Once at Royal Birkdale Golf Club


In 1961, the Masters Champion Arnold Palmer came to Britain to take part in the Open Championship, at a time when few American golfers bothered to make the journey. The weather was appalling, with high winds and rain storms lashing the seaside course at Birkdale. The tournament was in danger of being abandoned but the rain relented slightly on the last day, though the wind was still gusting to 50mph. Palmer went into the last round just leading Dai Rees, then Captain of the British Ryder Cup team. On the par four 15th Palmer’s drive missed the fairway by a few yards and rolled into a particularly nasty patch of rough…


Once at Royal Birkdale Golf Club
Stood a fearsome bramble patch,
Where a golfer drove his golf ball,
In a most important match.
Arnold was that golfer’s name,
Bright young hero of the game.

He came up to view the damage,
Drew a seven from his bag,
Time to lay one up for safety,
Rather than attempt the flag.
In that cold and howling gale,
One could not afford to fail.

Then he paused to reconsider,
With his caddy mouthing, No!
Chose instead a longer iron,
Gave the ball an awesome blow.
And it sailed towards the pin,
Two fine putts to roll it in.

One hour later at the clubhouse –
Honestly, I kid you not –
Arnold Palmer won the Open,
Won it by a single shot.
And they placed a brazen plaque,*
Where he dealt that mighty whack.

In our own poor, lonely briar patch,
Having played a wayward stroke,
We too make our bold decisions,
Chip it out, or go for broke?
Golfers, do you dare to be
Wise and brave as Arnold P?


*It’s still there