Fic: Golfing Fever, Chapter 1/5
Title: Golfing Fever, Chapter 1/5
Warnings: innuendo, golf- lots and lots of both...
Disclaimer: Only borrowing Tolkien's wonderful characters. I promise to return them unharmed.
Summary: Golfing fever sweeps through Hobbiton, with unexpected consequences.
A/N: I am not a golfer, so any errors will I hope be forgiven. I relied heavily on my dad (who is a passionate devotee of golf and little knew to what end I was asking him so many questions!) and a wonderful reference book entitled, The Historical Dictionary of Golfing Terms: from 1500 to the Present. All the odd words and phrases for the equipment, etc. are in fact actual ones that were used at some point in golfing history. Many of the golfing conventions we take for granted today (such as eighteen-hole golf courses) did not exist originally, so I felt free to make the Hobbiton links a twelve-hole course, for example. Match play was the rule, and courses were often played backward and forward, so that the same green was used both for teeing off and putting out.
“If you have ever seen a dragon in a pinch, you will realize that this was only poetical exaggeration applied to any hobbit, even to Old Took’s great-granduncle Bullroarer, who was so huge (for a hobbit) that he could ride a horse. He charged the ranks of the goblins of Mount Gram in the Battle of the Green Fields, and knocked their king Golfimbul’s head clean off with a wooden club. It sailed a hundred yards through the air and went down a rabbit-hole, and in this way the battle was won and the game of Golf invented at the same moment.” The Hobbit
Mr. Frodo Baggins of Bag End, Hobbiton, had never considered himself the jealous sort. Indeed, if asked, he would have said that on the contrary he was an eminently rational, levelheaded hobbit who led a peaceful and well-ordered existence. He had everything he needed, after all: his beautiful smial; his friends; his books. Jealousy was a messy emotion, as he’d discovered in his salad days, and it no longer had a place in his life; and besides, no hobbit of sense would ever allow his heart to rule his head.
Or so Frodo, in his complacence, believed. But in the summer of 1407, when the Four Farthings Golf Challenge came to Hobbiton, Frodo discovered, to his surprise, that his heart did in fact have quite a lot to say about certain matters.
Duffer- an unskillful golfer
It began one glorious autumn morning in 1406- during breakfast in the Bag End kitchen, as it happened. Frodo was contentedly sipping his tea and eating a blueberry scone, while his gardener and friend Sam Gamgee did the washing up. Sam was wearing an apron tied about his nicely rounded middle, and humming a little under his breath, as he was wont to do when he was feeling particularly pleased with life. Frodo liked the sound of Sam’s humming; it gave him a warm feeling inside, like sipping a steaming mug of hot chocolate in front of a cozy fire on a snowy winter’s evening.
“You’re certainly in a good mood this morning, Sam,” Frodo commented as he drizzled honey on a piece of scone already dripping with butter. “I take it your golf game went well yesterday?”
“Aye, sir, that it did,” Sam replied, beaming as he scrubbed at a frying pan. “Lowered my personal best by two strokes, and, if you can believe it Mr. Frodo, ‘twas all due to my putting.”
Sam was a fairly recent convert to the delights of golf, having been introduced to the sport by his friends Jolly and Tom Cotton the previous year. Sam, like Jolly and Tom and their father Farmer Cotton, had become an enthusiast, and the four hobbits played together on the Hobbiton links- a twelve-hole golf course built some years earlier by the Honorable Company of Hobbiton Golfers- as often as their busy lives would allow.
Frodo derived considerable amusement and enjoyment from Sam’s golfing exploits, recounted to him afterward in thrilling detail, and filled with descriptions of flubs, hooks and slices, bogies, eagles and birdies, and even a memorable hole-in-one (on the par 3, 4th hole) that had led to Sam’s name being inscribed on a roll in the clubhouse of the Honorable Company of Hobbiton Golfers (or HCHG as it was more commonly known).
Though Frodo himself never played, he had no objection to Sam’s hobby, for anything that gave pleasure to Sam and brought that happy sparkle to his eyes was fine by him. He gave Sam the odd afternoon off to play in fine weather, and the previous Yuletide he had even presented Sam with two featherie balls, a gift that had left his gardener nearly speechless with gratitude, for the feather-stuffed leather golf balls were extremely dear and beyond the means of all but the most well-to-do hobbits.
“Lowered your score two strokes with your putting?” Frodo said now. “Well done, Sam! All that practicing is starting to pay dividends, I see.”
A few weeks earlier, Sam had (with Frodo’s blessing) set up a little putting green in a secluded spot in the garden. He had (in his spare time only, of course, for Sam was the most conscientious of employees) been diligently pitching and putting in an attempt to improve his short game which, as he often told Frodo, was ‘a right bear’.
“The plain truth is, sir, ‘tis owing more to Mr. Mungo Chubb-Baggins than to my practicing,” replied Sam, with that forthrightness that Frodo so admired.
