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Review of The Long Golden Afternoon by Stephen Proctor

By: | Fri 27 May 2022 | Comments


Review by Golfshake Ambassador Andy Picken


Golf is a game of context.

The Long Golden Afternoon is the latest book by journalist and golf historian Stephen Proctor.

It is already being talked about in the terms of it becoming an instant classic.

History, heritage and the traditions of the sport provide the foundations for the global enterprise we all currently enjoy.

The game's origins and derivations give clues and indications to why we follow contemporary practice. I love to draw the line back from today to the originators and developers of our amazing game.

We literally tread in the footsteps of our forbearers and the 150th Open to be played at St Andrews provides a perfect opportunity for rearward reflection in order to ensure that the next 150 years go forward with a similar level of success.

The Long Golden Afternoon is currently available for pre-order awaiting publishing on 16th June 2022.

Introduction

The Long Golden Afternoon

Stephen Proctor is a highly accomplished journalist who has devoted the last decade studying the history of the royal and ancient game.

If you enjoyed Monarch of the Green - his previous classic, this is a must-read book.

It provides detail about the Age of Glory for golf specifically reviewing the period between 1864 to 1914.

This was the period in history when the Scottish game became global and Stephen explains how this process developed through the battles between the Thistle and the Rose in both amateur and professional ranks.

The Scottish game migrated south to England and with it came the ancient rivalries that are still present today whenever the ‘Auld Enemy’ compete at any sport.

The amateur golfers were mainly gentlemen or miltary as opposed to those who became the first professional keepers of the green who were from less humble origins.

As an amateur student of the history of the game, I really appreciated the excellent indexing provided which links both individuals and also separate events linking them to the main narrative.

Enthralling Read

This book is a wonderful read and reference work for anyone interested in the game of golf.

Proctor provides mental imagery through his words that is supported by some beautiful illustrations of the main characters in this ambitious publication.

This is a genuine page turner as it follows the game's development chronologically during the period under review. It gives an insight into all the main exponents of the sport as both administrators and competitors.

It's of particular relevance given the history and importance of The Open venues to the standing of the game as a whole.

It is beautifully, but digestibly detailed. Stephen's writing style is that of an exemplary journalist providing a commentary and observations utilising contemporary press reports, scorecards and his knowledge of this period in history.

As the game developed in popularity so too did the chroniclers who shared the sport to a wider audience through the written word.

He has a total understanding of the characters and their personalities and is able to bring that knowledge into play by bringing to life the dry, statistical review of simple scorecards and results.

I love how he describes the important matches providing the reader with mind’s eye images allowing a replay of the events described. This is a genuine skill and I am envious of it.

It explains how ancient rights and rituals came to be of importance even now. He provides an understanding of the politics and processes of the game to provide the origin of the rules and administrations that we are all governed by today.

Contemporary Relevance

Given the current LIV controversy and its Saudi Arabian backing, I was astonished to discover that a similar type of event happened in the late 1890s.

There was a movement to take The Open from Musselburgh to Muirfield in 1891. At that time Muirfield was deemed to be a less interesting and challenging golf course than Musselburgh. It also lacked direct train station access, the nearest being four miles away with no easily accessible local accommodation for the competitors.

Political influence ensured the move was made but the people of Musselburgh responded to the change by offering a matched purse of £100 for an event that they proposed to be run at the same time as The Open.

Eventually, negotiations ensured that both events went ahead but the dates were changed slightly.

The major beneficiaries were the golf professionals themselves who were now enabled to play two £100 purse events within a two-week period at the same general location. 

This opportunity was the catalyst for many additional professionals to try their hand in the high-profile events as it was financially worth the cost of travel.

Chronicling The Development of Golf

Rivalry emerged between those north and south of the River Tweed, heightened when The Open was taken to Royal St George's and Hoylake.

The battle between the Rose and the Thistle was a major factor in the increasing popularity of the game in England. This in turn led to a substantial increase in the number of courses in England and the game's foundation stones were laid when The R&A was installed as the lead administrative force.

Rule changes were developed with the last being declared as The R&A became an arbiter for any disputes about the rules thus installing it as the governing body of the game for eternity.

The Scottish influence in the USA was formed through the success of the travelling golfer who was capable of both teaching and designing and creating golf courses.

This was truly a golden era of increasing popularity of the game and its influence around the globe.

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I know it will become a regularly used point of reference. It is Highly Recommended. 


You can pre-order The Long Golden Afternoon via Birlinn or purchase via Amazon or Waterstones. To connect with the author, please follow Stephen Proctor on Twitter.


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