The Art of Entertaining Part 29

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The keeping of one's balance is another difficulty. In preparing to strike, the player bends forward a little. In drawing back his club he raises, or should raise, his left heel from the ground, and at the end of the upward swing stands poised on his right foot and the toe or ball of the left foot. At this point there is danger of his losing his balance, and as he brings the club down, falling either forward or backward, and consequently either heeling or toeing the ball, instead of hitting it with the middle of the face. Accuracy of hitting depends greatly on keeping a firm and steady hold of the ground with the toe of the left foot, and not bending the left knee too much.

To "keep your eye on the ball" sounds an injunction easy to be obeyed, but it is not always so. In making any considerable stroke, the player's body makes or should make a quarter turn, and the difficulty is to keep the head steady and the eye fixed upon the ball while doing this.

Like all other games, golf has its technical terms; the "teeing-ground," "putting," the "high-lofting stroke," the "approach shot," "hammer-hurling," "topping," "slicing," "hooking," "skidding,"

and "foozling" mean little to the uninitiated, but everything to the golfer.

Let us copy _verbatim_ the following description of the Links of St.

Andrews, the Elysium of the braw Scots:

"The Links occupy a crook-necked stretch of land bordered on the east by the sea and on the left by the railway and by the wide estuary of the Eden. The course, out and in, is some two miles and a half in length, allowing for the pursuit of b.a.l.l.s not driven quite straight.

Few pieces of land have given so much inexpensive pleasure for centuries. The first hole is to some extent carpeted by gra.s.s rather longer and rougher than the rest of the links. On the left lie some new houses and a big hotel; they can only be 'hazards' on the outward tack to a very wild driver indeed."

These "hazards" mean, dear reader, that if you and I are stopping at that big hotel, we may have our eyes put out by a pa.s.sing ball; small grief would that be to a golfer!

"On the right it is just possible to 'heel' the ball over heaps of rubbish into the sea sand. The natural and orthodox hazards are few.

Everybody should clear the road from the tee; if he does not the ruts are tenacious. The second shot should either cross or fall short of the celebrated Swilcan Burn. This tributary of ocean is extremely shallow, and meanders through stone embankments, hither and thither, between the tee and the hole. The number of b.a.l.l.s that run into it, or jump in from the opposite bank, or off the old stone footbridge is enormous! People 'funk' the burn, top their iron shots, and are engulfed. Once you cross it, the hole whether to right or left is easily approached.

"The second hole, when the course is on the left, is guarded near the tee by the 'Scholar's Bunker,' a sand face which swallows a topped ball. On the right of the course are whins, much scantier now than of old; on the left you may get into long gra.s.s, and thence into a very sandy road under a wall, a nasty lie. The hole is sentinelled by two bunkers and many an approach lights in one or the other. The putting-green is nubbly and difficult.

"Driving to the third hole, on the left you may alight in the railway, or a straight hit may tumble into one of three little bunkers, in a knoll styled 'the Princ.i.p.al's Nose.' There are more bunkers lying in wait close to the putting-green.

"The driver to the fourth hole has to 'carry' some low hills and mounds; then comes a bunker that yawns almost across the course, with a small outpost named Sutherlands, which Englishmen profanely desired to fill up. This is impious.

"The long bunker has a b.u.t.tress, a disagreeable round knoll; from this to the hole is open country if you keep to the right, but it is whinny. On the left, bunkers and broken ground stretch, and there is a convenient sepulchre of hope here, and another beyond the hole.

"As you drive to the fifth hole you may have to clear 'h.e.l.l,' but 'h.e.l.l' is not what it was. The first shot should carry you to the broken spurs of a table land, the Elysian fields, in which there yawn the Beardies, deep, narrow, greedy bunkers. Beyond the table land there is a gorge, and beyond it again a beautiful stretch of land and the putting-green. To the right is plenty of deep bent gra.s.s and gorse. This is a long hole and full of difficulties, the left side near the hole being guarded by irregular and dangerous bunkers.

"The sixth or heathery hole has lost most of its heather, but is a teaser. A heeled ball from the tee drops into the worst whins of the course in a chaos of steep, difficult hills. A straight ball topped falls into 'Walkinshaw's Grave,' or if very badly topped into a little spiteful pitfall; it is the usual receptacle of a well-hit second ball on its return journey. Escaping 'Walkinshaw's Grave' you have a stretch of very rugged and broken country, bunkers on the left, bent gra.s.s on the right, before you reach the sixth hole.

"The next, the high hole, is often s.h.i.+fted. It is usually placed between a network of bunkers with rough gra.s.s immediately beyond it.

The first shot should open the hole and let you see the uncomfortable district into which you have to play. You may approach from the left, running the ball up a narrow causeway between the bunkers, but it is usually attempted from the front. Grief, in any case, is almost unavoidable."

It is evident the Scotch pleasure in "contradeectin'" is emphasized in golf.

