The world’s best golfers converge this week upon the city of Liverpool, a city best known for being home to the Open Championship every so often.
Oh, and some rock-and-roll band, too.
The Beatles were formed in Liverpool in 1960, and by all accounts they had a fair amount of success. You know, if 45 gold albums, 21 No. 1 hits and an entire “mania” named in their honor is your kind of thing.
Clearly, living their formative years in such a golf hotbed, the game must have endeared itself to John, Paul, George and Ringo. Surely, there must be plenty of links between the Beatles and, well, the links. Undoubtedly, there was a mutual love affair between the two.
So I set out to find some answers.
I went in search of how golf impacted them.
I needed to know those connections.
“The Beatles and the connection to golf,” Beatles historian Martin Lewis told me, “is what might best be described as less than a trace element.”
OK, maybe this wasn’t going to be so easy.
“None of the Beatles had the sporting bug,” he continued. “Neither as participants, nor spectators. John enjoyed swimming when he was a kid. George followed Formula 1 motor racing from his 30s. But none of the four were sports players or major spectators – and certainly not players of golf. To the best of my knowledge, none of the four even followed golf.”
As if that wasn’t definitive enough, he closed with this:
“There are very few rock musicians who have been into golf, but the Beatles are not among them.”
I believed him and yet, I still couldn’t believe it.
The signs are too numerous.
I mean, “Getting Better” sounds like it was arranged on a driving range. “Here Comes the Sun” during a rain delay. “With a Little Help From My Friends” matches up to match play. “Help!” after a particularly disappointing round.
And don’t even get me started on “I Am the Walrus,” which is obviously one of the top-10 songs ever written as an ode to Craig Stadler.
No, I didn’t believe the Beatles didn’t love the game of golf, so I kept on searching for connections.
“There’s barely no connection between the Beatles and golf,” declared Mark Lewisohn, another Beatles historian. “They weren’t interested. In fact, they weren’t interested in sports, period. But …”
Hey! A crack in the case! There’s a “But …” to give us all hope!
“The Beatles also shot videos on a golf course,” he explained. “For ‘Penny Lane’ and ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ in 1967. And in 1963, they posed for publicity photos on a golf course. But these occasions were more about using the wide open spaces than sports.”
The course seen in those two videos is Knole Park Golf Club in Sevenoaks, Kent. The one on which they posed for photos was Allerton Municipal Golf Course.
Of the latter track, Lewisohn said, “It was a short-cut route between Paul’s childhood house and John’s.”
So there’s a connection. Sort of. But still, I wanted more. I needed more. I refused to believe that none of the Fab Four had ever been indoctrinated into the game. It had to have made some impact on them at some point.
And so I kept trying.
“A claim has been made – and I use the term loosely – that John, Paul and George served as caddies,” explained Bruce Spizer, yet another Beatles historian, “and used some of this money to purchase their instruments.”
There’s the answer. There’s the connection. The Beatles were caddies! What a great backstory about the …
“It sounds good and gives people a reason to sell golf balls with their logo on it,” Spizer continued, “but the fact is that can’t be confirmed.”
Well, that doesn’t mean that it can’t not be confirmed … uh, right?
“McCartney said he sometimes went to the golf course trying to work as a caddie, but older kids got the job instead,” he said. “He has no recollections of being a caddie.”
There’s not even, like, a small chance?
“Bootle Golf Club would have been fairly close. That’s the one that’s cited when they talk about the three Beatles serving as caddies. If anything, I think it’s more of a myth as opposed to reality. That happens a lot with the Beatles.”
Not only is it a myth, it’s one so widely cited that Spizer already had a line ready to go in response to my questions.
“That story sounded a bit off course to me,” he offered. “The fair way to go without being in the rough is to say there’s no evidence they were ever caddies.”
But he’s got a point.
As you watch this week’s edition of the Open Championship from Royal Liverpool, you can be confident in the knowledge that there’s really not much of a connection between the Beatles and golf.
Me? I’m not giving up. I’ll be spending the week listening to “Let It Be” backwards, just hoping for more clues.