Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Bogey Golf

Posted by Elyse Bruce on July 28, 2011

Bogey golf is a strange term that is oftentimes misunderstood and refers to the level of proficiency of the player.  If a par 4 hole is completed in 5 swings, the player has scored a bogey. And if a player accomplishes this on every hole, he is playing bogey golf.

Colonel Bogey is a name given in golf to an imaginary player whose score for each hole is settled by the committee of the particular club and is supposed to be the lowest that an average player could do it in.  If you get a bogey, it means you have played the hole in fewer strokes than what is set for that hole.

Officially, Colonel Bogey was recognized by the United States Golf Association in December 1956, and the bogey was given its first official definition, according to a number of news reports.  The Colonel was officially identified as “a quiet, modest and retiring gentleman, uniformly steady but never over-brilliant” … or so reported the Miami News on December 16, 1956 in their news article, “Colonel Bogey Gets Recognized.”

The Eugene Register newspaper carried a news story on June 19, 1991 that was written by journalist Jim Murray of the Los Angeles Times entitled, “Hardly Worth An Extra Day.”  The story was about the 91st U.S. Open golf tournament and the trials and tribulations of Scott Simpson compared to golden boy, Payne Stewart‘s ease with the course.  His final paragraph summed it up with:

I yield to no man in my admiration for bogey golf.  But why keep poor Scott Simpson twisting in th wind when you knew he was going to go over the cliff at 16.  Just remember, 16 is not sweet in the Simpson household.  You might not want to sing about cool, clear water, either.

On July 12, 1963 the Deseret News published an article written by journalist Henry W. Thornberry entitled, “New Zealand Southpaw Grabs Title In British Open Playoff.” His focus was on the British Open Playoff being held at Lytham-St. Anne’s in England and two golfers in particular — Bob Charles and Phil Rodgers.

The 25-year-old Rodgers, who trailed by five strokes after the first two of the afternoon round, narrowed that deficit to one by the 25th hole.  But after Charles had matched Rodgers’ long birdie putt on the 26th, the Yank lapsed into bogey golf and rapidly dropped out of contention.

The April 25, 1922 edition of the Evening News from San Jose, California reported on the Indian Pow Wow that was due to take place from May 8 to 14 in Del Monte, California.  The article entitled “Calif. Indians Plan Big Pow Wow” included this interesting bit of information:

Features of the meeting will be a trapshooting tournament, a golf tournament, with side competitors on the links, and a series of field sports.  The program follows:

Monday, May 8 – 100 target preliminary race; blind bogey golf tournament.
Tuesday, May 9 – Start of 300 target trapshooting tournament; qualifying round for four-day golf tournament ….

And the Boston Evening Transcript newspaper edition of October 29, 1895 reported on Varsity sports, covering football, track and field, bowling and golf.  The headline read, “Harvard At Secret Practice” and based on results it would appear that secret practice was definitely a winning factor … at least when it came to golf!

Three players tied for first place in the “bogeygolf tournament of the Country Club, which was played on Saturday.  Not only that, but no less than seven tied for second place.  There were almost forty-five players, and the figuring out of their scores and their relative positions was such a task that the results were not posted until yesterday.

Now in the 19th century, British golfers were said to be “chasing the Bogey Man” when it was obvious they were trying to achieve the perfect score.  It was such a popular term that it became the subject of a very popular 19th century music hall song entitled, “Here Comes The Bogey Man.”  By 1914, a second popular song was spawned entitled, “Colonel Bogey March.”

While golfers love to score a bogey, it’s even more exciting when it’s a double bogey (two strokes over par) or a triple bogey (three strokes over par).  It’s also very important not to confuse the term birdie with bogey as a birdie is the opposite of a bogey.   A birdie indicates on stroke under par rather than over.  And just as with bogeys, a player can lay claim to an eagle (two shots under par), an albatross (three shots under par) or a condor (four strokes under par) which would be a hole-in-one on a par 5 hole.

While Idiomation thoroughly enjoyed tracking down the origins of “bogey golf” no published references to either bogey golf or Colonel Bogey could be found in newspapers before 1895. 

That being said, Idiomation would like to remind readers that the “bogey” referring to golf should not be confused with the “bogey” referring to a frame upon which a railway carriage was placed.

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