These are the (Golf) Jokes, Folks
by Turk Pipkin, originally appeared in Golf Digest
Read below or click to Turk's Joke Story at GolfDigest.com
I was six years old, a sun-burned, West Texas short-stuff, when I heard my first golf joke.
Question: Why do golfers wear two pairs of socks?
Answer: In case they get a hole in one.
Lemme tell you, I thought that joke was a laugh riot. I told it to nearly everyone I knew and earned a lot of blank stares for my trouble. But I got a few smiles here and there, and a genuine chuckle from my Dad. Forty years later, it occurs to me that earning that first laugh from my father is probably what launched me on a lifetime of playing golf and telling jokes, not a bad way to pass your day.
Attempting to further unite my parallel obsessions, this past year I embarked upon a quest to track down the world’s best golf jokes. It didn’t seem a difficult task. I’ve played golf most of my life, and told countless jokes in both comedy clubs and at golf tournaments where I sometimes emceed for the dean of comedy himself, Mr. Bob Hope.
“I’ve been playing the game so long,” Hope often quipped. “My handicap is in Roman numerals.”
Hope kept a database of over 30,000 jokes he’d heard or told during his nine decades in show business. I don’t know how many were golf-related, but there may be more jokes about golf than any other subject. The tradition of telling jokes while waiting to hit a shot is probably as old as the game itself. The first golf joke probably involved a Scotsman sculling a featherie with his baffie and knocking some poor sheep senseless.
“Lad,” his playing partner would’ve said, “Yer problem is ye stand too close to the ball… after you’ve struck it, I mean!”
Back in small town Texas, it did not take me long to learn that having your own repertoire of jokes and stories is just as important as knowing when to rattle your change, or even how to hit a flop shop from an actual pile of flop.
The best jokes were usually told by the most colorful characters. As I grew into a long, tall, drink of water, I began to caddy for a strange mix of dry-land golfers with a gift of gab. Once I caddied in a group with a hustler, a preacher, and a rancher who wore cowboy boots with golf spikes, and sprayed jokes and tobacco juice in all directions. He was the first of many to tell me the following classic.
“Bad day at the course,” a guy tells his wife. “Charlie had a heart attack on the third hole.”
“That’s terrible!” she says.
“You’re telling me. All day long, it was hit-the-ball, drag-Charlie.”
If I remember correctly, the rest of the group recited the punchline in unison. The hustler, who’d had more success at gambling than marriage, also knew the old stand-bys.
On his wedding night, the new husband says, "Honey, I have a confession: I’m a golfer and I play every day of the year, holidays included. Between golf and our marriage, golf will always come first.”
“I have a confession, too,” says the Bride. “I was afraid to admit it before we were married, but I'm a hooker."
"No problem," says her husband, "just move your grip a little to the left and that should clear it right up."
It would’ve been funnier, if I’d known what a hooker was. Apparently the preacher didn’t know either, because he didn’t crack a smile. After lipping out a putt, though, he’d say, “I never curse, but where I spit, the grass never grows.”
“Me, too!” the rancher added as he launched a big, brown glob at the green.
These are the kind of golf memories that tend to stick with you through the years.
Luckily, my quest didn’t require me to remember all the golf jokes I’ve been told, because a number of golf nuts have done that part for me. Making a quick search of Amazon.com, I found an astounding fourteen different books of golf jokes, each and every one, I soon discovered, with pretty much the same collection of laughers and groaners. Only the order was rearranged, presumably for copyright purposes. And just about every book I read had the golf joke for the ages, the tale of the aging caddy with perfect eyesight, “Old Eagle Eye.”
After being reassured that his eighty-year-old caddy has perfect eyesight, the golfer hits his first tee shot deep in the right rough.
“Did you see it?” the golfer asks as they walk off the tee.
“Yep!” Old Eagle Eye replies with confidence.
“Well, where is it?”
If this is the first time you’ve heard that joke, you probably got a kick out of it. But like any joke, they wear a little thin after thirty or forty tellings. That why I figured I better find some new material, I’m talking about the real stuff, the kind of jokes failed comics-turned-caddies find lost in the woods and sell in back alleys for five bucks a dozen. To score jokes like that, I’d have to get my hands dirty. If you want to cook up a golf ball omelet, as the saying should go, you’ve got to be willing to bust your balls.
“The key to my quest,” I explained to my wife, “is to search out the funniest golfers, no matter where they may be — Hawaii, Pebble Beach, Los Angeles, Palm Springs.”
“Are you sure this is work?” she asked suspiciously, which of course, reminded me of a golf joke.
On the phone with a golf buddy who has asked him to play, a guy says, “I am the master of my home and can play golf whenever I want. But hold on a minute while I find out if I want to.”
But seeing the look on my wife’s face, I took another tack. “I promise not to have any fun,” I told her.
That seemed to make her happy, and so… the quest was on.
Like any knight in search of virgin humor, I began by seeking out the advice of my elders, which in this case, meant the members of the Senior PGA Tour. On the Big Island of Hawaii, with the sun shining on the snow-capped peak of Mauna Kea, I found the old guys warming up for the new season at the Mastercard Championship.
Lining the practice tee at the Four Seasons Hualalai, thirty of America’s finest senior golfers were hitting new Titleists practically out of sight. Obviously the physical condition of the Seniors has changed a bit since Bob Hope quipped that the tour was “filling the ball washers with Ben-Gay.” These guys were crushing it! I could hardly contain my excitement at simply imagining the jokes they’d heard and told in their thirty lifetimes of golf.
But I soon discovered that even on the Senior Tour, not everyone is funny. Working my way down the practice tee, I explained the nature of my quest and was greeted by the same kind of blank stares I’d earned so many years ago with that first “hole-in-one” joke.
