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Fairway Funnies: How Charles Schulz Incorporated His Love of Golf into the Peanuts Comic Strip

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The classic Peanuts comic strip by cartoonist Charles M. Schulz featured many storylines involving the game of golf over its 50-year run. Golf was a lifelong passion for Schulz, from his days as a caddy in his youth to the weekly golf matches he enjoyed late into his life. This love for the game comes through clearly in Peanuts, with the beagle Snoopy even taking on a recurring persona as the World Famous Golf Pro. Schulz’s California home included a 4-hole par-3 golf course.

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When Schulz first introduced golf into Peanuts in 1951, the characters were novice duffers at best, misunderstanding basics like golf tees and how to hit a golf ball, resorting to cheating or throwing temper tantrums on the course. But over time, Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Peppermint Patty, and the whole Peanuts gang grew into avid golfers. A 1954 comic even features Lucy playing in a golf tournament with Good ‘Ol Charlie Brown on her golf bag!

Golf became a staple of the spring and summer months in the strip, leading to amusing storylines involving sand traps, caddies, women’s rights advocacy, and more on the golf course. Even 23 years after his death, Schulz’s presence on the links lives on through his vibrant comics and the many fans he influenced to embrace the game.

In this post, we’ll look at Charles Schulz’s bio and background in golf, as well as the history and legacy of the Peanuts. We’ll also look at the origins of the “Happiness Is..” theme, which is unmistakably tied to the Peanuts gang. Finally, we suggest further reading options to dig deeper into Peanuts lore.

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Charles Schulz Bio

Charles Monroe Schulz was born in 1922 in St. Paul, Minnesota, and was nicknamed “Sparky” as an infant by an uncle, after the horse Spark Plug from the Barney Google comic strip. Schulz developed a love of comics and drawing from a young age, pouring over the Sunday funny pages with his father. After graduating high school in 1940, he took correspondence courses in cartooning and eventually became an instructor at Art Instruction Schools. Here, Schulz began developing his signature style, leading up to the launch of his iconic comic strip Peanuts in 1950.

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Peanuts © (1995) Peanuts Worldwide LLC

Peanuts featured characters inspired by Schulz’s own midwestern childhood, like the sensitive Charlie Brown and his anthropomorphic dog Snoopy. The strip chronicled the lives of young children with a quiet melancholy yet also whimsy and humor. It touched on themes like bullying, insecurity, and the cruelties that exist among children, which Schulz channeled from his own shy, lonely youth.

Peanuts would run for nearly 50 years in over 2,000 newspapers, making Schulz an integral part of American pop culture. The strip expanded into animated TV specials, merchandise, and Broadway shows. When Schulz passed away in 2000, one day before his final Sunday Peanuts strip was published, he left a legacy as one of the most influential cartoonists of the 20th century.

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Peanuts © (1999) Peanuts Worldwide LLC

An Avid Golfer

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A lifelong golfer who played on his high school golf team, Schulz’s enthusiasm for the sport brought greater visibility and accessibility to golf within popular culture. Whether inspiring young fans to pick up a golf club themselves or showing adults that anyone can find joy hacking around the course, Schulz’s Peanuts had an indelible impact on golf’s popularity around the world.

Beyond the comics, Schulz hosted charity golf tournaments, played with celebrities at Pebble Beach, and even had a partnership with the USGA. Schulz created Peanuts artwork and comics to help explain the rules of golf and make them more accessible. The USGA hosted exhibits of his golf-themed original artwork and strips as recently as 2010. Schulz was a member of the Santa Rosa Golf and Country Club from 1959 until his death in 2000.

The inspiration for this post was a recent viewing of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” triggering my memory of Schulz’s love of golf. My favorite Peanuts comic was with Snoopy waiting on the tee while Charlie Brown reads a magazine. I was able to find it online (below) – it’s still funny, probably resonates more now then it did in the 90s!

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Peanuts © (1990) Peanuts Worldwide LLC

All About the Peanuts Comic Strip

The Peanuts comic strip originally launched under “Li’l Folks” in 1947, appearing intermittently in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. In 1950, United Feature Syndicate bought the rights to the strip and renamed it Peanuts. On October 2, 1950, Peanuts officially debuted in seven newspapers nationwide. The strip’s early years featured a group of young children led by the introspective Charlie Brown. Other notable characters included his dog Snoopy, bossy Lucy van Pelt, her blanket-toting little brother Linus, tomboyish Peppermint Patty, the beloved yellow bird Woodstock, and more.

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Peanuts quickly became the most popular and influential comic strip of its era. By the mid-1960s, it was syndicated to hundreds of newspapers. Beyond the daily comic strips, the Peanuts characters starred in beloved animated holiday TV specials like A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966), as well as a Broadway musical called You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown in 1967.

Peanuts’ simple but expressive visual style, introspective themes, and focus on children’s perspectives inspired countless cartoonists and storytellers. As both comfort food and an endless well of inspiration, the legacy of Peanuts seems assured for many more decades to come. Its most popular characters remain recognizable global icons, continuing Schulz’s legacy as one of the world’s great creative geniuses.

Peanuts remained a cultural phenomenon through the 1990s and were adapted into more TV shows and films. At the time of Schulz’s death in 2000, Peanuts was running in over 2,500 newspapers globally.

