Marcus Berkmann

Bookends: Heading for the rough

Bookends: Heading for the rough
STC64823 The Month of October, from 'An Almanac of Twelve Sports', with words by Rudyard Kipling, first published by William Heinemann, 1898 (colour litho) by Nicholson, Sir William (1872-1949); Private Collection; ( Golf;); The Stapleton Colle
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Middle age lays many hazards and traps for us, not the least of which is golf. Breaking 80 (Yellow Jersey Press, £10.99), the first book by the eminent literary agent David Godwin, shows what can happen when you let this essentially ludicrous sport into your life. In Chapter 1 he is a normal person, thinking he should do a bit more exercise, and taking up golf mainly because he can’t face the idea of cycling.

Within scarcely a dozen pages he is golfer more than he is human, thrashing his way round seaside courses in a clearly doomed quest to ‘break 80’, when the upper 90s and low 100s are more his natural habitat. He is not helped by his natural diffidence and dislike of most other golfers, especially  the ones who shout ‘Tuck your shirt in!’ from adjoining fairways.

Much, so much, has been written on this subject before, but Godwin’s account has an engaging modesty, an eye for the humour in his appalling situation and possibly too much candour for its own good: he never seems to be telling his wife the whole truth about anything, especially how much all this is costing. Normal life loses its flavour, unless he has a three-wood in his hands, slicing a small white ball into the gorse.

His book is best read as a cautionary tale, an unignorable warning to those of us who have resisted so far. Will golfers themselves read it, or will they be too busy playing golf?

—Marcus Berkmann