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A Highlander and his Books
The Greatest Game

Edited by Frank R. Shaw, FSA Scot, Dawsonville, GA, USA, Email:

The Ancyent & Healthfulle Exercyse of the Golff
By Hugh Dodd & Prof. David Purdie
With A Foreword by Colin Montgomerie

This is a fun book, very enjoyable. To describe it as hilarious is not a stretch since the book is extremely amusing and boisterously merry! It is also a beautiful book – one of the best and I am proud to own it! Its subject is one of Scotland’s greatest discoveries, and I am not talking about penicillin, television, telephone, or whisky. I’m talking about the game of golf! The book was conceived, illustrated and written by two very successful men, one a Scottish artist and the other a current “disused medical academic” who writes, lectures, and broadcasts. One will paint you as beautiful a scene as you ever imagined and the other will write you a speech worthy of Parliament. Both will have you in stitches throughout this cleverly written and illustrated publication. Meet Hugh Wood and David Purdie, as irreverent a pair as you will ever find. They have reached the point in their lives that nothing between the first and last green is sacred. I can only surmise that they have a very healthy respect for the game of golf. Each one’s creativity compliments the other, and you’ll find humorous prose and illustrious illustrations offering a view of golf never seen before.

I love the book because, to my surprise, I found it was dedicated to me…well, you too…and hundreds of thousands like us who ever “teed it up”! The book gets off to a roaring start with two poems:

In the Garden of Eden lay Adam
Lasciviously gazing at Madam,
And he cracked with mirth, ‘cos in all of the Earth
There were only two balls – and he had ‘em!

Maybe the alternative translation is more accurate:

In the Gardens of Eden stood Adam
Avariciously gazing at Madam;
He’d his clubs – and a Game
But one problem remained,
There were only two balls – and she had ’em!

Yes, you are in for a treat - just think, these two poems are on page 3 with 152 more giant-size ones to go.

I mentioned David Purdie’s name to Richard Graham, a friend at the Burns Club of Atlanta, who informed me that Professor Purdie had spoken at the Burns Club when Thorne Winter, MD, was president. I quickly called Thorne and he relayed that David was also honored at a reception by Robert Cruickshank featuring different single malts, so one can only assume that a good time was had by all. Among the courses David played during his Atlanta visit was the prestigious Capital City Country Club. It became evident from Purdie’s stay in Georgia that he was not only a good golfer but a great speaker as well.

We will take a brief look at some of its chapters so you can get a taste of this delightful book filled with history and more humor than the law should allow. One of the best chapters is on Mary, Queen of Scots. Since no woman before Mary is known to have played golf, it is easy to say she was the first-lady of golf. After all, she was Queen of Scotland and former Queen of France, but that’s another story. More importantly, and keeping with the irreverent theme of Dodd and Purdie, the answer to why the ladies’ tee boxes in Scotland are always colored red may have something to do with Purdie’s description of Mary as the “ravishing and flame-haired Queen”. You must read this chapter to see if she really lost her head over the game of golf as so many have!

Two very humorous and highly irreverent men, Hugh Dodd and David Purdie

I’ve always been told that Scots came to America bringing with them their bibles, Robert Burns, and Sir Walter Scott. I’ve never really thought about it before, but now we learn that “their love of a certain ancient game” found its way over as well. In August of 1743 the good ship Magdalena sailed from Leith, basically the Port of Edinburgh, and made its way to Charleston, South Carolina. Among the cargo of salt and sailcloth was “8 doz. Clubs & 3 gross balls”. The “3 gross balls” is not a reference to size but the number of golf balls on board. Looks like 432 golf balls and 96 golf clubs came into Charleston. “Charleston, however, seems to be where it all began in America”, according to Purdie, and was the fourth largest city in the colonies at that time. He goes on to say that the golf cargo “…would have been sufficient to equip a dozen competent golfers for a decade, or a score of hackers for a fortnight”. One thing is for sure, the Magdalena’s Captain, William Carse, “brought the greatest game to America”.

What is not mentioned is that Charleston is composed of two different kinds of locals, those who live above Broad Street and those who live below. Then as now, those above Broad are the regular people while those below are referred to as SOBs – South of Broad. The latter is as blue blood as you can find, or so they think. Both groups do agree that when the Cooper and Ashley rivers merge, the Atlantic Ocean is formed. That is pure gumbo logic! Yes, I’m a wee familiar with that area of South Carolina having graduated from North Charleston High School, a Charleston County school.

There is a chapter of advice for those who make the trip to Scotland for golfing. Americans would do well to read this chapter with a yellow marker, underlining what to do and not do on the Scottish links. Don’t expect the luxury of a shower at the end of the day in the clubhouse or luscious green grass on the seaside courses, and certainly don’t argue with your caddy. You are advised to mention Bannockburn each day you play and to avoid petrol (gas) sticker shock since the price of a gallon equivalent is around $6.50. (This may not apply much longer to those of us in the States with our gas prices now nearing $5 a gallon.)

Just remember these are brief looks at just three of the many chapters in the book. Much joy and mirth awaits you within. It is much more than a coffee table publication and I’m sure you will find a way to display it in a conspicuous place in your home or office. This book “explores the real and fictional history of the game from its foundations in ancient times to the present in humorous prose and brilliant illustrations”. It is a must read for the golfer as well as the would-be golfer. Where else would you learn that Shakespeare was a golfer as was Rembrandt? I’ll bet there are many other unknown facts and inventions throughout that will fascinate the reader.

I close with a conversation overheard on an airplane between four totally addicted golfers who were returning to America after two weeks in Scotland playing every course worth mentioning. The two fellows in front were on their knees facing their buddies behind them before the plane taxied to the runway. You could not help but hear them, loud and boisterous, across the aisle from us. After they had rehashed the holes they had all done well on, they grew silent and somber. Then one of the men on his knees said to the other three, “We are really going to pay big time for these two weeks when we get back to our wives. Mine told me on the phone this morning that she was planning on being in New York for two weeks shopping, and I could take care of the kids”. “Wow!” one of them exclaimed while another said, “I didn’t want to ruin our last evening together but mine called from The Plaza in New York with the same message”. And the fourth one merely uttered “Dear God”…

The book is available in the US through Interlink Books or email: and for Scotland/UK orders, please email - or from Birlinn Limited.

You can also order this book through Electric Scotland's own Amazon Shopping Mall in either the USA or UK stores at

(FRS: 5.12.11)

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