It’s a curiosity of modern British politics that, in stark contrast to U.S. presidents, prime ministers don’t play (or at least don’t admit to playing) golf.
Winston Churchill would stretch his legs on the links, mostly before he gained high office and mostly not very well. His son, Randolph, reported that he “fails to keep his head down and foozles his drive.” But other than Churchill, since the Second World War, only Harold MacMillan (a regular partner of Henry Cotton) confessed to a fondness for the sport.
It was not always so, however. In fact, before, during and after the First World War, a very handy four-ball made its way to and from 10 Downing Street.
Chief among them was Sir Arthur Balfour, who learned to play the game in North Berwick, captained the R&A, and is feted as “the father of English golf.”
He was followed by fellow enthusiasts Herbert Asquith, David Lloyd George and Andrew Bonar Law, a trio who discovered, as the early 20th century lurched into worldwide havoc that would leave an estimated 20 million dead, that the golf course became less of a playground and more of an office.
Some of this business was conducted at Walton Heath, the club south of London which will host next year’s AIG Women’s Open. And while, in one sense, what took place there was little more than a series of fleeting episodes amid the tragedy, in another sense these were critical episodes in such a terrifying period of history.
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