I hold a world record at golf and it’s one I’m rather proud of.
It happened at the fourth hole of my local course, here on the east coast of Scotland. In the five seconds between my ball leaving the clubface and splashing into a pond 100 yards right of the fairway, I managed to swear 17 times. Apparently, this beat the previous record of 14, held by someone called Frankie “Foul-Mouth” McFadden at a course in northern Idaho.
It was shortly after this incident that I invented the game of “swolf,” a rather neat combination, as you might have guessed, of “swearing” and “golf.” The object is to play a round in which the number of expletives used is smaller than the number of strokes taken.
For example, if you shoot an 87, you win if you utter 86 or fewer cusses. I’ve never actually won at this but I came close once. I was standing on the 18th green needing a three-foot putt for an 83. I’d only sworn 79 times during the round so I even had a little bit of leeway. Anyway, I missed the putt and ended up with a swearing scorecard of 95. Still, it’s a fine game and I recommend it.
I’ve only once played golf outside of my native Scotland and that was at the Briarwood Golf Club, near Billings. A friend, Matt Benacquista, had arranged for us to play nine holes at the course and what a spectacular place it is.
It’s also rather more sedate than I’m used to so I quickly realized that my customary “enthusiastic” language might not be appreciated by the members.
On the first tee, I was under pressure. I’m Scottish, I live 20 minutes from St. Andrews and I was clearly expected to smash my opening drive 300 yards down the middle of the fairway.
I didn’t. Like a kangaroo with sore feet, my ball gently bounced about 90 yards before giving up. Now, I’m no expert in acoustics but I blame the surrounding hills for the way my heart-felt expletive echoed round the course.
A group playing on a nearby green turned toward us and I did the only thing I could—I pointed my club at Matt and shook my head in apology. Things looked up after that and I completed the round without too much further embarrassment.
It was a fine day which, for me, included a rather strange moment. Halfway through our round, an extremely attractive young lady turned up on a buggy and offered to sell us various forms of alcohol, from ice-cold beer to wines and spirits.
I declined but, while appreciating the sophistication of this, couldn’t help wondering about the effects of a similar service being offered back on my local course in Scotland. I reckon that my golfing partners and I would be found, sound asleep, in the bunker by the 10th hole.
There’s an extremely spooky follow-up to my Briarwood experience and it’s absolutely true. Six or seven years later, I was back playing on my local course in Scotland with my regular, long-suffering golfing partner.
On one particular hole, he’d had a disaster and it had taken him about five shots to reach the green. Rather than play on, he conceded the hole and asked me throw his ball back. As I picked it up, I noticed a purple logo and, out of interest, checked the wording round it.
It read “The Briarwood Billings MT.” Apparently, my friend had found it on the course the previous day and had decided to use it. He hadn’t even bothered to check the wording. This ball was almost 5,000 miles from home and came from the only course in the world outside Scotland that I had ever played.
Even then, the chances of me being in a situation to actually LOOK at his ball were remote, to say the least. The chain of coincidences involved was stunning and it won’t surprise you to know what I did next.
Roger Kettle lives in Newport-on-Tay, Scotland, near St. Andrews. He has been a comic strip writer for more than 35 years. He has two long-running strips in the U.K., “Beau Peep,” a Foreign Legion spoof, and “A Man Called Horace,” a Western spoof based on Dorothy M. Johnson’s short story “A Man Called Horse,” later made into a movie. Kettle also wrote “Andy Capp” for 11 years after the death of creator Reg Smythe. He has used Billings as a base of operations to explore the American West on several vacation trips. He also wrote one of our favorite installments in the Last Best News series Lay of the Land.
The accompanying illustration is by Steve Bright, or Brighty, as he signs his work. He is one of Britain’s top cartoonists. Feast your peepers on his work at his website, http://www.brighty-art.co.uk/.