Was the Word “Stymie” Originally a Golf Term?

This is the latest in a series of examinations of urban legends related to golf and whether they are true or false.

GOLF URBAN LEGEND: The word “stymie” originated as a golf term.

We’re used to sporting terms and phrases being adapted to everyday usage, but one of the oddest examples that I can think of is the word stymie, which was coined as a golf term!

You see, in the old days of golf, if your ball landed behind another golfer’s ball, if you were not further than 6 inches apart, you would be forced to try to hook your ball around the other player’s ball.

Here’s a player playing a stymie…

As you might imagine, such a scenario was pretty awful to be in, and the term “stymie” was developed to describe such an instance – where a player was put into such a situation, he was “stymied” by the other ball.

According to the Random House Dictionary, the #1 definition for the word stymie is:

1. Golf. (on a putting green) an instance of a ball’s lying on a direct line between the cup and the ball of an opponent about to putt.

Of course, though, the term has now become accepted as meaning the tertiary meaning of the word:

–verb (used with object)
3. to hinder, block, or thwart.

I honestly did not know the original meaning of the word, which is why I thought it interesting enough to mention here!

The legend is…


Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

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