Scotland Bound, Charlie Brown

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In 1991, Schulz and his wife embarked on a trip to Scotland, which included a visit to St Andrews. This journey was not just a vacation but also a reflection of Schulz’s interest in exploring his own heritage and Scotland’s golfing culture.

Schulz’s trip was the basis for a 1997 comic strip and inspired what was to be a feature-length special that had reached the storyboarding stage before he died in 2000 at age 77.

The story remained in the vaults and was recently discovered in the archives of Schulz Studios. The storyboard was turned into the 2021 graphic novel “Scotland Bound, Charlie Brown.” The book tells the story of a Peanuts gang adventure to Scotland, with Lucy shown playing a round at the Old Course.

Illustrator Robert Pope said, “The book is a travelogue of Scotland. We used reference books and Google images and I have a travel agents within walking distance of my home, so it was fun to go there and find out all I could about Scotland.”

“Happiness Is” Theme

HAPPINESS IS A LONG WALK WITH A PUTTER

The phrase “happiness is” and the association with Peanuts originated from a comic strip published on April 25, 1960. In the strip, the character Lucy hugs Snoopy and says “Happiness is a warm puppy.” This quote became iconic, encapsulating the simple joys in life.

The phrase inspired Peanuts merchandise using the quote, variations on the theme like “Happiness is…” and even a Beatles song. It was popularized further by a 1962 Peanuts book by also titled “Happiness is a Warm Puppy.” The “Hapiness is” theme inspired multiple books and had an enduring cultural impact, distilling ideas about happiness into simple yet profound statements. The quote continues to resonate today as an expression of finding fulfillment in uncomplicated pleasures. Its legacy is a testament to the wisdom Charles Schulz infused into his Peanuts comic strip.

In golf circles, “Happiness is a Long Walk With a Putter,” an obvious reference to the Peanuts and Schulz characters, has been widely attributed to Greg Norman. However, other sources trace this phrase back to Ben Hogan, which fits the time period more appropriately and fits the theme of enjoying the walk to the green even more after hitting a great approach shot.

Further Reading on the Peanuts Gang

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Peanuts Family Album
by Andrew Farago

Summary: People around the world recognize Charlie Brown, Lucy, and Snoopy. And Peanuts enthusiasts know Peggy Jean, Roy, and Spike. But what about Shermy? Truffles? And who exactly is Floyd?

The Complete Peanuts Family Album is the first detailed exploration of the entire Peanuts universe, from its most iconic personalities to its most obscure characters, as well as classic paraphernalia and events. With more than 700 charming and historic images, The Complete Peanuts Family Album will remind readers of all ages why happiness is a warm puppy.

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Scotland Bound, Charlie Brown
by Charles M Shulz, Bill Melendez, Jason Cooper & Robert Pope

Summary: Charlie Brown and his friends head across the pond to Scotland where the gang plans to participate in an international music festival and Charlie Brown hopes to meet his pen-pal, Morag based on an unproduced, feature-length special, storyboarded by Charles M. Schulz!

Good Ol’ Charlie Brown has fallen in love with his pen-pal from Scotland! Now, full of unbridled enthusiasm and confidence, he’s convinced his friends Linus, Lucy, Schroeder, and his faithful dog, Snoopy, to accompany him on an international trip to meet her. Whether it’s golf, music, or the mystery of Loch Ness, everyone discovers something extraordinary about the legendary country…even Charlie Brown, who realizes he’s wishy-washy wherever he may be.

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Happiness Is…
by Charles M. Schulz

Summary: All four books collecting Charles M. Schulz’s original comics of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the rest of the Peanuts gang are now in one special box set.

Find the meaning of friendship, love, and comfort in all the little things around us in I Need All the Friends I Can Get, Happiness Is a Warm Puppy, Security Is a Thumb and a Blanket, and Love Is Walking Hand in Hand. The box set also comes with four collectible cards with a Peanuts quote!

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Charles M. Schulz: The Art and Life of the Peanuts Creator in 100 Objects
by Benjamin L. Clark and Nat Gertler 

Summary: Charles M. Schulz: The Life and Art of the Creator of Peanuts in 100 Objects explores the man behind one of America’s most iconic comic strips and its beloved cast of characters—Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the rest of the Peanuts Gang. Through 100 preserved and cataloged artifacts, delve into Charles M. Schulz’s Minnesota youth in 1920s America, Schulz’s WWII Army service, and Schulz’s path to fame through his post-war comic series Li’l Folks and five decades of Peanuts. From Schulz’s first published drawing featured in Ripley’s Believe It or Not! to his 2001 Congressional Gold Medal, the 100 artifacts bring the details of the singular artist to life. Along with provocative, witty, and wise quotes, fan-favorite strips, and more, this book is a must-have for any Peanuts fan.

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The Complete Peanuts
by Charles M. Schulz

Summary: Although there have been literally hundreds of Peanuts books published, many of the strips from the series’ first two or three years have never been collected before―in large part because they showed a young Schulz working out the kinks in his new strip and include some characterizations and designs that are quite different from the cast we’re all familiar with. (Among other things, three major cast members―Schroeder, Lucy, and Linus―initially show up as infants and only “grow” into their final “mature” selves as the months go by. Even Snoopy debuts as a puppy!) Thus The Complete Peanuts offers a unique chance to see a master of the art form refine his skills and solidify his universe, day by day, week by week, month by month.

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