History Lesson

Which of these extremely British people played golf?

July 19, 2017

On the occasion of the Open Championship, which of Her Majesty's subjects have golf experience (not, it turns out, Her Majesty, as discussed below)?

Winston Churchill

Once a reasonably decent player, Churchill is said to have evolved into a reluctant player at best, one who considered the game “a mere adjunct to conversation.” (This may be because according to his son Randolph he was also reasonably lousy at it.) But he is attached to two ageless golf quotes — probably? The internet has basically made it so no one will ever know who truly coined a phrase ever again, but Churchill is credited with saying (if not inventing) the quote, “Like chasing a quinine pill around a cow pasture.” We have no idea what a quinine pill is, but that sounds hard. And finally, Churchill delivered this perennial finalist for Greatest Golf Quote of All Time: “Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an even smaller hole, with weapons singularly ill-designed for the purpose.” Jeez, when you put it that way, this sport sounds frustrating.

Related: The Beatles played golf exactly once, kind of

The Royal Family

Samir Hussein

Yeah, not so much. Prince Charles isn’t a golfer, nor are his sons, William and Harry (though the former met Kate Middleton at the University of St. Andrews). The most avid golfer in the family is Prince Andrew, who was said to be a pretty good stick in his day. He also absorbs a lot of media flak for using taxpayer money to play golf, which is something we here in America certainly wouldn’t know anything about.

Sean Connery

Chris Ware/Keystone/Getty Images

Born in Scotland, the world’s best-ever wearer of a kilt first took golf lessons to prepare for the iconic Bond v. Goldfinger v. Oddjob (sorta) scene in “Goldfinger” and got properly hooked. (No word on whether he played to prepare for “Dragonheart,” but probably.) The scene has gone on to become legend in both golf and Bond circles, and to date no other Bond has played on-screen, not even Roger Moore on the moon. Connery said that though the Oscar he won for “The Untouchables” in 1987 was nice, winning the Silver Jubilee at St. Andrews that year was better.

King George V

The king of the United Kingdom from 1910 to 1936 once said, “Golf always makes me so damned angry.” Dude, you’re the king, ban it or something.

Mr. Bean

Obviously, this is a big yes. But here’s a fun fact learned while researching this piece: Wikipedia descriptions of Mr. Bean playing golf are probably better than the actual videos. “He then hits the ball out of the golfing grounds and this takes Bean on a very elaborate journey, as the ball ends up on a bus, inside a lady's shopping bag (she is later seen explaining the scene to a police officer), on a boy's ice cream, up the exhaust pipe of a Proton Saga (causing the engine to explode), down a drain, on a rubbish cart and, finally, onto the village green.” Man, I need to donate to this site.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The creator of Sherlock Holmes was perpetually sore at being remembered primarily for a character he considered a trifle. In reality, Conan Doyle was also a physician, historian, politician, spiritualist, Freemason, boxer, séance-holder apparently, soccer and rugby player, cricketer, skier, hot-air balloonist and, yes, pretty solid golfer. It’s said that Conan Doyle conceived of “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” the story that resurrected Holmes after an eight-year hiatus, while on a weekend golf trip at Royal Cromer in England.

Sideshow Mel

Is not known to have played any golf. Actually we only think he’s British because he speaks like a drunken Shakespearean when not in characters, so maybe he shouldn’t be on this list.

Harry Potter

There are exactly zero crucial golf references in any of the seven “Harry Potter” novels, which seems weird for a series that contains 9 billion words. You’d think one of the minor characters would at least mention it, even if it’s just someone from Hufflepuff. Thankfully, heroic muggle Michelle Wie addressed this oversight in May with her series of amazing Harry Potter-themed wedges, all emblazoned in part with the spell “Wingardium Leviosa,” which, like we need to tell you, makes things fly.


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