Golf’s long interplay with conflict
BAGHDAD (AP) — The golf course in Baghdad’s Green Zone is just the game’s latest interplay with war.
Think of Bob Hope, carrying a club onstage as entertained troops for nearly six decades. Or the characters Hawkeye and Trapper in the film and long-running TV show MASH, chipping golf balls during the Korean War.
“People who play golf will play anywhere — in a war zone, in the middle of madness,” said Dale Concannon, a former PGA golfer and author of the 2004 book, “Bullets, Bombs & Birdies: Golf in the Time of War.”
One of the first written mentions of golf concerned war.
“In the mid-1400s, golf was banned in Scotland because it was interfering with compulsory archery practice, which the Scots needed to fight against the English,” Concannon said. “The punishment was a week’s wages.”
A Time magazine article from Sept. 30, 1940, demonstrated the British resolve to continue golf, despite Germany bombing.
A group of golfers at a suburban London club paused in the midst of their round to watch a dogfight between a British and a German pilot. After the German plane was shot down not far from the 13th fairway, play continued.
“I was two down when we broke off our game,” R.A. White, a club pro, told the magazine. “But I was so exhilarated by the success (of the British pilot) that I then shot four birdies in a row and won my match.”
Perhaps the man who most tied golf to conflict was Dwight D. Eisenhower in his military days before the White House.
He managed to squeeze in a few holes on most days while in England serving as Allied supreme commander in World War II. After the invasion of Normandy, Eisenhower chose as his living quarters the Guex Golf Course clubhouse in the Champagne region of France.
Eisenhower even got the legendary golfer Bobby Jones Jr. involved in the war. Despite being too old for service, Jones desperately wanted to be part of the war effort, Concannon said.
“He went to Dwight D. Eisenhower personally … and Eisenhower arranged for Bobby Jones to be with the troops on D-Day and beyond,” he said.
The affable Jones was used to “gently interrogate posh German officers,” Concannon said.
Published in The Messenger 5.14.08