“I can’t remember jokes,” big John Jacobs told me. But Jake did give me a fat, Cuban stogie, which seemed every bit as god as a new joke.
Bruce Leitzke was murdering it, but his caddy, Brian Lietzke, just shook his head “no” when I asked if Bruce had the mettle to crack us all up.
“Leaky’s not that funny,” Brian said of his brother who never met a fade he didn’t like.
“Fair enough, but lemme ask you this,” I said, “Has he ever hooked one?”
“Yeah,” Brian explained. “But what he calls a hook is a three-yard fade.”
At the next station, Dana Quigley, or DQ as they call him, had my first real lead. “Ask Ed Dougherty,” he suggested, “Doc is the funny one.”
At the end of the line, Dougherty’s bushy eyebrows furrowed down on his doughy face when I told him DQ and others had singled him out as a one-man laugh-riot “Me? If they think I’m funny, they must be on something... besides ibuprofen, I mean.”
Ben Gay… ibuprofen, I guess things haven’t changed that much. And like most people who are funny, Dougherty’s humor doesn’t come from telling jokes; he’s just… funny.
In big block letters, I wrote one word in my notebook: ‘Booze.’ Whether I was recommending it for the pros or for myself, I’m not really sure, but I decided not to take any chances. As the sun sank toward the ocean, with the spouts of humpback whales clearly visible just offshore, I parked my backside at the Four Season’s beachside bar, ordered a tall beverage and pondered how in the heck I was going to justify the dough I was spending when no one seemed to know any jokes. But since I was having such a fine time in paradise, there was obviously only one thing to do, have another drink and enjoy the view.
An hour later, as I stumbled up the hill toward my room, I heard someone call my name and turned to see Tom Kite waving me over. A friend from back home in Austin, Kite was inviting me to experience first hand the cushy life of a touring pro, for all around us, a lavish buffet had been set for the pros and their pro-am partners — jumbo shrimp, crab, roast beef, and a half a mile of deserts — a week of this treatment and I’d be as spoiled as a month-old carton of milk.
Soon I was seated between Tom Kite and George Archer, a smile on my face, a dozen oysters on my plate and a notebook in my lap. Because Archer is also too tall for the game, he was one of my childhood heroes, though I never expected him to have a sense of humor. But as we passed golf jokes around beneath the stars, George Archer surprised me with the following story of marital bliss.
A guy’s wife asks him. “If I were to die, would you get married again and share our bed with your new wife?”
And he says, “I guess I might.”
“What about my car?” she asks. “Would you give that to her?”
And he says, “Perhaps.”
“Would you give my golf clubs to here, too?” his wife asks.
“Why not?” asks the wife.
“She’s left handed.”
Even Archer’s wife laughed, but whether that was due to the strength of the joke or their marriage, I’m not really sure.
Not to be outdone, Tom Kite launched into a dead-on impersonation of Sam Snead telling a joke about Mother Nature who is furious at a golfer whose wild swings have destroyed her precious buttercups.
“For ruining my buttercups,” Mother Nature decrees, “You’ll never have butter again!”
"Fred, where are you!?" the guy calls to his friend.
And Fred yells back, "I'm over here, in the pussywillow."
So the first guy yells...."DON'T SWING FRED!!! For God's sake, DON'T SWING!!!"
If you didn’t laugh, fly to Hawaii, have a glass of wine, then try it again. As if to prove that laughter is good for you, Kite went out the next morning and shot an opening round 63 on the way to winning the tournament by six strokes. The better he played, the more he smiled; and the more he smiled, the more the other pros seemed to worry about him. When it comes to golf, I surmised, laughter really is the best medicine.
In search of Kite after his 63, I convinced the locker room guard that I really did belong inside, and soon found myself in the company of one of the best tellers of golf jokes, Lee Trevino. Logic dictates that when you win two U.S. Opens, two British Opens and two PGA Championships, you do it with good lies, not good lines. But then you meet Trevino and wonder otherwise, because Lee Trevino is both a golfer and a joker. Only Trevino would have the nerve to scare the hell out of Jack Nicklaus with a rubber snake, as Lee did before the play-off for the 1971 U.S. Open. And when the day was done, it was the joker who walked away with the silver cup.
Years ago, I played a round with Trevino and Willie Nelson at Willie’s course in Austin. After missing a relatively easy eagle putt with which I’d hoped to impress Trevino, I resorted to some cheap schtick and began juggling my driver, a tee and a ball.
“That’s pretty good,” Trevino deadpanned after my big finish, “You learn to putt and you’ll really have something.”
When I found Trevino holding court in the Four Seasons locker room, he still remembered that round.
“Willie Nelson, wow! After I stood downwind from Willie, I hit the ball three hundred and fifty yards!”
Lee is one of those rare souls who carries the whole bag of comedy golf clubs — one-liners, jokes and stories. He’s like the Ever Ready Bunny of golf jokes, he just keeps going and going, leading the laughs, as its called in the business, by cracking up at his own jokes.
“How long have you been wearing that girdle,” a reporter asked me once.
“Since my wife found it in the glove compartment of my car!”
The other pros might as well forget the football game playing on TV, because Trevino’s on a roll, telling us the old nugget about the amazing golf ball — complete with beeps, lights and pontoons — that simply can’t be lost.
That’s fantastic!” another golfer says as he inspects the ball. “Where’d you get that ball?”
“Oh, I found it!”
Trevino’s laugh had hardly faded before he launched into a story about an aging golfer on his deathbed.