“My cousin Mungo? What has he to do with it?” Frodo was surprised. He knew Mungo, of course. A distant cousin, a prominent member of the Honorable Company of Hobbiton Golfers, and a tolerable enough fellow if one could overlook that fact that he rarely conversed on any topic other than golf. Bilbo had found Mungo a dead bore, but then Bilbo had found golf a dead bore, and had always referred to it as ‘a good walk spoiled’, much to the annoyance of the HCHG members, whose passion for golf knew no bounds.
“Well, Mr. Frodo, it happened that me and Jolly ran into Mr. Mungo and his brother Mr. Bulbo at the links yesterday as they was about to tee off. Seeing as how there was only the two of them and the two of us, they asked us if we might like to join them and play as a foursome. Since you ain’t a golfer yourself,” continued Sam as he rinsed the frying pan in a basin of water, “maybe you don’t know, but Mr. Mungo’s been the HCHG club champion these three years running. Being invited to play with him and Mr. Bulbo was an honour me and Jolly never expected nohow. And they were both that kind as to give me and Jolly their advice while we played. Mr. Mungo, now he’s a born teacher. He helped me make a small change to my grip on my putting cleek, sir, and it worked a right charm.”
Frodo smiled at Sam, and calmly buttered another piece of scone. “Then how fortuitous for you and Jolly to have arrived at precisely that moment, Sam. It really was very considerate of him to help you, but then Mungo has always seemed like a decent sort to me.”
“That he is, Mr. Frodo,” Sam replied with sincere admiration, drying his hands on his apron, “that he is.”
The talk drifted away from golf to the all-important matter of what Sam should make Frodo for his elevenses. But in the light of later events, Frodo looked back on that conversation and wondered, with the utmost astonishment, how he could have been so blind. Why had no warning sounded in his heart, no premonitory chill snaked down his spine, at the fateful words ‘Mungo Chubb-Baggins’? How could he have sat there, like a complete dunderhead, calmly- calmly!- buttering his scone, as if nothing of importance had been said?
For, from that day forward, the words ‘Mungo Chubb-Baggins’ began to creep like some invasive weed into the garden of Sam’s conversation. “Mr. Mungo says…” was part and parcel of any golf discussion, and that accidental meeting at the links became the first of many games that Sam and the Cottons played with Mungo Chubb-Baggins and his brother Bulbo.
But alas for poor Frodo, he had been that blind, oblivious to the signs of trouble afoot, only sometimes wishing that Sam might perhaps not mention Mungo quite so often, or rattle on about grips and shafts and strokes, words that were featuring in some rather odd and compelling dreams he’d been having of late.
And then one day, about a month before the Four Farthings Golf Challenge, which was to be held on the first of Wedmath, the scales finally fell from Frodo’s eyes, and his heart, that heart that he had been so certain was firmly under his control, made its desires most emphatically known.
Frodo was in his study that never-to-be-forgotten day, hunched over his writing desk working on the monthly accounts (one of Frodo's obligatory, and dreaded, duties as the Master of Bag End), when a soft knock came on the study door, and Sam’s voice could be heard saying, “I’ve brought your tea, Mr. Frodo.”
Frodo raised his eyes from contemplation of the seemingly endless rows of figures marching across the pages of the ledger, and sighed with relief. Any interruption in the tedium of balancing the accounts was most welcome, but especially one that involved food and Sam (and perhaps not even in that order). Frodo slammed the ledger shut, hopped down from his stool and hastened to open the door.
A smiling Sam, all golden and glowing from his morning’s work outdoors, was standing on the other side, tea tray at the ready, and as he carried it into the study, Frodo had the odd notion (not for the first time) that the sunshine came in with him, too.
“I reckoned you’d be a mite peckish, sir, seeing as how ‘tis your account day,” said Sam as he set the tray down on the table. And indeed he’d brought a veritable feast: tea sandwiches (cucumber and tomato), a leek pie and a plum tart. Frodo’s mouth began to water as he sat down at the table, while Sam set out the plates and cups and utensils, and even a small vase filled with fragrant summer blossoms to brighten the room. He poured Frodo a cup of tea prepared exactly the way he liked it, with a generous splash of milk and a dollop of his favourite linden blossom honey, and handed it to him.
“You’re quite right. I am starving,” Frodo said as he accepted the cup with a grateful smile, thinking (as he frequently did) what a treasure Sam was. “Those dratted accounts require more energy than tramping across a field in plough.” He sipped his tea. “Ahh,” he sighed happily. “Perfect, Sam, as always. Now sit down and pour yourself a cup, and tell me how the wide world outside is faring while I’m locked up in here adding and subtracting numbers.”
So, with a shy smile, for Frodo knew that Sam still felt awkward about sitting down at the table with his master, he did. Once the pressing matters concerning the garden and the state of the pantry had been addressed, Sam inevitably turned the conversation to the upcoming Four Farthings Golf Challenge.
The Challenge was to be held in Hobbiton for the very first time in its long and glorious history, and it was less than a month away now. As a result, golfing fever had infected nearly all the residents of Hobbiton (save a few old gaffers and gammers, Sam’s father among them, who warned that no good would come of a golf tournament in Hobbiton; but no one listened to them).
