Golf among patriots is bound to revolutionize something—if only the humble sand iron.
illustration by Deanna Staffo
Near the first tee at what might become the Delcastle Golf Center, Washington, Jefferson and Madison pawed at the ground.
“He’s late again,” Washington said, eyeing the position of their ball in relation to the other foursomes in line. “We’re going to lose our place in the rack.”
“It’s not crowded,” Madison offered. “Which kind of surprises me, since it’s the Fourth of July.”
“What’s so special about the Fourth of July?” Jefferson asked, shrugging at a young house slave he had brought to caddie.
“I still say if we would just form a private club instead of insisting on these public tracks, we wouldn’t have to worry about holding a tee time like this,” Washington said.
Jefferson regarded the former General of the Army coldly. “We just fought the Battle of the Brandywine and a whole bloody revolution in part on the principle of public golf courses,” he snapped.
“In a manner of speaking, we did,” Madison said. “I’m surprised you can’t comprehend that. But I guess that’s why your face only made it to the one, and Jeff’s here wound up on the two.”
Just as Washington was making a fist to demonstrate where Madison’s face was going to wind up, Franklin arrived at the tee, out of breath.
“Sorry, fellas,” he offered. “I was inventing, and I guess I lost track of the time.”
“Let’s hope you were inventing a watch,” Washington said. He then hit his tee shot into a water hazard.
“Hey,” Madison said, holding a couple of boxes. “Anybody hungry? Dolley made these cupcakes.”
Despite their varying abilities, the four marched through the first few holes more or less evenly matched, with Franklin winning the first skin on the fifth hole when he chipped in from the left bunker.
“What did you do to make the ball do that?” Jefferson asked.
“This?” Franklin asked, holding a niblick he had modified. “I call it a sand iron.”
An obviously irritated Washington, who had just picked up after hitting yet another ball into the water, cut Franklin off. “I don’t want to hear any more about your stupid inventions,” Washington thundered, “or I’ll shove that club somewhere where you’ll have to invent the science of proctology to remove it.”
At the seventh hole, down two skins, Washington pulled out his driver again, then drove his ball 230 yards into another pond.
A horseman came riding frantically up behind them. It was Paul Revere, one of the on-course marshals.
“The British are coming! The British are coming!” he cried. “Right behind you. You’ll have to pick up the pace, gentlemen.”
The four finished the round with Jefferson winning four skins and Washington losing eight featheries in the water.
“It’s so ironic,” Madison intoned, measuring words between bites of a Twinkie. “Our Georgie is famous for crossing the Delaware, yet he can’t hit a golf ball over a pond to save his soul.”
“Maybe that’s why the Hessians were so surprised,” Jefferson cracked. Three of them laughed uproariously. Washington slammed his clubs into his bag.
As the foursome repaired to the clubhouse, Washington, still steamed over the events of the day, sourly wondered how somebody like Madison could eat all those pastries and stay so skinny, and how come Jefferson’s caddie looked so much like Jefferson.
Reid Champagne says he’s always fancied himself a bit of a history buff.3