Origin Of The Golf Term Bogey
While the modern definition of Bogey is playing a hole in one over par, the original meaning was something more akin to par.
Until the 1890s, golf courses generally were not measured by the number of strokes a scratch player should require to finish the hole—what we now know as par. A hole was simply what it was. (See this article for a further discussion of par.)
In the early part of that decade, however, the secretaries of separate clubs, including Coventry, Great Yarmouth and the United Services Club, adopted the idea of a “ground score” for each hole. One version of the story says that ground scores originated at Coventry with Hugh Rotherham; another credits a Dr. Browne at Great Yarmouth. It’s likely both are true. Ideas often spring simultaneously from several sources.
The word Bogey comes from a popular song of the day called “The Bogey Man” :
Children, have you ever met the bogey man before?
No, of course you haven’t for you’re much too good I’m sure
Don’t you be afraid of him if he should visit you
He’s a great big coward so I’ll tell you what to do
Hush hush hush, here comes the bogey man
Don’t let him come too close to you, he’ll catch you if he can
Just pretend that you’re a crocodile
and you will find the bogey man will run away a mile
The elusive Bogey Man became associated with the elusive pursuit of the ground score, and the ideal score was “Bogey.” Players became used to competing against “Mr. Bogey.”
Many stories about the origin of “Bogey” quote a line from the song as “I’m the Bogey Man, catch me if you can.” However, I’ve not found any version with those lyrics. Every one I’ve seen says “He’ll catch YOU if he can.” The word also is spelled “Boogey” in several versions. The end of the song, however, speaks to his fleeting nature:
Say Meoow, pretend that you’re a cat
He’ll think you may scratch him that make him fall down flat
Just pretend he isn’t really there
You will find that Bogey man will vanish in thin air
Here’s one way to catch him without fail
Just keep a little salt with you
and put it on his tail
The Boogey Man was a derivation of “bogle” or “boggart” which was a sort of goblin from the folklore of the English Isles. A Boggart is a mischevious spirit, causing milk to sour, things to disappear and all sorts of minor household chaos. The Boogey Man is slightly more dangerous, and was used as means of frightening children into proper behavior: “Stop pestering your sister, or the Boogey Man will get you.”
A story associated with the term Bogey suggests the origin of the Colonel Bogey march, a version of which was made famous in the movie, “Bridge On The River Kwai.” Published in 1914 by Lieutenant F. J. Ricketts, a British army bandmaster (under the pseudonym Kenneth Alford), The Colonel Bogey March apparently references the golfing term. Legend has it that the United Services Club at Gosport became accustomed to competing against “Colonel Bogey” because “Mr. Bogey” was not a member of the armed services and thus had no rank. Ricketts was a golfer, and thus familiar with the military version of Bogey. A further story is that the descending minor third interval at the beginning of each stanza comes from a whistle a club member used as a substitute for “Fore.”