With his last moments on earth, the old man is replaying his favorite rounds of golf in his head, remembering when he was first married, how he’d come home from the course to the most wonderful chocolate chip cookies. It’d been years since his wife baked them for him, but as he lay there, gasping for each breath, he was sure he could smell those cookies. Crawling out of bed, he drags himself down the stairs and into the kitchen where he finds — oh joy! — his wife with a big platter of his favorite, freshly-baked cookies. With his last bit of strength, he is slowly reaching out for one when she slaps his hand.
"Don’t touch those!” she orders. “They're for the funeral!"
If you don’t think that one’s funny, stand downwind of Willie and try again.
Many of the best golf jokes, I quickly realized, sprung to life without the golf part at all, but in the joke world, it doesn’t matter if you kill a cow with a car or with a golf ball, when you offer to replace the animal, the farmer still asks how much milk you give. (That’s one I never found to be that funny, though I hear it makes the cows laugh so hard the milk comes out of their noses.)
Kite, Archer, Trevino… how much better could my life get? But as Lee headed for the practice range, I heard a distinctive voice from deep in the pillows of the locker room sofa. My god, I thought as the form rose and took shape, it’s Gary Player, and he wants to tell me a joke.
At the beach bar the evening before, I’d met a Seattle banker named Greg Aubé who’d played in the pro-am that day with Player.
“I was nervous and played so bad,” said Aube. “I told Player I was going to walk in the water and drown myself.
“You won’t drown yourself,” Player told him. “You can’t hold your head down that long.”
In the locker room, I related the story to Player, wondering if he’d admit he’d employed a classic golf joke, but Player only said, “I had a good time with those folks.” Then looking at the day’s results on the bulletin board, he added in surprise, “And look at that, we won the Pro-Am!”
Player had an even better story about talking to a fan during the British Open.
“This fellow is a farmer, and he tells me he owns 35 acres.”
“So I tell him I have a farm back home in South Africa. He asks me how big it is, and I explain that if I get on my horse and ride for four days to the north, I don’t get to my border. Or I can ride for four days to the south and still not be off my farm. Same thing to east, a four day ride, same thing to the west.”
“And this fellow says, ‘You know, Gary, I used to have a horse like that myself.’ “
The only thing missing was the rim-shot.
On the final day of the tourney, as I watched Tom Kite make yet another birdie, I struck up a conversation with a tournament volunteer, a tall, native Hawaiian named Little Bob.
“Fisrt name Little, last name Bob,” he told me.
Little Bob didn’t know any Hawaiian golf jokes, but he gave me directions to a course on the other side of the island that he described as a “real life golf joke.”
An hour later, hidden on the un-touristed northeast coast, I found Hamakua Golf Club, a nine-hole track built in the twenties for the execs and workers of the nearby plantations. Seated on the open-air porch overlooking the course were the Hamakua regulars — a half dozen locals, all of whom had grown up playing this track which features nine holes jammed into one small valley. What’s the joke, you wonder? The course has an ingenious system of overlapping, criss-crossing fairways that seems like a connect-the-dots diagram for how to bean three golfers in one day.
“How do you avoid being killed out there,” I asked the front porch guys, who seemed to be drinking light beer in heavy quantities.
“No problem,” laughed Bear Lukzen, an enormous Hawaiian with an ever-present smile. “We have very hard heads.”
Golf here is fifteen dollars a day for all you can play. Put the money in the box and knock yourself out (or let someone else do it for you). Since there was only one other group on the course, I managed a quick and accident-free nine, then hurried back up to the clubhouse to further my quest. A couple of beers later, the guys had me laughing like a fool, not with golf jokes per se, but with the joy of being included by a bunch of guys whose greatest treasure is sharing each other’s conversation and company.
When asked why they spend so much time at the course, Bear said, “I tried to surf, but the board wasn’t big enough.” It was a joke, but like so many good jokes, it was based in fact.
“We have a lot of fun here,” said Clyde Imada, who’s heft was balancing the other side of the picnic table from Bear. When one stood up, they both had to, or everyone else would be sent flying. “Back when the macadamia nut factory was here,” Clyde explained, “we held the Madadamia Nut Tournament. People came from all over the world, and we played with real macadamia nuts instead of balls. Man, those nuts would really be flying.”
Instructed to check out the bathroom doors, I found two signs, reading, “Nuts” and “No Nuts.” But as far as I could tell, everyone at Hamakua was nuts, and I was pretty happy about it.
“Tell people to come play our course,” Bear explained as I prepared to leave. “We need the business to keep the course alive, and we need the course so our kids have a good place to play and grow up.”
That part did not sound nuts. And despite the differences in climate, Hamakua Golf Course very much reminded me of my own golfing youth in West Texas.
Back home in Texas, my wife wanted to hear a few jokes to prove I didn’t have any fun in paradise. Unfortunately I had to run out to a round of golf with three of the funniest guys I know, all Texas musicians, Steve Fromholz, Ray Benson, and everyone’s favorite singing cowboy, Mr. Willie Nelson.
Willie had just published a book called, “The Facts of Life and Other Dirty Jokes, which begins with the following: “They say writing the first line of a book is the hardest part. Thank God that’s over.”
Willie has always been a joker. At Pedernales Country Club, the course he owns outside of Austin, one of Willie’s favorite gags has long been to race his golf cart straight at a stout, low-hanging tree limb that looks as if it will take the top right off the cart. I once saw legendary golf writer Bob Drum try to dive right out of the cart when Willie pulled the stunt on him. The trick, of course, was that the height of the tree limb had about a millimeter to spare as the cart passed harmlessly underneath. A couple of years ago, a new asst. greenskeeper — presumably with an brains on par with Bill Murray’s Carl Spackler from Caddyshack — tried to improve the course by cutting the limb off. Darn near broke Willie’s heart. Good gags don’t just grow on trees you know. Or maybe they do.
