Play or Perish
Sugarloaf Social Club's maxim - Play or Perish - was adopted from one of our favorite books, The Links by Robert Hunter (1926).
In the following excerpt, Hunter recalls a seminal moment that derived from a month-long holiday at a “fashionable watering resort” in Homberg, Germany.
We believe that this passage concisely sums up the Sugarloaf way.
So, if you have a few minutes, please give it a read. You’ll be happy you did. And you’ll better understand our love for short courses, for fun courses and for courses that let both the beginner and the expert learn something new every time they tee it up.
I was given a card to the golf-club and hurried there, on my arrival, to have my first game. As I looked out over the course, I could barely conceal my disappointment from the most tentative and cordial secretary. The holes were laid out over masses of shrubbery, through trees and over roads. The longest hole, if my memory is to be trusted, was about 135 yards. I lost interest in golf immediately, and, not being in Homburg for the baths, I sat for two weeks disconsolate on the veranda of Ritter’s Park Hotel.
At last I returned shamefacedly to the secretary, and began my round of Lilliputian golf.
It seemed trivial if not idiotic; but one inoculated with the virus must swing a golf-club or perish.
To my amazement I became entranced after playing a few holes. When a pitch of fifty yards followed one of thirty is seemed almost impossible to be up with the shot; and if the next hole happened to be twenty-five yards the delicacy and precision required seemed beyond human skill. But the most curious sensation of all came when one stood on the tee at “the long hole.” After playing a series of short shots, this hole seemed to have tremendous length. To drive a ball so far and keep it straight seemed worth of an international champion …
I shall make the point I started out to make, namely, that a first-rate one-shot hole is the acme of golf, and a series of such holes of varying length and character gives more concentrated excitement than any other type of golf.
Many clubs could and should have short courses in addition to their long courses. They require so little acreage … nothing could be better.
However, even this point is not the one which most concerns us here, which is that many clubs should not foolishly strive for courses of championship length, or for a set number of holes, or for greens of a certain size, or for bunkers of sand only. It is better at times to ignore what others are doing and to be happy with a course like that at Homburg, if one can afford nothing better.
Get the best soil available, and if your members can only afford to buy fifty acres, lay out the most interesting holes possible in that area, regardless of length or number. Do not let certain standards become an obsession.
Quality, not length; interest, not the number of holes; distinction, not size in the greens - these things are worth striving for. A well-designed short course kept up to a high standard will often be more popular than many long, tiresome, unkempt courses which boast of championship length.
In making this plea for originality and individuality, I am thinking primarily of those who would like to play golf but who find that under present conditions it is too expensive.
Amen brother Robert, amen !
And just think folks, this was published in 1926. Almost 100 years later, golf is still dealing with the same issues of accessibility, affordability and the dilution of enjoyment. That is why we champion short courses like Schoolhouse Nine and goat tracks like East Potomac. The big fancy places are fantastic, but if this game is to endure, and not perish, we need to love, support and play whenever, wherever and with whomever.
If there is a stick to be had, a ball to be struck and a hole off yonder - that's all one needs.
How lucky we all are, see you out there ...
Play or Perish & Carry On,
SUGARLOAF SOCIAL CLUB