Carl Sandburg and Golf



Mark McCormack, close personal friend of Arnold Palmer and the world’s first super sports agent, grew up on the south side of Chicago and began playing golf at the age of six as therapy after fracturing his skull in an auto accident. One of his golfing partners was an old man - his godfather - who used to lie prone on the green to line up a putt. “I didn’t know who he was then,” said McCormack long afterwards, “but I realize now that if I would have represented him, Carl Sandburg would have become a famous writer.”

While living in Michigan, Sandburg was known to take long walks on the Lake Michigan dunes, often hitting golf balls. A journalist described him as “a white-haired man in a disreputable old hat, knocking golf balls across the sand.”

From a magazine profile in 1960: “Carl Sandburg sat back on the veranda of his home deep in the Smoky Mountains and talked about golf, goat raising, movies, and the life of Jesus Christ. The grand old man of American literature picked up a 7-iron leaning against the wall and said it had been some time since he had taken his golf game seriously. ‘But,’ the white-haired 82-year old winner of two Pulitzer Prizes said. ‘I often get out on the lawn and knock a few balls around.’”

Not many owners of those pulitzers often get asked to dispense golfing advice but Sports Illustrated asked Sandburg for some and this is what appeared in the magazine on August 30, 1954: 

Putt with both eyes on the ball and the club stroking the ball.

Then listen for the clupp-clupp of the ball dropping into the cup.

If one eye is on the ball and the other eye on the cup while putting, eyestrain develops.

Be cool when you putt, cool as a cube of Cumberland cucumber, cool as a contented cow in green pastures, cool as the crisscross of frost on a windowpane in zero weather.

Good putters talk to the ball and tell it where to go, talking in a monotonously low tone only the ball can hear.

Grant and Lee were both good putters, so was Napoleon.

Pleasant thoughts help while putting.

Putting is related to marksmanship and an instinct for controls and targets. Annie Oakley would have made a good putter.

Where good driving is superb oratory, good putting is effective whispering. A soft answer turn away wrath.

—Tips on Putting from Carl Sandburg, “sometime Illinoisan, sometime Michigander, sometime folk songster, who lives in Flat Rock, N.C. and hankers for more golf.” -