Golf is, in part, the evaluation of blades of grass; the careful contemplation of grains of sand; the extrasensory perception of the whims of air currents; the instrumentless survey of slopes and vales, rocks and rills. Its players flicker back and forth between worlds of nervelessness and nervousness, between states of suspended and explosive animation, executing a succession of three-dimensional forays inside a vast terrarium.
It is a game which is no easier to write about than to play, requiring as it does the interpretation of both physical and intellectual precision. Golf, nevertheless, has acquired through the centuries a huge literature of perhaps a higher quality than any other sport.
This is a thought which came forcibly to mind as I read through Herbert Warren Wind's just-published anthology, The Complete Golfer ( Simon and Schuster, $5), in which Tobias Smollett and Stephen Leacock share honors with Grantland Rice, O. B. Keeler, Ring Lardner and a host of other writers of distinction.
For Associate Editor Herb Wind, whose reports on the facts, fancies and intricacies of golf appear regularly in SI, this is the third book. His first, The Story of American Golf, appeared in 1948, followed in 1950 by a collaboration with Gene Sarazen on Sarazen's autobiography, Thirty Years of Championship Golf. Between books he has authored profiles for The New Yorker and a quantity of sports articles, predominantly on golf
As a young boy, Wind grew up in the shoe-manufacturing town of Brockton, Mass. In those pre-Marciano days of the '20s, one of Brockton's greatest claims to sports renown was four golf courses. Golf was there for the playing, and Wind began to play it, to the accompaniment of the great golf boom, sounding from the drums of Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen and Gene Sarazen. He continued to play it, through Yale, where he also played basketball, and Cambridge University, where he also played rugby; even through his years in the service, when the fortunes of war exposed him to some courses in China and Japan. He has played on every continent but Africa; and well enough to compete in the British Amateur in 1950, where he succumbed in the first round, but to a Walker Cup player, 3 and 1.
Wind holds a golf record which he is usually at some pains to conceal. When golfing mates once charged him with playing too slowly, he lined up three fleet caddies and then played 18 holes in 39 minutes (and 89 strokes). This is an unchallenged world's record, and Wind hopes it stays that way, for he feels in retrospect that the provocation did not warrant this ultimate, if highly skilled, expression of how not to play golf.
Bobby Jones has written in the introduction to Wind's latest book:
"Herb Wind is devoted to golf. He is a fine, sensitive writer on the game, whose works range from essays of the most accurately appreciative kind to some of the finest golf reporting I have ever read. Anyone familiar with his truly monumental Story of American Golf will attest to his thoroughness. I know that his search has been wide and that his selections have been made with high intelligence and integrity."
Naturally we are glad that the words from this most distinguished critic have as their subject the man who writes golf for SI.