But with his joke book selling well, Willie was in a fine mood. “May the man with the fastest cart win,” he declared, as we raced after our balls. Before long, the jokes were hitting the fan, with Willie taking the pole position.
A couple has played golf every day for fifty years. One day, the wife says, “Honey, to celebrate five decades of golf and marriage, let’s start off with a clean slate and confess all our past wrongs.”
“Okay,” the husband says, “Do you remember that blond secretary that worked for me twenty years ago? I had an affair with her.”
And the wife says, “That’s nothing. Before we met, I had a sex change.”
And the husband says, “Why you dang liar! All this time you’ve been hitting from the red tees!”
Fromholz — who’s “Texas Trilogy” is widely considered to be the finest song about Texas — makes a living by singing, guiding white-water rafting tours, and never having to pause to think of a joke.
Two guys are playing golf behind two really slow women,” he tells us. “Finally one guy offers to speed things up and walks down the fairway. But halfway to the women, he turns around and comes back to his buddy.
“I couldn’t say anything,” he explains. “One was my wife and the other was my mistress.”
“No problem, I’ll handle it,” his pal says. But after going halfway down the fairway, he also comes back and says to his buddy, “Small world, isn’t it?”
Ray Benson, pony-tailed leader of the Western swing band, Asleep at the Wheel, was more succinct.
“That reminds me of what Hogan told me,” he says.
“What was that?” we ask in a reverent tone.
“Get a haircut, hippie!”
That’s pretty much how it went all day. By the time I left the course, my face hurt from smiling so much. And when I got back home, my wife barely mentioned that I was three hours late, which still reminded me of one my all-time favorite jokes.
“A golfer comes home Saturday evening to find his wife waiting on the front porch with steam coming out of her ears.
“Where were you?” she demands to know. “Our guests came over, but the yard wasn’t mowed, there was no barbecue and you were missing. I’ve never been so humiliated!”
“I’m sorry,” the husband says. “We played golf this morning, but on the way back to town we stopped at a strip joint where I met one of the dancers, took her to a hotel for a couple of hours, had a quick shower, then rushed straight home.”
“You liar!” his wife tells him. “You played another 18!”
In case you haven’t noticed, there is no shortage of golf jokes about husbands and wives. I once played in a tournament with outdoor writer Marty Malin, a tall, lumpy Texan who wore skin-tight orange and white University of Texas running shorts and matching orange and white cowboy boots complete with golf spikes (just as in my youth). He did not, I was happy to note, spit tobacco juice on the greens. When he hit a good shot, though, Malin would shout in a voice that boomed across the golf course. “All the way to State!” If he hit a bad shot, he merely yelled, “Shut up!”
Notified of my joke quest, Malin told me a joke about a guy who leaves work one Friday afternoon, but instead of going home, spends the entire weekend and all his paycheck playing golf and partying with the boys.
Finally arriving home on Sunday night, the man’s wife lets loose with a two-hour tirade of insults. In summary she says, “How would you like it if you didn't see me for two or three days?"
To which he replies, "That would be just fine!”
So sure enough, he doesn’t see his wife on Monday, or on Tuesday, or Wednesday.
But on Thursday, the swelling goes down just enough so he could see her a little out of the corner of his left eye.
“Humor is just another defense against the universe,” says Mel Brooks, which I suppose means that golf humor is a defense against the cruelty of the game, or the tunnel vision of the people who are obsessed with it.
After years of wanting to play the Old Course at Saint Andrews, I finally made the pilgrimage a few years ago, with my wife and six-month old baby in tow. Perhaps I should mention that I also invited my golf buddy David Wood (at the time, a fellow comedian) to come along for one or two rounds… a day.
When David and I weren’t playing, we were often sitting in pubs telling golf jokes and stories. To make matters worse, it turned out that babies are not allowed in Scottish pubs, so my wife and infant daughter were usually on their own. One night when I returned late to the hotel, my wife told me the following joke.
“A guy gets up at dawn on Saturday morning and heads for the golf course as usual. But it’s cold and raining, so halfway to the club, he gives up and returns home where he takes off his clothes, climbs back into bed and snuggles up against his wife. “It’s freezing out there,” he says.
“Yeah,” his wife answers sleepily. “Can you believe my stupid husband is playing golf?”
Taking her hint, I bowed out of the game the next day, dropping David at Carnoustie on the way to my own day of looking at moldy castles. I don’t remember which castles we saw because I was thinking about the links at Carnoustie all day, which may be why I foolishly told my wife a joke which involves a guy making a hole in one, thereby producing a genie who offers him three wishes.
“The only catch,” says the Genie, “Is that whatever you wish for, your wife will receive ten times over.”
“No sweat,” the guy says. “I want to be the best golfer in the world.” The Genie blinks and suddenly the guy can feel the golf swing — the grip, the takeaway, the change of direction. “You can crush every golfer in the world,” the genie says. “Except your wife who’s gonna beat you like a drum.”
The guy is kind of bummed about that, so for his second wish he asks to be the world’s richest man.”
“Poof, it’s done,” says the Genie. “But don’t forget that your wife can now buy and sell you ten times over. One wish left.”
“Okay,” the guy says. “For my last wish, I’d like a mild heart attack.”
If you didn’t laugh at that one, you can rest assured that neither did my wife.
Having visited the worlds of senior golf and golfing musicians, I decided my quest would not be complete without a search of the watering holes and driving ranges of the world’s entertainment capital, Hollywood.
Before I sat down from the world of stand-up comedy, I spent a number of years in Los Angeles where the best perks were to play in celebrity pro-ams in exchange for emceeing an evening show. Of course, the downside of that equation is when I’d show up on the first tee and the other guys in my foursome asked, “Which celebrity do you think we’ll get?”
