A BOOK ON GOLF.*
IT is never an easy task for the most skilful player at any game to write a book of instruction by reading which the un- skilful may attain proficiency. In every game, so much must depend upon practice and the bitter lessons of experience, that to master its difficulties by means of " book-learning " is almost an impossibility. Mr. Hutchinson, however, has been more successful in his little book upon golf than is usually the case with the writers of manuals of this kind. He cannot ex- pound to the world all he knows, he cannot tell us the secrets of those marvellous iron-shots which have raised him to an eminence among his fellows only to be rivalled by Prince Bismarck ; but what it is possible to communicate he explains in clear and well-chosen language, giving a set of good, sound rules by which the beginner may govern his first attempts at golf. It is undoubtedly necessary at first to know that there is a right and a wrong position for every part of the body while playing a stroke at golf ; but the instructions on these points are concluded with the admirable recommendation "not to follow them with such careful and painful minuteness as to cramp your style and swing thereby," a remark which shows at once more intelligence and more modesty than is usually to be found among those whose knowledge of any particular subject entitles them to speak to the general public not as fools, but as wise.
Most readers, however, will take greater interest in that part of the book which is addressed to more experienced golfers, not only from the excellent lessons it conveys, many of which would prove useful rules for ordinary life as well as for golf, but also on account of the hearty enjoyment and appreciation with which Mr. Hutchinson enters into the humours of the game. With the greater number of his injunctions, or rather counsels, we are inclined to agree, but in some of them he really asks too much of us. Golfers, after all, are but human, and to ask them not to "get into the habit of pointing out the peculiarly salient blade of grass, which you imagine to have been the cause of your failing to hole your put," or, in other words, get your ball into the hole, is asking too much. "Man being reasonable, must" lay the fault of his failures on some one or something else, and it is hard to deprive us of so time-honoured an excuse for a bad put. We agree with Mr. Hutchinson that one's adversary after having holed his own put, is often "irritatingly short-sighted on these occasions." Bat that is only a fresh example of the originally perverse and depraved nature of mankind. Still more severe are the rules Mr. Hutchinson expects us to observe after the game is over. Thus, he says :—" When a friend is telling you at some length of the exceptionally fine shot which he played up to the seventeenth hole, do not interrupt him in order to describe the even finer one which you yourself played to the eighteenth." This is really going too far. What method, we ask an intelligent public, what possible method of restraining the inordinate conceit of other people remains to us, if we do not show them that their greatest efforts fade into insignifi- cance compared with our every-day performances Even the beginner is sternly admonished "not to expect every golfer of his acquaintance to listen very attentively to his detailed account of all the incidents of his first round." We hope this rule may be observed ; only let us meet with a beginner who does not absolutely insist on describing his first round in the fullest detail to all his acquaintance in turn, and we will take that beginner over to Paris, and propose him for a Monthyon prize. A sufficient allowance must be made for the enthusiasm of golf. It was once our lot to meet upon certain well-known links in Scotland, a gentleman who has acquired considerable fame in various branches of literature. As we approached, it
• Hints on the Game of Golf. By Horace G. Hutchinson. Edinburgh and ,London; Blackwood and dons. 186. was obvious that some divine afflatus had come to him ; fire flashed from his eyes, and his whole frame trembled with emotion. But naught did he say of culture; poetry was not in his thoughts ; he believed he had discovered a new line to the high hole (which, being interpreted, means that by playing in a certain direction he could get to a particular hole sooner than by following the usual course). The same enthusiam spreads to all. The golfer returns from his round as a general rule either triumphant or desponding. In the first case, he recounts his exploits; in the second, pours his griefs into the ear of a friend, who refuses to sympathise until he also has had the chance of relating his own adventures. So absorbing is the one topic of the golfing deeds of the day, that if a messenger were to enter the Royal and Ancient Golf Club at St. Andrews about ball- past five on the evening of a fine golfing day with the intelligence that the united Powers of Germany, Austria, Russia, France, and Italy had declared war against England, that Lord Salisbury and Mr. Gladstone had fought a duel in which both had fallen, and that the Queen had sent for Mr. Parnell, we believe he would be heard with but languid interest. Even the announcement of the result of the "Leger" creates little sensation among those whose thoughts are wholly intent upon the day's game, a state of things both natural and proper in the metropolis of golf.
With most of the rest of Mr. Hutchinson's " hints " we cordially agree. None certainly are more worthy of recollection than the axiom that "if you lose your temper, you will most likely lose the match," a maxim not applicable to golf alone. A useful warning is conveyed to the number of inferior golfers who copy the eccentricities of a first-class player's style, with the -vague hope that they may thereby acquire some of his skill ; and the fact that " a combination of a strong player with a weak one will generally defeat two medium players," is a subtle but important point, often overlooked by those who make up four- somes (or four.handed matches). The "Miseries of Golf" are amusing, but they appear to us as rather a strained attempt at, being funny, which does not quite fit in with the rest of the book. Taken as a whole, Mr. Hutchinson's Hints on Golf form a very attractive little volume, which all who are in the least
acquainted with the game will read with thorough enjoyment and amusement, and from which they should derive a great deal of instruction. Golfers are a stiff-necked and stubborn genera- tion, who stick to their own theories, and usually resent advice ; but surely the " hints " put forward in so modest and unas- suming a manner bra gentleman so widely known in golfing circles as Mr. Hutchinson, ought to have their effect upon the most hardened.