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What's All This Then?

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Golf Dreams
by John Updike

Field-Tested by John Gruber

in The Dominican Republic

The resort was in the Dominican Republic, so new that neither its casino, nor its golf course, were yet open. Thus, instead of packing my clubs, I brought along John Updike’s Golf Dreams. Unlike the overwhelming majority of golf literature, Golf Dreams is not even vaguely an instructional guide about how one plays, but rather a collection of essays and short stories ruminating on why one plays.

Updike is, of course, a masterful writer, and his enthusiasm for the game is evident throughout. But reading about golf, I suspect, is much like watching televised golf — fascinating to those who play, stupefyingly boring to everyone else. And so, while this book is without question an excellent companion for any golfer on a no-golf vacation, I’m hesitant to recommend it to the non-player. Golf Dreams is not an introduction to the game, nor an attempt to persuade those who doubt there is any enjoyment to be had in playing. It is more like preaching to the choir.

One afternoon I strolled by the resort’s under-construction golf course. They had not yet planted grass, or even begun irrigating; it was just baked dirt in the shape of slightly undulating fairways. It struck me then that playing a Scottish game in tropical heat is incongruous. A round of golf takes roughly four hours, but only a fraction of that time is actually spent striking the ball. In the interstices, the point is to enjoy being outdoors. There is something perverse, bordering on masochistic, in the idea of playing a round of golf in the sweltering Caribbean sun. Hooked drives, five-foot downhill putts, long carries over water — these are legitimate concerns for a golfer. Not heatstroke or a literally blistering sunburn.

Watching the laborers slowly (and I do mean slowly) shape the course, I did not wish the course was already finished. I found myself thinking only that I should head back to my shaded chaise on the beach, to my book, to my girlfriend, and to another free drink.

John Gruber writes and publishes Daring Fireball, a website for Mac and web nerds. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and son.

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Read the next Field Test by Carole Guevin