'Reading the Greens': A historical lookat the literature of the links
By Shula Neuman
Enthusiasm for the game of golf seems to be at an all-time high, yet few devotees are aware that the game's roots are as mysterious as a water hazard on the 15th hole. Did the game of golf originate in 16th-century Scotland at the Royal and Ancient Club of St. Andrews? Or did the game come from Holland or Germany, as some would claim? Revisiting the literature of golf as a cultural phenomenon is the focus of the Special Collections exhibition "Reading the Greens: Books on Golf from the Arthur W. Schultz Collection," which opens Monday, May 4, in Regenstein Library, and continues through Aug. 7.
Books and other golf-related materials in the exhibition are drawn from more than 1,600 items on the history of golf donated to Special Collections by University alumnus and Life Trustee Arthur Schultz.
"Reading the Greens" reflects an avid golfer's interest in the historical, social and technical aspects of the game through a rich array of texts and images about golf, most of which were produced after the mid 1800s, when heightened interest in the game spurred a concurrent proliferation in published material.
The exhibition highlights Chicago's role in the development of golf, said Alice Schreyer, Curator of Special Collections, and includes golf club yearbooks, rule books, route maps and other ephemeral materials.
"During the 1890s there were so many clubs and courses springing up around Chicago," Schreyer said. "There was Chicago's Onwentsia Club, Olympia Fields Country Club in the South Suburbs, and the Chicago Golf Club, which was the first complete 18-hole golf course in the United States. This area played a key role in the development of golf in America."
In addition to local history, the collection contains books that explore the mythic origins of golf, humorous reflections on the game of golf, and books on the design and history of some of the best-known golf courses in the world. The exhibit also features the most prevalent form of golf literature: the instruction manual. These guides include works ranging from the 1887 Golfing: A Handbook to the Royal and Ancient Game to the 1957 manual Timing your Golf Swing.
Schultz's donation of the materials demonstrates the ability of a private individual to build a collection that will enrich research possibilities at the University, Schreyer said.
"The idea for doing the exhibition is closely linked to our interest in letting the University community and general public know about Schultz's generous collection," Schreyer said. "There is growing, broad interest in the role of sports in people's lives. This is a collection that can support a wide range of investigations in social and cultural history."
On exhibit concurrently with "Reading the Greens" is "Maroons on the Greens: Golf at the University of Chicago," a survey of the history of golf on campus from the founding of the University Golf Club in 1900 through the demise of collegiate golf in the mid-1970s. The exhibit features information on famed student golfers as well as faculty contributions to the game -- including a golf ball used by Nobel laureate George Stigler to score a hole in one in 1963, one of five holes in one he could claim from his playing years.
For more information on both exhibitions, see http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/LibInfo/Libraries/SpCl/curex.html.