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Thursday, June 25, 2009


I really needed an “up” book after Memoirs, and since it’s well into the frustrating season of golf, I thought Carl Hiaasen’s The Downhill Lie, subtitled A Hacker’s Return to a Ruinous Sport, would fill the bill. I figured the title was a double entendre and I hoped to get a good chuckle from Hiaasen’s mishaps on the course.

Number one—Hiaasen complains that he has a tough time breaking 90. He gets none of my sympathy for that one.

Number two—Hiaasen complains that he has a 16 handicap. He definitely gets none of my sympathy for that one.

Number three—Hiaasen, though he virtually claims poverty, treats himself to any suggested mojo-enhancing device, any special club, and a bevy of lessons from recognized (and expensive) experts. He gets none of my sympathy for that one.

Number four—Hiaasen, as a writer, travels, plays at many different courses, and has the time to play several times a week as well as get to the practice range.

Am I really supposed to sympathize with him in any way? Okay, I’m a sympathetic human being, so there are occurrences with which I empathize or sympathize. You know, do unto others....

Although I laughed out loud, I did feel bad when his golf cart, brake forgotten, rolled into a water hazard (double entendre?), and he had to go in to rescue his clubs—including, I guess, his “rescue” clubs.

I totally understood the misconception caused by hitting the ball exactly right and feeling that you’ve finally mastered a particular club thereby proving that you have potential. That feeling may last as long as the next hole, but then again, it may not.

I empathized with 3 or, with a shudder, 4 putting and the severe pain it causes that creases your temple.

I understood the embarrassment of embarrassing oneself over and over again.

What neither Carl Hiaasen nor I seem to understand is why we keep coming back to the course. Are golfers simply masochists? No one is ever satisfied with the game.

Hiaasen’s father, an excellent golfer who golf-widowed his wife for the Sunday outing, let young Carl tag along. Here’s a quote that says it all about the game of golf: “As I grew taller he generously bought me a set of Ben Hogans, which were so gorgeous that at first I was reluctant to throw them.” Got it?

If you’re a golfer of any level of proficiency, you’ll enjoy this book. It’s in the true spirit of misery loves company, and that’s very good in the game of golf. You might even have a feeling of schadenfreude. As for me, I’m passing this book on first to my golfing buddies, Mary and Beth (who can decide between them who reads this gem first), and then on to Rick, and then….

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