Book Review: The Downhill Lie

Last Sunday, Bev and I went to Edgefield’s par three golf course and played 12 holes with four friends. It was for me the first time I’ve played golf since 1987. I didn’t keep score, only to note that I alternated between “I hate this game.” and “I love this game!”

I started my love-hate relationship with golf in grade school. I used to hang out in the summer time trying to pick up a few bucks as a caddy on the 10th tee at Rose City. Usually, someone one in a foursome would hire me to pull his bag around the course. I learned to stand about three feet to the side of the ball waiting for the club order. I watched and learned everything I could about the proper grip, how to address the ball, the waggle, the swing, the chip and the put and how to hold the flag. I learned that you never walk on the “line” between ball and cup.

The hole after the big dog-leg left by Madison, is a three par, water hole. The men’s tee sits up high on the bank below Sacramento Street. The women’s tee is lower and nearer the water. I always asked if I could borrow a club and tee off from the women’s tee. Most of the time I hit a dunker. These guys loved the game and were free with the “tips” during the game and at the end when we parted. I got a job one year, caddying at the private Portland Golf Club. I lived at NE 70th and Burnside and took the bus. I had never been so far from home. The PGC was another world, a world to me of the rich. I knew I had arrived when many years later, built a house on the West side near the course.

I never played the game well. Never had a good set of clubs, just ones I picked up a various places along with a bag. When I last played in 1987 I probably shot over 100 for 18 and never had a bird!

I don’t know why I gave the game up. Maybe it became too expensive, what with an ex-wife. Maybe, it was the booze. Looking back, I quit drinking in 1988 and I have not played sober, till Sunday.

Sunday, I got my first bird and my friends suggested I played well enough to try it again. Bev has always said, “Golf is for old people. Let’s take it up when we are older.” Bev liked her outing. One of our friends called Friday and said Dick’s is having a golf club sale; $400 clubs and bag for $200! For some crazy reason Bev wanted to go. The clubs were graphite shafted, Big Bertha type metal woods, hybrid irons, beautiful 5 through wedge irons and a gorgeous putter. The pro took us over to the practice tee where we hit real balls and he analyzed our swings. Naturally, the $200 clubs were too whippy for me; too much torque. So for another $99, I found stiffer clubs worked better. I hit the ball farther, with greater loft. By 7:00 we walked out, each with new bag and clubs and an invitation from the pro to play sometime with him. Today, I’m playing nine holes at Broadmore. Tee off is about 1:20.

What does all this have to do with “The Downhill Lie” by Carl Hiaasen. Hiaasen gave up the game and decided to pick it up again after 32 years. This book is a riotous look at the game and the hacker golfer looking for a way to get good at a sport that is a terrible Dominatrix. She will torture you a lot and reward you just a bit to make you beg for more. I read the book in half a day, just so I could share it with my golfing partner.

Some golfers are just naturals and shoot consistently in the 70’s. The rest of us no matter what we buy to improve, and we are a gullible lot, will find that good, consistent golf just eludes us. The one thing I learned from the book is that we are all looking for that one thing that will make us better. A younger me would have bit on all that the snake-oil salesmen were selling. I’m hoping my maturity will allow me to just have fun with the game and not keep score.


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