Road Hole Shorts

Golf Design, golf, golf, GOLF

“Golf in the Kingdom’ — is it about golf or is it about life?

By Mary Armstrong/For the Sun-News

Posted: 08/13/2010 10:28:19 AM MDT

This book involves a chance meeting with an obscure Scottish Golf Professional — Shivas Irons; a mind-bending round of golf with him and his pupil; a philosophizing banquet of sorts with the golf pro’s closest friends; a nighttime adventure that some might call a snipe hunt; followed by a mystifying excursion onto the course to magically play one hole. All this occurs in one short 24 hour period. The book is the author’s memory of those events, but more importantly it represents his quest to rediscover it all. Golf in the Kingdom (GITK) isn’t a suspense novel. It’s not a page turner in the common sense of the phrase, but it is if you enjoy leafing back to this passage or that and realizing something new with each iterative reading.

The book is filled with wonderful, quotable phrases such as the title for last week’s column: “The Gemme is meant for walkin'”. Many of those quotables occur during the philosophizing banquet. Agatha, wife of one Shivas’ best friends, is begged by all those attending to expound on what she perceives to be the essence of the game. Until this point, she seemingly stands to the side as an observer of what golf means to her husband and his close friends. When finally she concedes to speak, she sweetly states her own perspective for the small group.

“Oh, golf is for smellin’ heather and cut grass and walkin’ fast across the countryside and feelin’ the wind and watchin’ the sun go down and seein’ yer friends hit good shots and hittin’ some yerself. It’s love and It’s feelin’ the splendor o’ this good world.” But this isn’t her only feeling about the game and what it’s all about.

“‘It’s the only reason ye play at all,’ She said. “It’s a way ye’ve found to get together and yet maintain your proper distance. I know you men. Yer not like women or Italians huggin’ and embracin’ each other. Ye need tae feel yer separate love. Just look — ye winna’ come home on time if yer with the boys, I’ve learned that o’er the years. The love ye feel for your friends is too strong for that. All those gentlemanly rools, why they’re the proper rools of affection — and all the waitin’ and oohin’ and ahin’ o’er yer shots, all the talk o’ this one’s drive and that one’s putt and the other one’s gorgeous swing — what is it all but love? Men lovin’ men, that’s what golf is.'”

This, of course, may explain why golf is historically such a man’s game and the book doesn’t really examine the game’s attraction for women except in a metaphysical and mystical sense. And perhaps that is where men and women’s interests intersect. Peter, another guest at the banquet asks, “Why is the game such an X-ray of the soul.”

During the “Snipe Hunt” as I termed it above, Shivas Irons takes Michael to the “lair” of his mentor or perhaps more aptly put, shaman. The place where Seamus MacDuff “lives” is at the base of a ravine where Lucifer’s Rug — a gnarly patch of gorse — guards the approach to the fictional Burningbush Link’s infamous 13th hole. There, Shivas introduces Michael to the metaphysics of the game — feeling his “inner body” and letting true gravity take over. As Shivas gives Michael this impromptu lesson, Michael observes: “I was aware that part of my mind had suspended judgment, that many questions were simmering still. But it felt marvelous to swing that way, so absorbed in the pleasure and feel of it. And it was a relief not to worry about the results. I could have gone on for hours.”

Interestingly, I had a very similar experience this past week. Coaching I’ve been getting from Joann Cox and reading this book have helped me to improve my mental game. I’ve been reading and re-reading passages from the book and it happens that it has coincided with one of my best scoring streaks. Last Thursday in my Ladies Golf Association weekly event at New Mexico State University, I shot 36-29 – 65 — a personal best and I am told course record from the forward markers. I tell you this not to boast, but to suggest that the crossing of these events were not by chance. I’ve been working toward a calm mind and detachment from results, but on that day I did sense my inner body. An image sometimes triggers this state of mind for me. The image is Da Vinci’s man — which according to GITK can be ascertained to have originated from an appreciation of the symmetry and proportions of the human body based upon Pythagorean Theory.

I’m sure this may sound a little outlandish and wild to some of you. Perhaps you have heard athletes talk about being “in the zone” and not being aware of what is transpiring around them. I believe this is precisely what Shivas is conveying to Michael. How you get to that “state” is the million-dollar question. Shivas takes a metaphysical and perhaps mystical approach. The real gift of GITK though is in its broader implications for a more vivid, well-experienced life – within and outside of golf.One quote from Shivas was particularly catchy and curious to me. I don’t think I truly understand it yet, but it’s on my mind:”Shiva without Shakti is Shava.”

A golf architect in New Hampshire for over 20 years, Mary Armstrong brought her craft to Las Cruces last January. She is the founder of Armstrong Golf Architects, which provides planning, designing, permitting and construction monitoring services for golf course projects. You can comment on her writing and view past articles at her blog:


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