Grammar

Are you golfing or playing golf? Washington Post readers debate

May 15, 2017

These are contentious times in Washington, where debates rage on any number of important issues, large and small. Among the latter: Should the word golf be used as a verb? No kidding.

The Washington Post started the kerfuffle among readers with this headline on an op-ed column by Matthew Algeo last month: The president who golfed too much (it's not Donald Trump).

“I suspect serious golfers cringed when they spotted the headline,” Philip C. Meyer wrote in a letter to the editor. “I’ve been playing golf for more than 60 years and have never heard a serious golfer use ‘golf’ as a verb, even though you can find a dictionary reference to such.

“In the lexicon of serious golfers, ‘golf’ is exclusively a noun.

“Serious golfers play golf. They never golf or go golfing.”

Another reader, Mary Boyd Click, wrote, “[I]n defense of golfers everywhere, someone please tell op-ed writer Matthew Algeo, all readers and the world that ‘golf’ is not a verb.

“Do we ‘go tennissing?’ Do we ‘go baseballing?’”

Of course, it could not go unchallenged. Lisa Osterheld countered with this: “If swimmers swim and runners run and skiers ski, it follows that golfers golf.”

Jon R. Simon amusingly noted “that our English tongue is frequently yanked and twisted, with some miscreants verbing nouns.” He cited the Town Council of St. Andrews, Scotland, in 1769, wrote, “that the part of the Links as presently golfed upon…”

And so it goes. As for those who do "go golfing," the golf ball shown above is available at CafePress, $14.95 a sleeve.

Golf Digest’s position, incidentally, is this, taken from the Golf Digest Stylebook: Avoid: I golfed today. Preferred: I played golf. Avoid using as a verb except in quotes. No: I went golfing. Yes: I played golf. OK as a modifier: “golf buddies” or “golfing buddies.”

For the record, I am neither golfing nor playing golf today. It’s raining.


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