Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Book Review: Try Fox Tossing: And other Forgotten and Dangerous Sports, Pastimes, and Games

Looking for a good read over the holidays? Try Fox Tossing: And other Forgotten and Dangerous Sports, Pastimes, and Games by Edward Brooke-Hitching.

While this is a golf blog and I’ll say a bit about the golf-related games, I’d be remiss if I didn’t start with the “headliner” sport - fox tossing. Played mainly in 17th century Poland, fox tossing - or fuchsprellen - consisted of a team of two people standing 20-25 feet apart with a strip of netting or fabric between them. The object of the game was to time your tug so the terrified fox would cross the fabric and be launched high into the air.

Thought to have roots in a superstition to bring good luck through the winter months, the cruelty wasn’t limited to foxes. Hares, badgers and wildcats would also be used as unsuspecting equipment.

On to a much more humane, if not frustrating, sport ... golf. Have you ever heard of aerial golf? Well, in the late 1920s, pilots would take off from Curtiss Airfield in Long Island and drop their “tee shots” onto greens at the Old Westbury Golf Club. A partner on the ground would then hole out.

For those more grounded, there was bow-and-arrow golf, where a cry of “fore” would’ve come too late. Also known as archery golf, golfers and archers would compete against each other. The archers would generally have three types of arrows - a flight arrow for the drives, medium approach arrows into the “greens” and a flu-flu for “putting.” Not wanting to destroy the actual greens, holing out was usually to a target (tennis ball on a can or something on a tree).

Considering archery golf also saw it’s height of popularity in the 1920s, there must be some connection to the “Roaring 20s” and free-flowing alcohol that brought out many variations to the sport of golf.

Pre-dating those two and in another part of the world, was phosphorescent golf. Peter Tait, a professor of natural philosophy and golf fanatic, proposed night golf to a group of dinner guests in 1871. The balls would be coated in phosphorescent paint for visibility. All went according to plan until a colleague of Tait’s, Alexander Crum Brown, retrieved his ball from the hole and realized his glove was on fire. The glove’s material reacted to the chemical on the ball, which then spontaneously combusted.

Those are just a few of the interesting sports and games detailed in this book. You may also be interested in the Great Tricycle Regatta, ice tennis or waterfall riding. If fox tossing is more to your liking, enjoy baby boxing, eel-pulling or monkey fighting. To be fair, there was also people throwing.

Order your copy from Amazon HERE.

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