Marcus Berkmann

Bookends: To a tee

Sporting literature is a strange old business, often underrated by those who don’t like sport and overrated by those who do. In particular, a warm glow hovers over the reputation of golf writing, which has attained an eminence the unsung litterateurs of snooker and darts can only envy.

Golf Stories (Everyman’s Library, £10.99), edited by the American journalist Charles McGrath, arrives as a small and beautifully appointed hardback, as certain of itself as any book can be. Primarily aimed at a US readership, it includes many of the usual suspects: Stephen Leacock, with a slightly weary piece of New Yorkerish whimsy; John Updike’s frequently anthologised ‘Farrell’s Caddie’; the famed golfing scene from Goldfinger; and only one P. G. Wodehouse story when you would happily read 20.

As well as Ring Lardner, there’s one by his nephew Rex Lardner, and other members of that extended family might well be concealed by crafty pseudonyms. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s story is barely about golf at all, and feels crowbarred in. But there’s a sharp little Ian Rankin story, a murder mystery from E. C. Bentley (weapon of choice: a number 2 wood) and several clever, artful tales by people I have never heard of.

Wildly variable, and occasion-ally prone to Peter Alliss-like self-satisfaction, Golf Stories is nonetheless hugely enjoyable: pure comfort reading, infused with an affection that is almost innocent in its fervour. I’d say it’s more fun than playing the bloody game, but that might just be me.

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