Heath Robinson gently pokes fun at many aspects of the game of golf and golfers in this book. He didn't play golf himself and was probably in agreement with the saying that ‘golf is a good walk spoiled’ (and I am not going to enter into the debate about the origins of this quotation!). However, his lack of personal experience of the game might explain one oddity of his illustrations in Humours of Golf – the absence of sand-traps or bunkers as we know them today! Although, before we scoff at WHR’s golfing ignorance, according to the original introduction to Humours of Golf his ‘moveable bunker’ did actually exist: ‘At a certain sanatorium in Scotland, where the patients are allowed only a little gentle putting, hurdles on wheels form the hazard, and the course is altered week by week’ (from the introduction by Bernard Darwin, grandson of Charles Darwin).
We are all familiar with jibes about the clothes golfers wear, the challenges of maintaining a golf course when nature is determined to undermine (sometimes literally!) the greenkeeper’s efforts, and the frustrations of a difficult lie. Cartoons on all these topics have been included by WHR. However, as was his wont, he also provides lots of ideas for practical solutions and gadgets to help golfers overcome the many challenges they faced on the course. Several of these – for example, the universal golf club, the putter on rollers and the ‘Golf Guider for Hitting the ball on the Exact Spot’ - had really been invented in one form or another by actual golfers (though the putter on rollers was banned!).
‘Remarkable Avuncular Coincidence at One of the New Golf Courses in Palestine’
It is quite difficult to determine exactly what WHR’s message is in this illustration. After WWI the League of Nations created the Mandate system in order to administer parts of the defeated Ottoman Empire, which had been in control of the Middle East since the 16th century. In the early 1920s ‘Palestine’ was a geopolitical entity under British administration. The civil Mandate administration was formalized with the League of Nations’ consent in 1923 under the British Mandate for Palestine. During the British Mandate period (from 1923 until 1948) two major nationalist movements developed, one among the Jews and the other among the Arabs. Therefore, three interests (shown in the illustration as three golf balls) competed with each other for the territory – the struggle eventually leading to the Arab Revolt of 1936-39 and the Jewish insurgency in Palestine. Perhaps WHR hoped that the differences between the three competing interests in Palestine could be worked out on the golf course and a peaceful solution might be found through sport rather than conflict?
'Some Interesting Methods of Propaganda to Secure the Golfing Vote'
Nineteen twenty three was an election year in the UK, with the election held on Thursday 6 December. Clearly, this cartoon is referencing the campaigning that went on before the election. The illustration demonstrates that it was ‘the economy stupid’ that drove much of the campaigning and, indeed, much of the debate was about whether protectionism or free trade would best serve the country’s future. At the time the Conservatives were in favour of protectionism as they saw it as a way to drive down unemployment and Stanley Baldwin wanted to introduce protectionist tariffs on foreign imports. The election resulted in a hung parliament and McDonald formed the first ever Labour government. The Conservatives lost a great many seats to both Labour and the Liberals in a failed gamble by Baldwin designed to bolster his political leadership. WHR does not take sides here but he does demonstrate that the middle class golfers were a key target in the battle for votes.
'Some Golfing Novelties for the Next Season - II'
At the top of this cartoon is ‘The Luxor Golf Bag’ that references the fashion craze for Ancient Egyptian design that developed in Britain after Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922.
'Holed! Showing the Unfortunate Effect of not Keeping your Eye on the Ball'
This cartoon highlights the novelty of aeroplanes passing over head in 1923. Today no golfer would stop to look at a passing transatlantic passenger plane. However, in 1923, the appearance of an aeroplane, travelling fairly close to the ground and with an open cockpit, would have been an exciting novelty. Certainly enough to distract a couple on the golf course. For more on the early years of flight see our titles The Boys’ Book of Aeroplanes and Sky Roads of the World by Amy Johnson.
'Pogo Golf for 18-Hole Courses'
Finally, the modern pogo stick was invented in Germany in 1920. Pogo sticks were extremely popular in the 1920s and WHR reflects this fashion in this cartoon.
Heath Robinson’s Humours of Golf therefore gives so much to so many – entertainment, history and practical advice for enthusiastic golfers. The book is now available as an ebook so you can read it on your ereader or smart phone while you are waiting to tee off. To golfers who are also married home-owners with a garden and a car we offer our other titles by Heath Robinson:
- How to Live in a Flat
- How to be a Perfect Husband
- How to Make a Garden Grow
- How to be a Motorist