Let me begin by stating that I do not play golf, I know nothing about the game and I care even less. My only feeling about the sport is they should make the holes bigger and the greens shorter. (In the name of journalistic balance I should add that I did once act as caddie for Tony Jacklin when he was assistant professional at Potters Bar Golf Club in the early 60’s. I was sacked for “not taking the game seriously”. Not taking what seriously? People with expensive sticks knocking little balls into holes in the ground?)

Golf has many stories and jokes associated with it. Here’s an example….

Vintage golf photo

GOLFER 1: I’ve got a golf ball that is impossible to lose. GOLFER 2: Really? GOLFER 1: Yes. Knock it into water and it floats. It glows in the dark and has a radio tracking device and GPS system built into it. It is specially scented to draw tracker dogs - and if you hit it into long grass it cries out “Over here! Over here!” GOLFER 2: That’s fantastic! Where did you get it? GOLFER 1: I found it!

(Loud rattling noise as people with expensive sticks collapse on ground with laughter.)

WWII Heinkel Bombers

One of the most popular golf stories is the one about the set of Temporary Rules drawn up by Richmond Golf Club during the early days of the Second World War. It goes like this…

In the autumn of 1940, towards the end of the Battle of Britain, the German Luftwaffe stopped targeting RAF airfields and directed its bombers to attack London and other major cities. As a result bombs fell onto the golf course in Richmond Park and destroyed a laundry used by Richmond Golf Club. (One source suggests this happened on 9th September 1940.) Realising that enemy attack could seriously disrupt a game of golf the club secretary drew up a set of rules to cope with any unexpected eventuality…

temporary rules


  1. Players are asked to collect Bomb and Shrapnel splinters to save these causing damage to the Mowing Machines.
  2. In Competitions, during gunfire or while bombs are falling, players may take cover without penalty for ceasing play.
  3. The positions of known delayed action bombs are marked by red flags at a reasonably, but not guaranteed, safe distance therefrom.
  4. Shrapnel and/or bomb splinters on the Fairways, or in Bunkers within a club’s length of a ball, may be moved without penalty, and no penalty shall be incurred if a ball is thereby caused to move accidentally.
  5. A ball moved by enemy action may be replaced, or if lost or destroyed, a ball may be dropped not nearer the hole without penalty.
  6. A ball laying in a crater may be lifted and dropped not nearer the hole, preserving the line to the hole, without penalty.
  7. A player whose stroke is affected by the simultaneous explosion of a bomb may play another ball from the same place. Penalty one stroke.

Apparently Dr Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, heard about the new rules and referred to them in a broadcast to Britain by Lord Haw-Haw (William Joyce)…

“By means of these ridiculous reforms the English snobs try to impress the people with a kind of pretended heroism. They can do so without danger, because, as everyone knows, the German Air Force devotes itself only to the destruction of military targets and objectives of importance to the war effort.”

The military targets clearly included the laundry at Richmond Golf Club.

The 1940 Temporary Rules story was quickly repeated around the world as an example of British phlegm and “stiff upper lip.” The “Los Angeles Times” of 30th December 1940 carried this report…

Richmond Golf Club


LONDON, Dec. 29. (Exclusive) A suburban golf club near London has framed a set of rules to guide players in stroking and scoring through bombs and whatever else falls from the sky.

One rule is that “in competitions during gunfire or while bombs are falling, players may take cover without penalty for ceasing play.”

Other reports at the time moved the story from 1940 to 1941 as in the ‘Pittsburg Gazette’ of July 15th 1941…

London golfers can take it even to the point where their game has to be adapted to a set of “Temporary Rules 1941”… Richmond golf club is just outside London in an area where Goehring’s Guys have been particularly busy with bombings… Notice of the “Temporary Rules” has been posted in the Richmond Club House.

Melrose mirror

A much more recent retelling of the story in the ‘ Melrose Mirror’, from Melrose, Massachusetts, published in June 2007, also redates the Temporary Rules to 1941 and includes a copy of the Rules to prove it.

There are some who claim that the Temporary Rules were drawn up by Major G.L Edsell, the Secretary of St Mellons Golf and Country Club, near Cardiff in response to enemy attacks on golf courses. A copy of these rules - drawn up to cope with special inconveniences - and “reproduced from the “Golfers Handbook with permission of the editor”, was posted in the club bar.

The Temporary Rules 1940 are a fine example of British pluck and resilience but I prefer to think that they were drawn up to amuse rather than inspire which of course is the British way. By doing one you achieve the other!

The word “Bogie” is used in both golf and the RAF. In RAF wartime slang “a bogey” was an unidentified and potentially hostile aircraft. (Once identified as hostile “a bogey” becomes “a bandit”) In golf “bogie” is one hole over par. Don’t ask me what that means. I know nothing about the game and I care even less!

– from Martyn Day