A Tonic For The Game – Golf Poetry

A Tonic For The Game – Golf Poetry


T'was on the links at Goficut — 
 A Jersey man was he; 
He'd come from old Miasmaville 
To play a game with me. 
And when we reached the seventh hole, 
Down by the high stone wall, 
I had a horrid stroke of luck, 
And lost my brand-new ball. 

"No other ball have I," quoth I, 
Nor had the caddy one; 
Nor was my visitor supplied, 

And gone seemed all our fun, 
When "Hi ! Eureka !" cried my friend, 

"These things will fill the bill!" 
And took a bottle from his bag 
And handed me a pill. 

A quinine pill, both smooth and round- 
A trifle small, no doubt — 
But still 'twas all we had at hand. 
And with it I played out. 
And oh, it was a wondrous sight 
To see that little sphere 
Go bounding o'er the bunkers high, 

And dancing o'er the mere. 

It lofted like a new balloon ; 
It stymied like a dream; 
It putt just like a croquet ball — 
Drove like a solar beam. 
It drove as straight as straight could be, 
Toward the wished-for goal, 
And brought me out a winner, ay, 
On each and every hole. 

And that is why, in spite of all 
The scoffing, jeering crowd, 
I always play with quinine pills, 
Whenever 'tis allowed. 
What care I that you think me mad? 
It never brings me shame 
To play with anything that acts 
As tonic to my game. 

- Carlyle Smith, in Lyrics of the Links, 1921

The quinine pill in this poem was a common treatment for the symptoms of malaria. Quinine also is a principal ingredient in tonic water. The poem’s title “A Tonic For The Game” therefore is a play on the idea that quine is in tonic.

As a side note, the classic Gin and Tonic was reportedly created by British soldiers in the East India Company in the 18th and 19th centuries. Quinine dissolved in water (Tonic Water) was consumed to help with malaria, but the bitter flavor of quinine was unpleasant. It therefore was mixed with gin to help make it more palatable.

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