A History of the Stymie

Today we tell the story of one of the great lost elements of match-play golf: the stymie. A stymie occurred when one player’s ball on the green ended up between the hole and the opponent’s ball. Unless the balls were within six inches of one another, the ball closer to the hole could not be lifted. The player who was away simply had to figure out what to do next. When the governing bodies eliminated the stymie in 1952, more than a curious little quirk of match play was lost, according to our guest Stephen Proctor. In a conversation with Garrett Morrison, Stephen argues that the stymie embodied a larger attitude toward the game—an attitude that fell out of favor in the mid-20th century, but one that is worth remembering, and perhaps reviving, today.

Stephen’s book The Long Golden Afternoon is available for pre-order now.