sermon.

Mancil Davis has the PGA world record for 51 holes in one. He sank his first one when he was 11 years old. Over his career, he made 8 in one year and 3 in one week. Between 1967 and 1987, Mancil scored at least one, hole-in-one, every year.

By rule, a golfer can only carry 14 clubs. Now they are numbered but earlier they were named. The number 4 wood was called the Baffy and the number 7 iron was the Mashie Niblick. Standards have changed too. Before 1848, balls were constructed of leather stuffed with “as many feathers as a hat will hold.”

The People’s Almanac lists the worst golfer in the world as a mercifully unnamed woman player in the Shawnee Pennsylvania Invitational. She took 166 strokes for the 130 yard 16th hole. It seems her tee shot went into the Binniekill River and began floating downstream. She and her husband jumped into a nearby boat, finally beaching her ball a mile and a half downstream. Hubby dutifully kept track of the strokes as she bushwhacked her way back to the pin.

She probably spent the next day filing burrs out of her Mashie Niblick.

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