Hobbits who had hitherto exhibited not the slightest interest in the game could be heard debating the merits of a shaft made of ash versus one made of hazel, or discussing, as avidly as they would their family tree, the prospects for the various golfers expected to participate. As the Challenge drew nearer and nearer, hardly any other topic was discussed in the inns and marketplace (or even, for that matter, over the dinner table).
“Well, Mr. Frodo,” said Sam as he stirred his tea, “I know the odds are against it, but I reckon Mr. Mungo has a real chance to win. O’course, he’ll be playing against the likes of Sancho Took and Falco Bramble, who won the last two Challenges, but he’ll give ‘em both a run for the Silver Jug, you see if he don’t. He knows the course inside and out, which they don’t, neither of ‘em being from Hobbiton, and the way he handles a club- oh sir, I’ve never seen aught like it.”
An icy trickle of unease skittered down the back of Frodo’s neck at the sound of Sam’s voice. He had only ever heard Sam speak with such hushed reverence about Elves. But, now that Frodo thought about it, it occurred to him that this wasn’t the first time he had heard that particular note of reverence when Sam mentioned Mungo Chubb-Baggins. He wondered that he had never noticed it before.
“He’s poetry in motion, Mr. Frodo, sheer poetry in motion. His grip… his stance… his swing…” Sam appeared to be in the throes of some powerful emotion, Frodo realised with growing alarm. His eyelids were half-closed, his hands extended in front of him and positioned as if he held something tight clasped between them; a slight smile curved his shapely lips.
Frodo went cold as Sam continued in a low, confiding voice, “He’s offered to give me golf lessons, Mr. Frodo, regular-like, if you can believe it. Imagine me, Sam Gamgee, taking private lessons from the HCHG club champion. I don’t rightly know what I’ve done to deserve such kindness.” There was a glimmer of tears in Sam’s eyes, and his lower lip actually trembled.
And suddenly, to his utter horror, Frodo could imagine it, for an unbidden image rose into his brain with hideous clarity: it was Mungo Chubb-Baggins, a lascivious smile upon his face, and he was giving Sam lessons all right, but they had nothing whatsoever to do with golf. Mungo was pressed up close behind Sam, his arms reached around him, and his hands were gripping… Oh no, no, no, no… He frantically tried to banish the terrible image from his mind.
“That’s- that’s lovely, Sam,” Frodo gabbled, wishing Sam would stop talking, wishing Sam had never brought up the blasted Challenge, wishing even more that Sam had never, ever set eyes upon a golf club, but had been locked up somewhere (Frodo’s bedchamber, perhaps) and made to swear never to go near a golf links under any circumstances or even to allow the thought of golf to cross his mind.
But Sam, far from stopping, talked on. “And oh Mr. Frodo, I think Mr. Mungo might be thinking of asking me to serve as his caddie for the Challenge.”
“His- caddie?” echoed Frodo. When had the sun gone behind the clouds, and the study become so cold? When had Sam, his Sam, turned into the most desirable hobbit in the whole Shire? The truth that had been staring him in the face, if he’d only had the wits to see it, struck Frodo squarely between the eyes like a hard hit featherie: he was in love- completely, madly in love- with his gardener, and had been for months, possibly years. And that messy emotion, jealousy, was gnawing at his insides like a mouse in a grain bin.
“Aye, Mr. Frodo, his caddie,” said Sam, completely unaware of the cataclysmic event that had just occurred. “And oh, sir, it would be such an honour to be a caddie for a player in the Challenge.” He hesitated. “So I was wondering if, maybe, you’d be willing to put in a good word for me with Mr. Mungo?”
The imploring look Sam gave him would have melted a heart of stone, but Frodo was discovering that his heart- that treacherous organ- was made of something far more impervious than any rock. Imploring look or no, honour or no, Sam Gamgee was not serving Mungo Chubb-Baggins as his caddie- or anything else, for that matter (especially anything else for that matter)- not if Frodo Baggins had anything to say about it.
The idea that popped into his brain right then ought to have appalled him. And it would have appalled the old Frodo- the rational, levelheaded one who had used to exist. But the new Frodo, the one whose heart was firmly in control, only gave Sam an apologetic look, and said, “Well, of course, I would, Sam, but you see, I’m planning on playing in the Challenge myself, and I’m counting on you to caddie for me.”
Dear cousin Merry,
I need you to do a favour for me, and no questions asked. Please send my golf clubs, a goodly supply of Featheries, and my golfing clothes along to me as soon as you can- yesterday if possible. I may as well tell you that I am entering the Four Farthings Golf Challenge. Yes, yes, I realise I swore that I would never be caught dead entering the tournament, but desperate times call for desperate measures, cousin. And no, I am not going to tell you what it is all about.
And if either you or Pippin dare to turn up at Bag End between now and the day of the Challenge, I shall have Gandalf turn you into toads the next time he visits.
All shall be revealed in time, I promise.
Frodo signed his name with a flourish, and blotted the paper. There was a determined glint in his eyes as he folded the letter and sealed it with wax. Sam Gamgee was about to discover exactly how Frodo Baggins played golf- and it wasn’t by the rules.
End of Chapter 1 - Chapter 2