Thursday, November 11

Gypsy Hill: Autumn Golf in the Shenandoah Valley

10th hole at Gypsy Hill, looking from the green to the tee.
SINCE ABOUT A YEAR AGO, I've lived in Staunton, Virginia, in the Shenandoah Valley. What golf I do play, I play mostly at Gypsy Hill, Staunton's city golf course. It's located in Gypsy Hill Park.

Gypsy Hill was built in 1919, when America's first golf boom was underway. The routing and contour make it pretty apparent it's a very old course, fashioned during the era of hickory clubs and early dimpled golf balls.

I've been on a lot of golf courses in my life, and Gypsy Hill is easily the hilliest course I've played. The yardage is short on the scorecard -- under 6,000 yards with a par of 71 -- but it plays much longer. There are many blind and uphill approach shots for which I must add two clubs, sometimes more. The greens vary but tend to be small and sloping.

6th hole at Gypsy Hill.
Similar to what Ben Hogan once said about the Olympic Club in San Francisco, Gypsy Hill is the longest short course I've ever played. It can be deceptively hard, especially if you stray from the tight fairways.

I was out playing Gypsy Hill on Monday with my brother. That's when I snapped a few pics with my phone.

The colors were still gorgeous, but the leaves will be gone soon.

Monday, November 1

'BORN ON THE LINKS: A Concise History of Golf' By John Williamson


The title is BORN ON THE LINKS: A Concise History of Golf. It's written by John Williamson, an author and lawyer, as well as the founder of Argyle Publishing.

I share Mr. Williamson's interest in golf history, so it was easy for me to say yes when offered this title by his publisher, Lyon's Press. But I was surprised to learn the book was published in 2018, so it's not so new after all.

The paperback edition is 273 pages broken into 14 chapters and four appendices. I noticed the book has a positive rating on Amazon.

At first glance, and with some spot reading, I believe the author has accomplished his goal of putting forth a concise history of the game. There's a good amount of information packed into fewer than 300 pages. Mr. Williamson has a straightforward, just-the-facts style.

The book begins at the beginning, in the 15th century when a golf-like sport migrated from the Netherlands to Scotland. The first three chapters highlight the early history of the game leading up to golf coming to America.

I enjoyed reading some early rules written for a tournament played at Leith Links in Scotland in 1744. There were a total of 13 rules. They were titled "Articles and Laws in Playing at Golf."

No. 10 says, "If a ball is stopped by any person, horse, dog, or anything else, the ball so stopped must be played where it lies."

Some rules were artfully written: "He whose ball lies farthest from the hole is obliged to play first."

This was obviously the precursor to "you're away" and "you're still away." But wouldn't it be fun to occasionally say, "You're obliged to play first"?

The flow of the chapters makes sense. The author has incuded a chapter each about African Americans and women, whose golf stories are not as well known but are still illuminating. Even with barriers to entry, golf has attracted many people from many backgrounds. I have yet to play a sport or game that's more difficult than golf, which, I suspect, is a large part of the attraction.

As six-time Open champion Harry Vardon once said:

"Golf is the master of us all."