The Downhill Lie is my introduction to the writing of Carl Hiassen. My beautiful and much more informed schoolteacher wife is already familiar with his writing through his Newberry Award winning novel, Hoot.
Like many middle-aged dreamers, hoping that reading how to do something rather than actually doing it might give me that illusive ‘onenness with the golf universe’, I was browsing the sports section in a local bookstore and came across this seductive chronicle of a man in his fifties returning to golf.
This intriguing question hooked me: “What possesses a man to return in midlife to a game at which he’d never excelled in his prime, and which in fact had dealt him mostly failure, angst and exasperation?” There was an immediate connection that drew me inexorably into Carl Hiassen’s universe.
What is it about the game of golf that would entice me to leave a perfectly comfortable recliner, well-stocked refrigerator and climate controlled man cave to face the challenges of a hot, bug infested golf course that is impeccably groomed and perfectly designed to increase my risk of heart attack, stroke and pre-meditated assault?
Once again, I identified with Hiassen when he writes: “Unfortunately, the single most important fact about golf is as calming as a digital prostate exam: It’s hard…
When I decided to reconnect with the game, I had no illusions about getting really good at it. I just wanted to be better at something in middle age than I was when I was young”
Hiassen chronicles his 577 day foray into his return to the world of golfing beginning with his purchase of clubs: “After a few minutes of puzzled meandering, I confess that I have no idea what kind of clubs to buy.
My plan though is to start cheap. Minimizing the investment in golf gear should make it easier not to take the game so seriously, and if necessary, allow for an honorable retreat.”
His return to golf takes the reader on a laugh out load ride that concludes with a 45-hole tournament which he describes as: “No lighthearted romp for a reclusive, neurotic, doubt-plagued duffer”. His golfing partner dismissed it as “A couple of bad nines, that’s all” Which Hiassen comments, is like saying, “Don’t let an iceberg or two spoil the whole cruise.”
Hiassen summarizes the enticement of golf in his entry of ‘day 577’ after the tournament is over. He is watching his son Quinn:
“But today is a dazzling march morning, breezy and cloudless, and despite the fresh wounds from the tournament, it feels all right to be standing in the sun on the practice range, just watching.
For a second, I’m a kid again… and I can recall exactly how fantastic it felt to pound one, really crush it, then peek back to catch the look on my Dad’s face.”
My biggest complaint about The Downhill Lie is that I really do have better things to do but none of them as fun as reading this book.