One of my favorites was at the Maury Luxford Tournament at Lakeside Golf Club in L.A., the original home course to stars like Bing Crosby, W.C. Fields and Bob Hope.
“Golf’s a hard game to figure,” Hope told the audience one year at our after-dinner show. “One day you slice it, shank it, hit into all the traps and miss every green. The next day, you go out and for no reason at all you really stink.”
Each year we watched Mr. Hope grow more and more frail, but when I introduced him, he’d transform almost instantly from decrepit old man to the comic pro who never met an audience he didn’t like.
“I was so bad today, the gallery hung my bag in effigy,” he’d say. “Last week Arnold Palmer told me how I could cut eight strokes off my score... skip one of the par 3s.”
I was no longer sure he could even hear the laughter, but Hope always knew exactly how long to wait before the next joke.
“My opponent said he’d give me a stroke on fourteen if I gave him a free throw. That sounded pretty good until we got to the green and he picked up my ball and threw it into the pond.”
When he got too old to play in the tournament, Hope still wandered around the course. One year, I was about to tee off on a par five when someone drove a cart up to a ball that looked to be three hundred yards from the tee.
“Is that Bob Hope?” I asked.
Sure enough, it was. I’m not sure what hole he was playing — as far as we were concerned, he owned the whole course — but after about five minutes of his just standing there and everyone in my group saying, “He’s way out of range,” I decided to hit.
When someone’s in the driver danger zone, there are generally just two possible outcomes. Either you wait till they leave, then skull one about forty yards. Or you decide they’re out of range and nearly kill them.
Guess which one I did.
The ball was barely off my clubhead when my entire group screamed “Fore!” in one deafening voice. We could have waked the dead across the way in Forest Lawn Cemetery, but Hope, of course, never heard a word.
And while the longest drive of my life soared straight at America’s most beloved comedian, I realized that I would forever be known as, “The Man Who Killed Bob Hope.” I was still yelling when the ball missed Hope’s bobbing head by a matter of inches.
Appearing to have felt the wind of its passing, Hope looked up and saw my new Titleist about fifteen yards ahead of him. Picking up his own ball, Hope hobbled to my career (and near career-ending) drive and whacked my ball farther down the hole.
That night when I told him I was about to introduce him to the audience, Mr. Hope asked me where his drink was. He had mistaken me for the waiter. I didn’t see how he could possibly remember his jokes. But once on stage, the magic was still there.
An old man came up to me this morning, Hope told us, “and he asked if I wanted a caddy. I said ‘okay,” so he picks up my bag and my partner’s bag and runs to the tee.
“How OLD are you?” I asked. And the guys says, “Ninety-four. But this is nothing, I’m getting married tomorrow.”
“Why would you want to get married at ninety-four?” I asked.
“Hey, who says I WANT to?”
The laughter sounded like a bomb going off. Mr. Hope waved and started off-stage. And all I could think was, “Boy, I’m glad I didn’t kill him.”
If there is a problem with golf jokes, it’s that they’re too often repeated by people who haven’t got a clue how to tell a joke. In L.A., I sought advice on the subject from my long-time partner, Harry Anderson (“I was very big in the eighties,” Harry says to fans who can’t quite connect him to his long starring run in the sit-coms, NightCourt and Dave’s World).
Proud that he doesn’t participate in the worldwide golf craze, Harry reminded me that his tombstone is supposed to say, “I never raised a club… except in anger.” But he did offer some excellent guidelines for how to tell a joke.
First, know the joke backwards and forwards. There’s nothing worse than the idiots who stop five minutes into a joke and say, “Wait, I better start over.”
Second, make it as short as possible. “There’s always a chance they’re not going to think it’s funny,” Harry adds, “You’ll still die, but hopefully it won’t be as painful.”
If there is a second problem with the topic of my quest, it’s that golf jokes are like opinions, everybody’s got one and most of them stink. To misappropriate the words of Billy Wilder, when it comes to golf jokes, “You have to learn to take the bitter with the sour.”
The guy with the most jokes may well be Nobby Orens, a Los Angeles travel agent who, just five years after he took up the game, was named “Golf Nut of the Year” by the Golf Nuts Society, a group of people who, like myself, obviously have way too much time on their hands.
Nobby’s obsession with the game has caused him to play upwards of 200 rounds of golf a year, not including a single day in which he played 136 holes in New Zealand, California and Maui, covering 13,000 miles along the way.
Meeting at an L.A. driving range, Nobby pulls into the lot driving a car with a license plate that reads, “My other car is a golf cart.”
“That’s nothing,” he tells me, “My wife bought me a doormat that reads, ‘A golfer and a normal person live here.’ ”
Though it’s windy and raining with a rare L.A. temperature in the forties, Nobby is dressed in shorts and a short-sleeve shirt. He has just come, of course, from a round of golf.
The sponsor of his own body-building championship for seniors, and a veteran of six Ironman Triathalons, at age 65 (?? Fact-check) Nobby Orens has less body-fat that a new Titleist. He also takes the subject of golf humor very seriously, maintaining an e-mail list to whom he sends a daily e-mail of golf jokes. He is also the author of a book entitled, Golf is a Funny Disease - The Official Guide to Golf Humor.
“Official according to whom?” I ask.
“Me,” he says with a smile. And then he tells me a joke.
A man is stranded for years on a desert island. One day he looks up to see a gorgeous blond in scuba gear wading out of the water.
“Want a cigarette?” she asks, opening a waterproof pocket on her right arm, pulling out a pack and lighting one for him.
“How about a sip of whiskey?” she asks next, opening a pocket on her left arm and removing a flask.
As the man puffs on the cigarette and sips the whiskey, she begins to slowly unzip the front of her wetsuit.
