Originally drawn to the game by his father, Carl wisely quit golfing in 1973, when Richard Nixon was hunkered down like a meth-crazed badger in the White House, Hank Aaron was one dinger shy of Babe Ruths all-time home run record, and The Who had just released Quadrophenia. But some ambitions refuse to die, and as the yearsand memories of shanked 7-ironsfaded, it dawned on Carl that there might be one thing in life he could do better in middle age than he could as a youth. So gradually he ventured back to the dreaded driving range, this time as the father of a five-year-old sonand also as a grandfather.
What possesses a man to return in midlife to a game at which hed never excelled in his prime, and which in fact had dealt him mostly failure, angst and exasperation? Heres why I did it: Im one sick bastard.
And thus we have Carls foray into a world of baffling titanium technology, high-priced golf gurus, bizarre infomercial gimmicks and the mind-bending phenomenon of Tiger Woods; a maddening universe of hooks and slices where Carl ultimatelyand foolishlyagrees to compete in a country-club tournament against players who can actually hit the ball. Thats the secret of the sports infernal seduction, he writes. It surrenders just enough good shots to let you talk yourself out of quitting.
Hiaasens chronicle of his shaky return to this bedeviling pastime and the ensuing demolition of his self-esteemculminating with the savage 45-hole tournamentwill have you rolling with laughter. Yet the bittersweet memories of playing with his own father and the glow he feels when watching his own young son belt the ball down the fairway will also touch your heart. Forget Tiger, Phil and Ernie. If you want to understand the true lure of golf, turn to Carl Hiaasen, who has written an extraordinary book for the ordinary hacker.
Even if your father isn't out to relive the glory days of college athletics, chances are there's at least one sport he believes he can mastergolf. The fancy that getting a little white ball into a small round cup can't really be that hard has a surprising hold on the human psyche, as Carl Hiaasen admits in The Downhill Lie: A Hacker's Return to a Ruinous Sport. With biting humor, Hiaasen shares his personal quest for the weekend golfer's Holy Grailbreaking 80 (well, 90)amid challenges like alligators, hostile eagles (the feathered kind), monkeys, wayward golf carts and seductive, treacherous golf clubs (the kind that fit in a bag, not the kind you join). Hiaasen has a tendency to veer off-course in his narrative (usually into leftist politics), but he punches back on quickly enough, and his insights into the insane lengths a golfer will go to in hopes of a lower score are always entertaining. If you've been bitten by the golf bug, you'll appreciate every moment of Hiaasen's magnificent obsession. If you haven't, read The Downhill Lie and laugh at those of us who have.