One gets a wholesome sense of invigorating sea air, healthy exercise, and that delightful smell of the short, fresh gra.s.s. One sees "the beauty of the wild aerial landscape, the delicate tints of sand, and low, far-off hills, the distant crest of Lochnager, the gleaming estuary, and the black cl.u.s.ter of ruined towers above the bay, which make the charm of St. Andrews Links."

Golf has come to our country, and is becoming a pa.s.sion. There is a club at Yonkers and one at Cedarhurst, but that on the s.h.i.+nnec.o.c.k Hills, on Long Island, will probably be the great headquarters of golf in the United States, as this club owns eighty acres beautifully adapted to the uses of the game, and has a large club-house, designed by Stanford White.

So we may expect an American historian to write an account of this fine vigorous game, in some future Badminton Library of sports and pastimes; and we shall have our own dear "fifth hole, which offers every possible facility to the erratic driver for coming to grief," if we can be as "contradeectin'" as a Scot. You never hear one word about victory; this golf literature is all written in the minor key,--but it is a gay thing to look at.

The regular golf uniform is a red jacket, which adds much to the gayety of a green, and has its obvious advantages.

"Ladies' links should be laid out on the model, though on a smaller scale, of the long round, containing some short putting-holes, some larger holes admitting of a drive or two of seventy or eighty yards, and a few suitable hazards. We venture to suggest seventy or eighty yards as the average limit of a drive, advisedly not because we doubt a lady's power to make a longer drive, but because that cannot be well done without raising the club above the shoulder. Now we do not presume to dictate, but we must observe that the posture and gestures requisite for a full swing are not particularly graceful when the player is clad in female dress.

"Most ladies put well, and all the better because they play boldly for the hole, without considering too much the lay of the ground; and there is no reason why they should not practise and excel in wrist shots with a lofting-iron or cleek. Their right to play, or rather the expediency of their playing, the long round is much more doubtful. If they choose to play at times when the male golfers are feeding or resting, no one can object; but at other times, must we say it? they are in the way, just because gallantry forbids to treat them exactly as men. The tender mercies of the golfer are cruel. He cannot afford to be merciful, because, if he forbears to drive into the party in front he is promptly driven into from behind. It is a hard lot to follow a party of ladies with a powerful driver behind you, if you are troubled with a spark of chivalry or shyness.

"As to the ladies playing the long round with men as their partners, it may be sufficient to say, in the words of a promising young player who found it hard to decide between flirtation and playing the game, 'It is mighty pleasant, but it is not business.'"

To learn this difficult game requires months of practice, and great nerve and talent for it. I shall not attempt to define what is meant by "dormy," "divot," "foozle," "gobble," "grip," or "gully." "_Mashy_, a straight-faced niblich," is one of these definitions.

Horace G. Hutchinson's book on golf is a most entertaining work,--if for no other reason than that its humour, the pleasant out-of-door atmosphere, the true enthusiasm for the game, and the ill.u.s.trations, which are very well drawn, all make it an addition to one's knowledge of athletic sports.

That golf has taken its place amongst the arts of entertaining, we have no better proof than the very nice description of it in Norris's novel of "Marcia." This clever writer introduces a scene where "Lady Evelyn backs the winner" in the following sprightly manner:--

"Not many years ago all golfers who dwelt south of the Tweed were compelled, when speaking of their favourite relaxation, to take up an apologetic tone; they had to explain with humility, and with the chilling certainty of being disbelieved, that an immense amount of experience, dexterity, and self-command are requisite in order to make sure of hitting a little ball across five hundred yards of broken ground, and depositing it in a small hole in four or five strokes; but now that golf links have been established all over England there is no longer any need to make excuses for one of the finest games that human ingenuity or the accident of circ.u.mstances have ever called into existence. The theory of the game is simplicity itself,--you have only to put your ball into a hole in one or less strokes than your opponent; but the practice is full of difficulty, and what is better still, full of endless variety, so that you may go on playing golf from the age of eight to that of eighty, and yet never grow tired of it. Indeed, the circ.u.mstance that gray-haired enthusiasts are to be seen enjoying themselves thoroughly, and losing their tempers ludicrously, wherever 'the royal and ancient sport' has taken root, has caused certain ignorant persons to describe golf contemptuously as the old gentleman's game. Such criticisms, however, come only from those who have not attempted to acquire the game."

We advise all incipient golfers to read "Marcia," and to see how well golf and love-making can go together.

Golf has its poetic and humoristic literature; and as we began with its poetic side we may end with its broadest, latest joke:--

Two well-known professional golfers were playing a match. We will call them Sandy and Jock. On one side of the golf course was a railway, over which Jock drove his ball, landing it in some long gra.s.s. They both hunted for a long while for the missing ball. Sandy wanted Jock to give in and say that the ball was lost; but Jock would not consent, as a lost ball meant a lost hole. They continued to look round, and Jock slyly dropped another ball, and then came back and cried, "I've found the ba', Sandy."

"Ye're a leear," said Sandy, "for here it's in ma pooch."

We commend also "Famous Golf Links," by Hutchinson as clear and agreeable reading.

OF GAMES.

Come, thou complaisant cards, and cheat me Of a bad night, and miserable dreams.

