Golfers around the world have Scotland to thank for inventing this great game, but the term “birdie” is actually an all-American term. Specifically, Atlantic City Country Club is where the fluttery phrase for shooting one under par came to be—and boy, do they let you know about it.
As time went on, the story got better—as stories often do. Ab claimed it actually happened in 1899 and that he both made the birdie and said, “That’s a bird of a shot!” No self-esteem problems there! According to “The Book of the Birdie” by William Kelly, The Atlantic City Press added a fourth golfer to the group, A.W. Tillinghast, and legendary golf writer Charles Price wrote that Smith’s shot had “first struck a bird in flight.” So this tale about a bird also became a big fish story. Amazing.
In any event, the term “birdie” was coined, which, according to Price was an “abomination in the eyes of the British.” And more than a century later, like bird poop to the windshield of my car every time I park outside, it has stuck.