|Sunset at St. Andrews|
Zen and the Art of Divot Replacement
by James Boles
Golf is a powerful metaphor in my life and a complicated relationship. More than a game, sport or competition—at my best it is a meditation, but more often it devolves into a confrontation with my mental affliction—the wedge: scooping, decelerating short game.
The best driver of the ball you have ever seen…a streaky putter…but the short game is an affliction…Can you hold one thought, one swing, one shot in your mind from waggle to impact? Or will you succumb to the impact zone yips, the fatal chase move...but we are not discussing my swing flaw, or rather, my scoring flaw…
I have come to believe in the four noble truths;
and I play golf as a metaphor—a means to teach
an unmasterable game— enlightenment
The grounds for gauf
The rules of gauf
The true match
One swing, one shot
My teacher, a master of zen,
put it more eloquently when he told me,
“one shot to test your understanding,
and eighteen holes to polish the soul.”
I took up the game of golf faster than some, earlier than most but not all. It was the summer of my ninth year, when a friend up the street started taking golf lessons at the Dallas Country Club. He invited me out to the grounds of
to demonstrate what he had learned, and together we fashioned a two-hole course between the baseball diamonds on the playing fields. My re-collection, is that I beat my friend with his own clubs, first time out over that makeshift layout. The friendship did not survive that first match, but my passion for the game did. Dover Elementary School
Soon thereafter my family left
, and moved overseas when my father accepted a European assignment with the Department of Army. Our family spent the next three years in Richardson, Texas Italy, just outside Livorno, port city to Florence and then two more in , headquarters of NATO High Command. Most of my summer weekends I spent on the golf course, either caddying for my father on one of his golfing trips to Punta Alla in Italy; or caddying for the generals in Heidelberg—lessons in how not to play the game. Heidelberg, Germany
When we got overseas, my father also took up golf. My father was not a very good golfer. He was a leftie, and so played the game from the other side of the ball at a time when there was only one lefty in the pros. When he was on he could drive the ball with power, but seldom did he have the accuracy to match his length. His touch around the greens could be quite abysmal as well, but he keep fidelity with the rules. He counted every stroke and never improved his lie.
It was an important lesson to me.
When I reached my middle years, a phase my wife claims began shortly after my 37th birthdate and continued without cessation until the end of my fiftieth year, golf became a weekend obsession…an escape from the pressures of the job or lack of one, and tension in the family unit.
I was also trying to re-activate a writing career that had laid dormant too long. A novel had sprung into my head about the story of a half-black, Shinnecock caddie by the name of Jobe ‘one shot’ Shipman who carried the bag for eighteen Open winners.