Golfers try to sink their putts on hole 5 at the Olde Course Friday, Aug. 28, 2015. (Jenny Sparks / Loveland Reporter-Herald file)
Yesterday (as I write this) marked another day of my placing a small ball on the surface of a much larger ball and trying to hit the small one without damaging the larger one.
Yes, I am referring to golf.
Those who have tried the game will note that my attempts match those of millions of others who tempt fate.
I echoed A.A. Milne’s comment: “Golf is so popular simply because it is the best game in the world at which to be bad.”
To understand why this is, we must go back in time, a long way back.
In the period from 960 to 1279, royals from China (prior to tariffs) played a game call “Chiuwan,” hitting balls into holes with a set of 10 bejeweled clubs — maybe that’s my problem, my clubs are not bejeweled.
A couple of centuries passed and in the 1400s Scotland was given credit for inventing the game (despite earlier evidence of proto-golf in the Netherlands, which may explain where my Dutch golfing-tennis friend got his clubs).
Despite the frustrations, golf made its way to America in the 1800s.
Players now used 20 to 30 wooden clubs of various functions to hit “featheries,” hard leather balls stuffed with feathers (thinking they could fly like birds?).
Then, perhaps seeing a dearth of birds, in 1848, Adam Paterson of Scotland invented the solid gutta-percha ball (obviously not made of fish guts).
Well, in an attempt to lower scores (rather than lying) Coburn Haskell and Bertram Work invented the rubber-cored golf ball in 1898.
Two years later Haskell Golf Ball Co. invented and patented a machine to mass-produce rubber golf balls. In between George F. Grant invented the golf tee, replacing the pile of sand used to tee up balls and saving on laundry bills.
Innovations to the game zoomed on and clubs progressed from sticks to shepherd’s crooks (might help my game) to purposefully-designed wooden clubs.
In 1910, Arthur Knight invented the steel-shafted golf club — I think my first set used rebar. Steel shafts (improved into better materials through the years) replaced wooden-shafts but golfers refused to change their terminology and many still call clubs “fairway woods.”
Pro golfer Gene Sarazen developed the modern “sand wedge” (not sandwich for after a round) and used it to win the British Open in 1932. The real trick is to hit so you don’t need one (mine is quite worn).
Outside of skill it is difficult to play well so inventors leaped into the gap. Arthur Pedrick invented a golf ball with flaps to assist its flight and a metal core to allow golfers to find a lost ball using a geiger counter (not easy to tuck in your golf bag). Soon after Donald Poynter invented a walking golf ball to facilitate greater distance.
These devices were naturally disallowed from professional play and the authorities soon limited the number of clubs in a bag to 14 in any round.
Sadly, the same folks did not disallow really gorky golf apparel, designed to distract others in any foursome.
I, however, have a couple of fine outfits, which might make you think I am a better player (unless you watched me play).
Jim Willard, a Loveland resident since 1967, retired from Hewlett-Packard after 33 years to focus on less trivial things. He calls Twoey, his bichon frisé-Maltese dog, vice president of research for his column.