SHAKSPEARE.

'Tis pleasant, through the loopholes of retreat, To peep at such a world,--to see the stir Of the great Babel, and not feel the crowd.

COWPER.

There is no amus.e.m.e.nt for a town or country-house, where people like to stay at home, so perfectly innocent and amusing as games which require a little brain.

It is a delightful feature of our modern civilization that books are cheap, and that the poets are read by every one. That would be a barren house where we did not find Scott, Byron, Goldsmith, Longfellow, Tennyson, Browning, Bret Harte, and Jean Ingelow.

Therefore, there would be little embarra.s.sment should we ask the members of the circle around the evening lamp to write a parody on "Evangeline," "Lady Clara Vere de Vere," "Herve Riel," or "The Heathen Chinee." The result is amusing.

Amongst games requiring memory and attention, we may mention Cross Purposes, The Horned Amba.s.sador, I Love my Love with an A, the Game of the Ring, which is arithmetical, The Deaf Man, The Goose's History, Story Play, which consists in putting a word into a narrative so cleverly that it will not readily be guessed, although several may tell different stories with the word repeated. The best way to play this is to have some word which is not the word, like "amba.s.sador," if the word be "banana" for instance, so by thus repeating "amba.s.sador"

the listener maybe baffled. The Dutch Conceit, My Lady's Toilette, Scheherazade's Ransom are also very good. This last deserves a description. Three of the company sustain the parts of the Sultan, the Vizier, and the Princess. The Sultan takes his seat at the end of the room, and the Vizier then leads the Princess before him with her hands bound behind her. The Vizier then makes an absurd proclamation that the Princess, having exhausted all her stories is about to be punished, unless a sufficient ransom be offered. All the rest of the company then advance in turn, and propose enigmas which must be solved by the Sultan or Vizier; sing the first verse of a song, to which the Vizier must answer with the second verse; or recite any well-known piece of poetry in alternate lines with the Vizier. Forfeits must be paid, either by the company when successfully encountered by the Sultan and Vizier, or by the Vizier when unable to respond to his opponents; and the game goes on till the forfeits amount to any specified number on either side. Should the company be victorious and obtain the greater number of forfeits, the Princess is released and the Vizier has to execute all the penalties that may be imposed upon him. If otherwise, the Princess is led to execution. For this purpose she is seated on a low stool. The penalties for the forfeits, which should be previously prepared, are written on slips of paper and put in a basket, which she holds in her hands, tied behind her. The owners of the forfeits advance, and draw each a slip of paper. As each person comes forward the Princess guesses who it is, and if right, the person must pay an additional forfeit, the penalty for which is to be exacted by the Princess herself. When all the penalties have been distributed, the hands and eyes of the Princess are released, and she then superintends the execution of the various punishments that have been allotted to the company.

Another very good game is to send one of the company out, and as he comes in again to address him in the supposed character of General Scott, the Duke of Wellington, or of some Shakspearean hero. This, amongst bright people, can be very amusing. The hero thus addressed must find out who he is himself,--a difficult task for any one to discover, even with leading questions.

The Echo is another nice little game. It is played by reciting some story, which Echo is supposed to interrupt whenever the narrator p.r.o.nounces certain words which recur frequently in his narrative.

These words relate to the profession or trade of him who is the subject of the story. If, for example, the story is about a soldier the words which would recur most frequently would naturally be uniform, gaiters, _chapeau bras_, musket, plume, pouch, sword, sabre, gun, knapsack, belt, sash, cap, powder-flask, accoutrements, and so on. Each one of the company, with the exception of the person who tells the story, takes the name of soldier, powder-flask, etc., except the name accoutrements. When the speaker p.r.o.nounces one of these words, he who has taken it for his name, ought, if the word has been said only once, to p.r.o.nounce it twice; if it has been said twice, to p.r.o.nounce it once. When the word "accoutrements" is uttered the players, all except the soldier, ought to repeat the word "accoutrements" either once or twice.

These games are amusing, as showing how defective a thing is memory, how apt it is to desert us under fire. It is very interesting to mark the difference of character exhibited by the players.

Another very funny game is Confession by a Die, played with cards and dice. It would look at first like a parody on Mother Church, but it does not so offend. A person takes some blank cards, and counting the company, writes down a sin for each. The unlucky sinner when called upon must not only confess, but, by throwing the dice, also confess as many sins as they indicate, and do penance for them all. These can, with a witty leader, be made very amusing.

The Secretary is another good game. The players sit at a table with square pieces of paper and pencils, and each one writes his own name, handing the paper, carefully folded down, to the secretary, who distributes them, saying, "Character." Then each one writes out an imaginary character, hands it to the secretary, who says, "Future."

The papers are again distributed, and the writers forecast the future.

Of course the secretary throws in all sorts of other questions, and when the game is through, the papers are read. They form a curious and heterogeneous piece of reading; sometimes such curious bits of character-reading crop out that one suspects complicity. But if honestly played it is amusing.

The Art of Entertaining Part 29

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