“Want to play around?” she asks.
And he says, “Don’t tell me you’ve got a set of golf clubs in there, too!”
If you’re not laughing yet, folks, I recommend that you start soon; I’m running out of questionable material. The last time I saw Nobby, he was just running.
On the theory that bartenders and golf bums are likely to know the best jokes, I spent an entire weekend driving around Southern California in search of some good snickers. On the hunch that old-fashioned Palm Springs would be loaded with old-fashioned story-tellers, I made the two-hour drive out to the desert, where I hit a hundred balls at the College of the Desert Driving Range, but only found slick-looking young golfers, none of whom had apparently told a joke in their life.
Heading back to Los Angeles, I stopped in at an old stomping grounds, the Los Feliz Golf Course, a quaint little par three track with a seven dollar green fee. On the first tee, I found that was following an intimidating looking foursome that I thought best-described as gangbangers. All four had shaved heads, lots of tattoos and hundred-and-twenty mile an hour swing speeds on one hundred and twenty yard holes.
I was putting on the second green when I noticed a waist-high rocket coming straight at my groin. Dropping my putter, my hands covered the important areas as I leapt into the air and barely avoided having a full octave permanently removed from the low range of my voice.
Unfortunately, the second part of my knee-jerk reaction was to protest loudly in the direction of the tee. It didn’t take long for the offending gangbanger to walk my way, which he continued until he was just inches from me.
“Sorry, man,” he said. “We don’t have a problem, right?”
“No problem!” I tell him. “Know any golf jokes?”
He looked at me like I was nuts, then hit his ball. But on the next hole, he came back to me with the following.
Guy walks up to some slow golfers and hands them a card that says, “I am a deaf-mute. Can I play through?”
“Bug off” they tell him.” You can wait same as anybody else.”
On the next hole, a ball flies at the group, bounces and hits one of them. Doubled over on the ground, the guy looks back at the tee and sees the deaf guy. He’s got his driver in one hand, and the other hand is holding up four fingers.
Don’t know what you’d do if a gangbanger told you that joke, but what I did was laugh. The really funny thing was, my game promptly fell apart and I nearly hit these guys about five times before the nine was done. And you can believe I yelled ‘fore’ every time.
You meet all kinds of interesting people in L.A. At Robinson Ranch Golf course, I bumped into actor Richard Kind, who plays the goofy press secretary on ABC’s Spin City. A dedicated golfer who often tees it up at celebrity tournaments, Richard was quick with his favorite joke.
A rabbi and a minister are playing the slowest round of golf of their lives, three hours on the front nine. At the turn they go in the proshop to complain.
“I’m sorry,” says the pro. “Don’t you know the foursome in front of you is all blind?”
Hearing this, the minister says, “There but for the grace of god go I.”
At which point the rabbi says, “They couldn’t play at night?”
Reminded of the number of golf jokes that involve the clergy, I tracked down an authority on the subject, Rabbi Marc Gellman. Along with Monsignor Thomas Hartman, Gelman is one half of the New York radio and print duo, the God Squad.
“Telling jokes is almost a dying art,” Gellman tells me. “Comedians aren’t joke tellers anymore. Since Seinfeld, the comics are all observational.”
On-stage and on the radio, Rabbi Gellman’s tales are both observational and inspirational as he spreads the word of Golf and God. “Golf teaches that both success and failure are temporary,” he says, “but that success is a lot more temporary.”
When I point out that religion and golf are two of the funniest sports, Gellman spells out the three main jokes about God and golf.
“The first, of course, is Jesus and Moses heading out to play around a golf.”
Unable to swing in his robes, Moses cold tops his first drive into a lake, but a turtle surfaces with the ball on his back, a big bass whacks it with his tail and lofts it into the cup for a hole in one! And Jesus says, “Are we gonna mess around, or are we gonna play golf?”
If you prefer a variation…
Jesus swings but his sandals slip and his long drive flies into the woods where it’s usually picked up by a squirrel who is grabbed by an eagle who drops the squirrel on the green and the ball in the hole. This, of course, gives Moses the punchline, “I hate it when your Dad plays.”
But Rabbi Gellman isn’t done yet, for the second classic golf and religioun joke involves the Pope playing a match against the chief Rabbi in Israel to determine which will be the more important religion.
The Pope and the Rabbi each get to pick a partner, but they can only use a cleric. When the results are announced, it turns out that Bishop Jack Nicklaus lost 3 and 2 to Rabbi Tiger Woods.
The third big-time religion joke is told in various denominations,
A priest on Easter (or a rabbi on Yom Kippur) sneaks out to play a round of solo golf, and makes a hole in one.
“How could you possibly reward him?” The angels ask God.
And God says, “Who’s he gonna tell?”
To those that might be offended about the idea of making light of religion, Rabbi Gellman has a more relevant observation.
“It’s a frustrating sport,” he says. “Without humor, you’d probably end up killing someone you play with. But, if you have a jury of golfers, you’ll probably be acquitted.”
After traveling ten thousand miles in pursuit of my quest, I felt that the grail was nearly within my reach. Leaving L.A., I turned north on the Pacific Coast Highway and set my sights on the Valhalla of golf entertainment, the Crosby Clambake. Okay, the official name is now the “AT & T Pebble Beach Pro-am Invitational Something or Other,” but that hasn’t changed the basic fact that playing golf at Bing’s Clambake is probably the most fun you can have without having to take a shower after. (Actually, a round in this tournament sometimes is a four-hour shower.)
Started in 1937 at Rancho Santa Fe, the first tourney was won by Sam Snead who — just out of the mountains of West Virginia — looked at the first place check for $500 and said, “If you don’t mind, Mr. Crosby, I’d rather have cash.”
