Stableford 100 years in existence

Most golf historians would have us believe that the Stableford scoring system was launched at the Wallasey club on Merseyside…

Most golf historians would have us believe that the Stableford scoring system was launched at the Wallasey club on Merseyside in the 1930s. But with the help of one of our readers, John Arrigan of Portlaoise, I have learned that the great benefactor of the high-handicapper actually unveiled his brainchild 100 years ago, this month.

It was 1990, however, before the information came to light. And it happened when a yellowed cutting from the South Wales Daily News was unearthed during research for the centenary history of the Glamorganshire club. The newspaper was reporting on the club's first autumn meeting on September 30th, 1898.

A footnote to the scores in the bogey competition read: "A special prize was given by Dr Stableford in connection with the foregoing event, the method of scoring being as follows: Each competitor plays against bogey level. If the hole is lost by one stroke only, the player scores one; if it is halved, the player scores two; if it is won by one stroke, the player scores three; and if by two strokes, the player scores four. To the score thus made, onethird of the player's medal handicap is added ...."

There we had it, the first Stableford competition which, incidentally, was won with 42 points. Apparently the good doctor, who was reputed to be a very capable golfer, didn't play.


It is not known whether the system, which recognised that one bad hole could ruin a round in all other forms of scoring at that time (V-Par had yet to be adopted), was tried again before it was resurrected 34 years later. In the event, the reasoning remained unchanged.

When captain of Glamorganshire in 1995, Bob Edwards made an exhaustive study of Stableford and his family. In the process, he commissioned a portrait of the doctor which now hangs in the clubhouse and he also organised a memorial plaque which was placed prominently outside.

On re-introducing it in 1932, the only change Stableford made in his system was that players added their full handicap to the points gained off scratch. The original system clearly favoured the better player.

Then came a further alteration. Severe gales in the autumn of 1932 made him aware that if no player scored any points on a particularly hostile day, the competitor with the highest handicap would automatically win. So, instead of adding the handicap allowance at the end, it would be taken at the relevant holes. This option would not have been available in 1898 when strokeindex had yet to be introduced.

Stableford was a British army surgeon in the Boer War. And after serving as a colonel in Italy and Malta during World War I, he returned to Wallasey where he became a familiar figure, driving a yellow Rolls Royce and wearing bright bow ties. He died in 1959, leaving club golfers with a wonderful legacy.

Country music, it seems, does wonders for the stress levels of pigs. In fact one particular owner claims scientific proof that a regular diet of Garth Brooks, Dolly Parton, Don Williams et al, has greatly enhanced the fattening-up process of his beloved hogs.

The only problem is that his farm happens to be situated directly beside the Florida Golf Club, near West Palm Beach. And members became so hogwild about the matter that they have taken legal action against the farmer, Paul Thompson, in an attempt at getting the music turned down.

Club officials have alleged that Thompson deliberately points his large amplifiers towards the golf course. And that the high-volume, twanging ditties are blasted only when the course is open. His alleged response was that the only way they could solve the problem would be to buy him out.

Thompson insisted: "I'm just doing this to help my pigs." And a local government official commented: "It's kind of like living next to a landfill, I guess. It all depends which way the wind is blowing. Either way, there's nothing we can do about it."

Writing snorters had no effect, so the hogtied club saw no option but to hand the matter over to their attorney. "Sure, you can say it's a weird case - until you're the guy with a substantial investment in this golf club," he said. "Then it's not funny any more." Now a judge must decide who's talking hogwash.

"Our business plan estimated 1998 revenues at somewhere near a billion dollars. We're likely to miss those projections by $200 million." - " Chief executive Don Dye on the falling sales of Callaway equipment.

Eddie Butler has been telling me about his trip to the Curtis Cup in Minneapolis, where his wife, Ita, was captain of the vanquished British and Irish team. From his standpoint, one of the highlights of the trip was a meeting with Jackie Burke, the former US Masters and USPGA champion.

Now 75, Burke was there to see his 35-year-old wife Robin as a member of the US team for which she qualified largely on the basis of being runner-up in the 1997 US Women's Amateur. They have a nine-year-old daughter, Megan.

"When I told him I was a member of Portmarnock, he recalled his 1955 Ryder Cup match against Harry Bradshaw at Palm Springs," said Butler. "Seeing this portly guy with three overlapping fingers of the right hand, he smiled to himself that he was in for an easy match.

"So, he admitted that he got quite a shock to find himself level at lunchtime (the matches then were over 36 holes), having shot a morning round of 65." As it happened, the Brad had a run of six successive threes. But he eventually ran out of steam, losing by 3 and 2 to the American.

Golf, it could be argued, has more than enough associations. But the one founded earlier this year by Jay Larson is refreshingly different. "We'd like to convey the message to golfers everywhere that with very little effort, they could play a round in 20 or 30 minutes less," said the executive vice-president of the International Speed Golf Association.

The idea dates back to 1979 when Steve Scott, American record-holder of the mile with a time of 3 minutes 47.69 seconds, attempted to break the golf mark in the Guinness Book of Records. This he did with a round of 95 in just over 29 minutes, his only concession being a teed-up ball waiting for him on every tee.

But in the inaugural outing of ISGA at Rancho Bernardo Inn, near San Diego, Larson shot a remarkable two-over-par 74 in 40 minutes 17 seconds. A total of 51 competitors took part and the course was cleared by 10.0am. In the process, 21 players finished in less than an hour and shot 90 or better. Nobody took more than 80 minutes for 18 holes.

Meanwhile, recalling his record effort of 19 years ago, Scott said: "We wondered what would be the fastest way to do it. I eventually settled on using just one club, a three-iron. I figured I'd save time by not dropping and picking up clubs and the greens would be wet with early-morning dew, so they wouldn't be fast. I didn't lose a single ball."

But he had problems at the 17th where he snapped the shaft of the club in attempting to hit a ball under a tree. As he ran up to his next shot, Scott yelled to his caddie for a replacement club. "He throws me a nine-iron and I remember telling him to give me something else, a five-iron," he said. "And I finished the round with a five-iron."

This Day In Golf History . . . . On September 12th 1968, Tommy Armour, affectionately known as the Silver Scot, died aged 71, having had a highly successful golfing career, despite the disability of losing an eye in the first World War. The story goes that on receiving eight pieces of shrapnel in a shoulder wound, he leapt from a tank and killed a German officer with his bare hands.

Born in Edinburgh, Armour emigrated to the US in 1922 and became social secretary at the Westchester-Biltmore Club at the then huge salary of $10,000 per year. On turning professional he had major triumphs in the 1927 US Open and the 1931 British Open at Carnoustie. Between those wins, he became the first European-born player to capture the USPGA title, beating Gene Sarazen in the 1930 final at Fresh Meadows CC, New York.

He later became a highly respected golf instructor and his book, How to Play Your Best Golf All the Time, is considered to be a classic.

Teaser: In matchplay, a player played a stroke and dislodged a large stone. The stone struck his partner's or an opponent's ball, which was lying about four yards ahead and moved it. What is the ruling?

Answer: The stone was an outside agency and Rule 18-1 (Ball at rest moved by an outside agency) applies. The partner or opponent must replace his ball. In the circumstances, the player should not be held to have moved the ball. Accordingly, Rules 18-2a(i) and 18-3b are not applicable and no penalty is incurred.