Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Downhill Lie by Carl Hiaasen

All adult hackers - current, former, recovering, or as Hiaasen, returning after a 30 year layoff - will relate to The Downhill Lie. (And make no mistake, this is a book for grown-ups.) We've all played Ray-Ray golf. (One shot like Ray Floyd, the next like Ray Charles.) After slicing/hooking into the woods, we've all deserved to be called Daniel Boone for our affinity to the wilderness. Every golfer who has struggled for mediocrity, who has set "average" as a goal, will relate to Hiaasen's superstitions (find items that hold great mojo) and attempts at the mystical (Sympathetic Resource Technology via the Q-Link necklace), the medicinal (Mind Drive capsules), and the technological (the RadarGolf kit).

Something, we think. Something will allow us to eliminate the three-putts, slices into the water, hooks into woods, and second shots from the ladies' tee. If we could just do that we'd be happy. That's all we ask.

At one point a friend of his describes the wonder of numberless golf and suggests that it's a much more enjoyable sport when you don't keep score. I half expected him to ask his friend, "So how do you compare yourself with other golfers?" only to hear, "By height."

Why is it that sub-par golfers... Wait a second! Why is it that sub-par is used to describe something less than desirable? "My bagel was good, but the coffee was sub-par." That makes absolutely no sense. Sub-par is exactly where golfers want to be. I'd love to be described as sub-par when it comes to golf. It'd be a ton better than being described as a double-par golfer, which, in actuality, is much more accurate.

My apologies for the digression. Back on topic. Hiaasen perfectly captures the emotions in the golfer's quest for adequacy. Part hope, part despair, part neurosis. We've all deconstructed a round of golf, realizing we were only two three-puts, one triple bogey, two lost balls, and that one #$&#%@ snowman away from breaking par.

We've all stood on the last tee box swearing we'd never play this ruinous sport again, promising ourselves to mothball the clubs as soon as we got home. And then...what's this? A drive that splits the fairway? A long iron that sticks? (Have the heavens opened? Do I hear the heavenly host singing?) A twelve-footer for birdie?

And that's enough. Those two shots feed the addiction. Whether we knock down the birdie or three-put for a bogey, both equally probable, we'll be back tomorrow.

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