After World War II, the tourney resumed in 1947 at Pebble where celebs like Phil Harris and Crosby himself did their drinking and driving where it belongs, on the golf course.
“Why is your fourteen year old son driving the car?” a policeman asked an inebriated Bing Crosby late one night when the boy was taking his dad home after the tournament. Trying to focus on the cop, Bing could only reply, “He’s the best we got.”
These days, with the much-missed Jack Lemmon being toasted at every turn, the kings of Pebble comedy are Bill Murray, Tommy Smothers, Ray Romano and, of course, the professional jokesters of golf, CBS’s no-holds-barred tag-team, McCord and Feherty.
Pulling into the Peninsula just before sunset, I wound my way past the wind-swept vistas of the world’s most stunning highway, the 17-Mile Drive, and pulled into the Inn at Spanish Bay for the annual California Golf Writer’s Dinner.
Taking up a strategic position at the nearest bar, within thirty seconds I managed to snag tour veteran and NBC commentator, Roger Maltbie, aka Maltballs as he seems to be known in these parts.
Maltbie’s eyes lit up when I asked if he knew any golf jokes. But then I made the tragic mistake of adding, “that are printable in Golf Digest.”
“Whoa!” said Maltbie. “You just threw in the big disqualifier. Funny or clean, which one do you want?”
“Both,” I told him.
He thought about it a moment, then simply said, “No such thing.”
But as Maltballs made his escape, an eavesdropping bartender said he knew one that filled both bills.
“I’ll be the judge of that!” I told the bartender as he started his joke.
A golfer hits a big slice on the first hole and his ball ends up behind a small shed. He’s about to chip out when the caddy says, “Wait! I’ll open the window and the door, then you can hit a three wood through the shed.”
After the caddy opens up the escape route, the golfer makes a big swing. The ball nearly makes it, but hits the windowsill, then bounces back and hits the golfer in the head.
The next thing the golfer knows, he’s standing at the Pearly Gates. St. Peter sees him with his three wood in hand and says, "I guess you think you’re a pretty good golfer."
And the guy says, "Got here in two, didn't I?"
I left a big tip, which shows yet another way to get value from a good joke.
That evening at dinner, I was surrounded by some of the funniest men in golf or comedy. Tommy Smothers told me about a golf book he’s writing called, The 27 Most Important Things to Remember at Impact. Long-time Pebble Beach emcee, Bob Murphy, quipped that Tommy Smothers, “was an embarrassment to the game. Not be outdone, Smothers retorted about Murphy that it, “Must be hard knowing when you’re finished talking, when you don’t have anything to say.”
We were all laughing and crying as Peter Jacobson told some touching Jack Lemmon stories between hilarious video clips of Peter’s impersonations of Craig Stadler, Paul Azinger and a nearly blind Tom Kite. (Kite gets the last laugh, though, because his LASIK surgery has left him with nearly perfect eyesight, which is bound to make the game a little easier.)
But in the course of a very entertaining evening, not one golf joke was told. The simple truth is, these guys figured we’d heard them all. Seated at a table in the front, I was practically rubbing elbows with Irish golf pro turned golf announcer David Feherty, who describes himself as “pompous, opinionated, and a born-again Texan.”
“Colin Montgomery, David Feherty once quipped, “has a face like a warthog that’s been stung by a wasp.”
Lines like that are why Feherty’s irreverent observations are now seen nearly year round on CBS Golf coverage (with the continuing exception of the Masters who drew the line at David’s line about their slick, bikini-waxed greens).
He is also the author of an hilarious new golf novel, A Nasty Bit of Rough, which reads like a rollicking P.G. Wodehouse filtered through Monty Python, and is the antithesis to all those “golf as a metaphor for life” novels that stress the mystic rather than the comic side of the game.
“Jokes,” Feherty echoes when I describe my quest to him after dinner. “I haven’t heard a new one in years. When people say stop me if you’ve heard this one, I say, ‘Stop!’ Cause I’ve heard ‘em all.”
His protests aside, I know he describes his father back in Northern Ireland as being ‘fond of a joke and a jar.’ I can guess what’s in the jar, but what kind of jokes spawned Feherty’s gift for gab?
“There’s not only less jokes in the states now, there’s also less conversation,” Feherty says. “In Ireland, you go to the pub, and you talk. It’s a tilling of the soil; people explore each other more through conversation. People tell their funny stories and get into this back and forth of ‘I know one,’ ‘I know one.’ I don’t see that kind of thing here.”
Feherty’s dad hasn’t told him any golf jokes lately, but he did relate his dad’s description of a tough match between Ireland and France in what may be the world’s roughest sport, rugby.
“It was terribly violent, son. In the break, the Irish skipper came off the field with a bruised testicle!”
“Oh, that sounds painful!”
“No, no. It belonged to one of the Frenchmen.”
“If that story offends someone,” Feherty adds. “They’re forgetting it’s only words. People with no sense of humor have no sense of proportion. Maybe there are so many golf jokes because it’s a funny game, and because so many people who play golf spend too much time looking like they’re pissed off. If there’s a proper place to curse, it has to be the golf course. And if you can’t find anything funny, you might as well be dead.”
And to think that Feherty considers himself opinionated!
The next day I was set up to exchange a few ditties with sit-com stars Ray Romano and Kevin James, and with his own goofy self, Bill Murray, who seems to have transformed the Caddyshack advice of, “Be the ball” to the even more sublime, “Be the joke.”
But the golf gods had other plans for me. For just as the tournament was starting, I received a phone call from Texas saying that my dad was in the hospital and I should come fast. My quest was almost done, but suddenly, I no longer even cared.
