"Of all the frivolous activities we supposedly higher apes have devised in the name of entertainment, surely there is none as silly as golf," declared my friend Sherlock Holmes one day. "Why a man who is free to do so many things would choose to spend the better part of a day striking and then hunting down a small ball is a mystery beyond even my powers to solve."
Although Holmes had never made a secret of his disdain for athletic competition, which he deemed a pointless expenditure of energy, the bitterness of his outburst took me by surprise. We were in our Baker Street chambers, I with a book, while he lay motionless on the divan in a posture of utter lassitude. It was the summer of 1895, and we had just completed one of the busiest periods in Holmes's great career. In the past few months he had brought to a halt the curious harassment of Miss Violet Smith, the "solitary cyclist" of Charlington, and had traveled to the Continent at the request of Leo XII to investigate the mysterious death of Cardinal Tosca. Soon, Holmes would put his considerable talent for disguise to good use in solving the case of Black Peter. I knew from experience that gloomy depressions often followed periods of intense excitement, so I did not despair.
"I see you have been reading the Times' preview of the upcoming Open championship," I remarked as casually as possible.
"Bravo, Watson!" said Holmes, leaping to his feet. "You know my methods well. You've noted a fact—that I've offered my opinion of golf, which is rather low. You've combined it with another fact, namely that I retrieved the paper from our doorstep not an hour ago. And from the two you have drawn a quite reasonable inference, albeit a rudimentary one. I have been reading the Times' piece on the Open. It...."
But before he could finish, a knock came at the door. Poking her head around the corner, Mrs. Hudson said, "There's a gentleman to see you, sir. Says it's most urgent."
It must indeed have been urgent, for no sooner had she spoken this word than a young gentleman stepped into the room. From his demeanor, it was impossible not to receive the impression that he was being eaten alive by his own nerves. He was a good four inches under six feet, I would judge, with sandy-brown hair and a stocky build. He wore a neatly trimmed mustache and a tweed suit, and he seemed utterly incapable of standing still.
"I'm terribly sorry to intrude," said our visitor, his eyes darting from one of us to the other. "But I must speak to Mr. Sherlock Holmes."
"I am Sherlock Holmes. Please sit down," said my friend, gesturing to a chair while he studied our visitor keenly. "How are things at Westward Ho!? I trust you've worked the kinks out of your sand game?"
I thought our poor visitor would collapse. "This is astonishing," he said, recovering himself. "My accent, I suppose, identifies me as Devonian. But how can you possibly know that I am a golfer and have been working these past few weeks at the Westward Ho! club on improving my sand game?"
Holmes smiled. "Westward Ho! is the only real course in the west country. I took an educated guess. And as to the sand, when you sat down a few grains of sand fell from your trouser cuffs." Holmes stooped to examine the floor. "Here they are on the rug. I am the author of a small monograph on the 17 distinct types of sand found from Land's End to John o' Groat's. This sand is of the fine variety quarried in Cornwall and used predominantly in golf-course bunkers in that area. You are either an extraordinarily bad golfer, or an extremely diligent one who has spent the morning standing ankle deep in the stuff, practicing."