Thursday, December 22, 2011

Banning the game . . .

If I had my act together I would have merged into the entry about Vietnam Golf the recollection that James banned the game back in 1457 . . . casting about for a link to said data, I found this old story (2009) . . .


If you Outlaw Golf, only Outlaws will Golf!


And, of course, oncet you talk about Outlaw Golf, no bunch of polychrome-polyester-wearing effete decadent running dogs comes to mind, but instead the image of some swashbuckling free-booters appears . . . cept that Willie Nelson is probably the real manifestation of Outlaw Golf, with results such as on the golf course he owned, where he said, “That hole was a par 9 yesterday . . . .” Hardly the Calvinistic approach that enables the character-building aspects of The Game . . . just IMVHO, of course . . .  


Chávez Takes a Swing at Golf

A 'bourgeois' sport? Or a forced march spoiled?




Scots must be shaking their heads. Fresh from nationalizing almost every capitalist enterprise that yields a profit (or used to anyway), Latin American strongman Hugo Chávez has found a new class enemy: golf. Declaring it a "bourgeois" sport, the Venezuelan leader has ordered the shut-down of some of the country's best-known golf courses.


For a socialist like Mr. Chávez, banning golf might be considered, ahem, par for the course, even if he is a bit late to the game. The likes of China, Russia and Cuba banned golf decades ago although today they all enjoy practicing their swing. Perhaps this is exactly the historic precedent Mr. Chávez fears. The Soviet Union built its first golf course in 1988 and a year later the Berlin Wall fell.


Or maybe Mr. Chávez known for his paranoia about alleged Western plots to overthrow him has read up on Scottish history. In 1457, King James II of Scotland banned the game from the hills on which it was created. He argued that golf was a danger to national security as it distracted his soldiers from practicing their archery.


It turns out the king's fears may not have been entirely unfounded. Believing the threat of war had dissipated, his grandson, James IV, a keen golfer, lifted the ban in 1502. Eleven years later, in the Battle of Flodden against the English, Scotland suffered its worst ever military defeat. James himself was killed on the battlefield, along with a large contingent of Scottish nobles (many no doubt golf enthusiasts as well). Superior English archery played its part in the battle's outcome.


There could also be another reason a socialist like Mr. Chávez might dislike golf: The game is rich with religious overtones. Golf prompts many players to think about God and not merely because his name is so often (blasphemously) invoked on the course.


Players surrounded by the natural beauty the Lord created are reminded of the limits of man's ability to conquer it. Consider the elusive hole-in-one, the wind that ruins the otherwise near-perfect swing and the bunkers that upset a quick recovery.


"The Calvinists' ideal testing ground" is how the late British-American journalist Alistair Cooke once described it. "The bunkers, the scrubby gorse, the heather and broom, the hillocks and innumerable undulations of the land itself, were all seen not as nuisances but as natural obstacles, as reminders to all original sinners that in competition with the Almighty, they surely would not overcome."


In that sense, golf threatens to undermine a dictator's personality cult by reminding people of the true ultimate power. That's not the kind of message el presidente would probably like Venezuelans to hear even if he once described Jesus as the world's first socialist.