Fact Check

Golf Club Gift

Legendary golfer is rewarded by a sultan with the gift of a golf club.

Published Jul 20, 2007


Claim:   A legendary golfer is rewarded by a sultan with the gift of a golf club.



[Osteen, 2004]

Years ago, a famous golfer was invited by the king of Saudi Arabia to play in a golf tournament. He accepted the invitation, and the king flew his private jet over to the United States to pick up the pro. They played golf for several days, and enjoyed a good time. As the golfer was getting on the plane to return to the United States, the king stopped him and said, "I want to give you a gift for coming all this way and making this time so special. Anything you want. What could I get you?"

Ever the gentleman, the golfer replied, "Oh, please; don't get me anything. You've been a gracious host. I've had a wonderful time. I couldn't ask for anything more."

The king was adamant. He said, "No, I insist on giving you something so you will always remember your journey to our country."

When the golfer realized that the king was resolute, he said, "Okay, fine. I collect golf clubs. Why don't you give me a golf club?"

He boarded the plane, and on his flight back home, he couldn't help wondering what kind of golf club the king might give him. He imagined that it might be a solid gold putter with his name engraved on it. Or maybe it would be a sand wedge studded with diamonds and jewels. After all, this would be a gift from the oil-rich king of Saudi Arabia.

When the golfer got home, he watched the mail and the delivery services every day, to see if his golf club had come yet. Finally, several weeks later, he received a certified letter from the king of Saudi Arabia. The
U.S. professional thought that rather strange. Where's my golf club? he wondered. He opened the envelope, and to his surprise, inside he discovered a deed to a five-hundred-acre golf course in America.

[Collected via e-mail, July 2006]

I heard a rumor that Arnold Palmer was once asked by a Saudi king to come and play golf with him. Palmer wasn't sure if he should go, but his friends convinced him. As he was playing the king told him he wanted to give him a gift for coming to play with him. Palmer declined, but the king was persistent. Palmer said he could give him a golf club. The king said he would send it to him. After returning home Palmer got to wondering what the club would look like. Solid gold? Diamond studded? The package arrived, but it was not the size of a golf club. Palmer opened it and found the keys and a deed to a golf club (resort).


Origins:   How old is old? This story about a wealthy patron and his gift of a golf club has been kicking around at least since 1949, when it appeared in Reader's Digest:

Lowell Thomas tells about an explorer who brought an Indian maharajah some gifts which were unobtainable in Asia. The grateful potentate wanted to reciprocate, and after much pleading he finally got the explorer to suggest: "Oh, well, if in your travels around England you happen to find any golf clubs, buy a few for me."

Later the maharajah reported: "I've bought two golf clubs for you. Both have 18 holes, and one even has a swimming pool. But I have a disappointment for you. St. Andrews refuses to sell."

Some urban legends are "wish fulfillment" tales, accounts wherein those who have acted in especially kindly or well-mannered ways are unexpectedly rewarded with expensive gifts by the well-heeled but previously unrecognized folks they'd assisted. One story of this sort tells of a good-hearted motorist who stops to

render aid to the occupants of a limousine that has broken down, and for his troubles the millionaire who was riding in that vehicle pays off the chap's mortgage. That hoary moral lesson on the value of being kind to others has been trotted out about many famous people (or their wives) over the years, including Donald Trump, Bill Gates, Mrs. Perry Como, and Mrs. Nat King Cole.

The "gift of a golf club" story is another tale of this ilk, in which once again a beneficent wealthy person over-rewards for a service received, this time with a multi-million dollar piece of real estate rather than the far more mundane and less expensive item requested. Also worked into this yarn is a common belief about the mega-rich, that they live and spend on so different a plane from the rest of us that the term "golf club" would naturally prompt them to think in terms of clubhouses and greens, while their less financially fortunate counterparts would be mentally conjuring up putters and drivers.

(Of course, since golf is played with a set of clubs, it would be rather unusual for a golfer to state that he'd like a club without specifying which one [e.g., a 3-wood, a 7-iron, a putter], a detail that would eliminate the ambiguity necessary for this legend to work. Hence some versions, such as the first example quoted above, note that the golfer is also a "collector" of clubs and thus unconcerned about which single club his benefactor might provide him.)

The "golf club" story is similar to a joke presented as a diary entry made by Bill Gates, a man often used in illustrative stories as verbal shortform for "very wealthy person" (in the same way Albert Einstein is used for "very smart person"). Says that bogus diary entry: "Memo to self — Next time, when my wife says we need to buy china, she means dishes."

Barbara "peking into the lives of the rich and famous" Mikkelson

Last updated:   9 October 2013


    Osteen, Joel.   Your Best Life Now.

    New York: Warner Faith, 2004   (pp. 11-12).

    Fun Fare: A Treasury of Reader's Digest Wit and Humor.

    Pleasantville, N.Y.: Reader's Digest Association Inc., 1949   (p. 230).

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