SCLAFF v to graze or slap
Sclaffing is most commonly found in the context of playing golf, where it means grazing the ground with the club in the act of striking the ball. Depending on the skill of the golfer, this may or may not be deliberate. For example, Sir W G Simpson in The Art of Golf (1887) advises that
“A great secret of steady putting is to make a point of always ‘sclaffing’ along the ground”.
On the other hand, the fact that sclaffing is not always intentional is evidenced by its appearance in this list of undesirable shots from J G McPherson’s Golf and Golfers (1891):
“It mattered not whether his master ‘sklaffed’, or ‘topped’, or ‘heeled’ his ball”.
Golfers who are prone to producing this type of shot are thus known as sclaffers, as in this 2002 quotation from The Herald:
“With the Masters now only two weeks away, golfers, and even that other poor breed known as sclaffers, are lovingly looking at their clubs and savouring the start of the new season”.
Similarly, sclaffing can be a feature of football. In Scotland on Sunday (1995) we read that
“Thistle had sclaffed and miskicked in front of goal and then gone behind to a gem”,
and in The Herald (1999), somewhat ironically, that
“…directly from the second-half kick-off on Saturday, one of these superior sportsmen sclaffed the ball straight to an opponent”.
From its basic meaning, to strike or slap with an open hand or other flat surface, sclaff can be used of walking in a flat-footed or shuffling way, planting the feet on the ground with a slapping motion or sound. Thus in Walter Gregor’s The Dialect of Banffshire (1866) we find:
“She eye gangs sklaffin’ aboot wee aul’ slippers on”.
Hence a sclaffer, who may be sclaffy-fittit, is a clumsy, flat-footed person.
Written by Ann Ferguson of Scottish Language Dictionaries