I am occasionally asked why I wrote Golf in the Wild. I will mumble something about putting Allendale Golf Club on the map and the desire to promote golf in wild, spectacular places; to encourage the golfer to take the road less travelled. I forget one of the primary inspirations – the desire to write the type of golf book I wanted to read. There are “how to” guides aplenty and biographies about individuals who have spent their entire lives hitting golf balls, fill the sports section at Waterstones – I am beyond hope with the former and little interested in the latter. Andrew Greig’s Preferred Lies was a personal turning point – he demonstrated how writing about golf can be much enhanced by digression. The book opened a door to the possible.
As any amateur writer will attest, we do not publish for monetary gain, the reward is in the creation and sharing. Golf in the Wild has made connections with a group of like-minded strangers, many of whom have since become firm friends and golfing buddies. A chance, social media encounter earlier this year, led me to Richard Pennell, author of the recently published Grass Routes. We have shared fairways and thoughts at Warkworth and Hayling Island and on each occasion there was the sense of kindred spirits. There is a significant age difference and our histories are poles apart and yet, we have arrived at very similar places, drawn like-minded conclusions. To quote Richard: Golf. It’s like life, only more so. To quote Golf in the Wild: We play the game as we play life and we cannot help ourselves. Similarly, Richard runs out of examples where golf isn’t Masochistic, and I suddenly realise, as if struck – at long last – by a bolt of common sense, that golf is inherently so. This echoes my own thoughts while navigating the course around the chapel at Lochcarron: Playing golf on Sunday in parts of Scotland is still considered a sinful pastime, but this doctrine is fundamentally flawed, assuming that golf is somehow a pleasurable activity rather than a parallel and complementary religion. We suffer for our sins at pulpit and pin.
Take my word for it – read Grass Routes, it is a delight. Like John Betjeman’s Seaside Golf and a well-judged final approach to the 18th on a warm summer’s evening, resting “two paces from the pin” – it is pitch perfect.