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Golfe Begone

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You won’t find it on your drug store calendar, but March 4, 2012 will mark the 555th anniversary of Scottish King James II’s edict banning golf in the country.

It was 1457, Scotland was in danger of invasion by England--one of the many wars in the region over the centuries. The king’s arsenal consisted of bows and arrows and archers to twang them against the enemy, thus was archery the primary sport of the land. However “Futeball” was on the rise as was golf for the non-combatant masses.

The king one day looked from his battlement and noticed that the bowmen aiming at targets were rather off the mark. No cow, horse, house or milkmaid was immune from getting the shaft.

This prompted the king to take action and here, like a fly on the wall we join him in the castle.

“Scribe, come hither,” yelled James, the eye-eye. The scribe opened the door and responded “You rang for me, your grace?”

“Aye” replied the king, “I’ve an edict for you to be written.”

“Let me boot up the computer. This Pee See is not happy to get warm.”

As the king paced anxiously, the scribe announced he was ready to take dictation from the dictator.

Said the king, “That the fute ball and golfe be utterly cryed doon and nay be vied.”

“What do you mean by vied” asked the scribe as he tapped on the keyboard.

“It means usyt, you tiny fool,” retorted the king.

“Usyt it shall be, but beggin’ your pardon, if an educated peasant such as I do not understand others will not know either.” The king agreed.

“There’s more to the edict, but for now print it out and have the royal poster-people put them up and made fast upon walls and posts throughout the kingdom. And while you’re at it drop by the shop of the royal arsenal and have Tommy Armourer produce arrows better than what are flying about the links.”

Just then a round object an inch in diameter flew through the stained glass window and exploded into a shower of feathers. “It’s the remnants of a golf ball, your majesty.”

“Aye,” replied James, “and you can see why I hate this fooking game.”

(Half a millennium later golfers are still unknowingly quoting the king in many world-wide languages as they play Hack and Seek.)

Thus it came to pass that the edict was posted throughout the land. At first a few then more ignored it and were sent to the jails. This however did little to dissuade the many. We have no record of whether the edict was formally rescinded, but golf became the leading manner of entertainment in Scotland, surpassing even downing drams of Johnny Walkerweiser.

Years later Mary, Queen of Scots took up the game and was seen frequently on the links. She loved the game but was not very good at it. She was beheaded forty years after the king’s edict.

There are many explanations for her execution, the two most likely are in response to her ignoring the edict and more likely for shaving strokes in a match at the Royal Bonnieboondock Scottish Open.



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