On the plane back home, I remembered my father telling me about watching Ben Hogan hit balls one day at Colonial. My dad stood with several other Hogan fans and watched ‘The Man’ drill shot after shot, each more perfect than the last. In an unusually good mood, Hogan then struck up a conversation with my father. “It’s a funny game — golf,” Hogan told him. “You try to hit it right, and you hit a duck hook.” Years after the fact, my father still marveled at how Hogan had aimed the ball a hundred yards right, only to hit a huge duck hook that went a hundred yards left. “Then you try to hit it left and...” Sure enough, Hogan reversed the trick shot. To my dad, Hogan had cracked the ironic joke that most described the game we all love.
I made it back to West Texas in time to find my father propped up in a hospital bed, a big smile on his face and his family gathered around to enjoy his miraculous recovery. We all had a one great last day together; my dad and I even watched Bill Murray cutting up at Pebble on the tournament broadcast.
“That’s a beautiful place,” my father said.
When I left the hospital that evening, he had a smile on his face, but somehow I knew I’d never see him again.
Late that night, I pondered the cruel humor of having to write a story about golf jokes while my father was slipping away. I was half asleep when my dad’s old golf buddy, Marshall Jones, popped into my head. I’d hardly thought of Marshall Jones since the days when I caddied for him in my youth, certainly not since he passed away several years ago. But now he was clear in my mind as he descended to my father’s hospital bed to tell one of the oldest and best golf jokes.
“There’s good news and there’s bad news,” Marshall said.
“Good new first,” my father replied.
“Well, it turns out there’s golf in heaven. We’ve got a track just like Pebble Beach.”
That’s great,” my dad said with a smile. “So what’s the bad news?”
“You and I are playing Hogan and Jesus at eight a.m.”
I laughed; I cried. And that’s as good as it good as it gets. Play good, Dad. And wear two pairs of socks… in case you get a hole in one.
BUT WAIT, THERE's MORE - A FEW MORE FAVORITE JOKES
“The only good golf joke I ever heard was years ago. A guy is trying to book a round on a private course in England that’s nearly impossible to get on. He’s speaking to the course secretary on the phone, going through his resume – ‘Distinguished Service Medal, the Victoria Cross, Ambassador to Canada.’ And the secretary says, ‘Okay, nine holes.’
“Of course, you have to doll it out a little,” adds Jenkins, who knows that the heart of the joke is in the telling.
It’s All Good
I guy gets paired with a hot chick and finds himself playing really great. On the 18th hole, he has a-30 foot putt to break 80 for the first time in his life. “If I make this, he tells her, “I’d like to buy you a wonderful steak dinner with a nice bottle of wine at the best restaurant in town.”
He makes the putt, then the woman steps over her 20-foot putt to break 90 for the first time. “If I make this,” she says, “after dinner I’d like you to come over to my house for an entire night of incredible lovemaking.”
Bending over, the guy picks up her ball and says, “It’s good.”
Fred Brown Died
A woman goes into the local newspaper office and asks the price of an obituary for her husband. The editor says it’s 50 cents per word.
She pauses, then says, “Let it read "Fred Brown died."
Touched by her situation, the editor says he could give her seven words for the price of three. She thinks it over, then says, "In that case, let it read, 'Fred Brown died: golf clubs for sale.'"
Use A New Ball
A guy is on the 18th tee at Pebble Beach looking at the ocean all down the left side. As he starts to tee up his ball, he hears a commanding voice from the Heavens. “Use a new ball!”
So he pulls out a new ball and tees it up.
“Take a practice swing!” the Voice commands.
He takes a practice swing, then the voice says, “Get out the OLD ball!”
The Missionary Position
A missionary is playing golf in Africa when a lion charges straight at him. Seeing there’s no escape, the man falls to his knees, closes his eyes and begins to pray. When nothing happens, he opens his eyes and sees the lion kneeling next to him… and the lion is also praying.
“Thank you, Lord!” the man cries out.
And the lion says, “Don’t interrupt; I’m saying grace.”
Only One Rule (Musician Augie Meyers, of the Sir Douglas Quintet and the Texas Tornadoes fame told me this one)
On their wedding night, a husband tells his bride he only has one rule. “Not fidelity, he says. “The rule is you can’t look in the top drawer on my side of the bed.
Twenty years later, she can’t take it anymore and looks in the drawer where she finds three golf balls and fifteen thousand dollars in cash.
So she goes downstairs, tells her husband she looked and “what’s up with the golf balls?”
“Well, he tells her, every time I found out you had an affair, I put a golf ball in the drawer.”
And she thinks, well, I guess I got a way with a couple.
So, she asks, “What’s up with the fifteen thousand dollars?”
and he says, Every time I got a dozen balls, I sold them and put the cash in the drawer.
From golf writer and former comedian David Wood
Paired up as a twosome with a stranger, a golfer steps up to the first tee, puts his ball on the ground and hits his drive. The next guy steps up, no ball, no clubs, but pretends to hit the ball, bam “right down the middle.”
The first guy looks over and sees that his playing partner doesn’t have any clubs in his bag. They’re walking down the fairway, and the first guy says, “Why do you do that? why don’t you have any clubs?”
“Well, I was so frustrated I went to a shrink and he told me to fogert the balls and clubs, and just go out and enjoy the game.”
The first guy says, “That sounds great. I’m gonna try it, too.”
Stopping in the middle of the fairway, the first guy pretends to take out a club and “bam,” takes a swing at an imaginary ball.
“Look at that!” he says “Right down the middle.”
“Yeah, good shot,” says the other man. “But you hit my ball.”
The Bee Sting
A woman goes to her doctor and says she was stung by a bee while playing golf.
“where were you stung?” he asks.
“Between the first and second hole,” she says.
And he says, “Well I don’t know much about golf, but I’d say your stance is too wide.”