The Downhill Lie

The Downhill Lie by Carl Hiaasen. Overall, I am pretty good at most sports (he modestly, and anonymously, claims), but I am a terrible golfer. A group at work had a 6am tee time each Thursday in order to get nine holes completed before heading into the office, but since I value sleep like Garfield the cat, I never joined them until after I retired last year. I figured I could always go back to bed afterwards. However, I soon discovered tender sleep doesn’t come so easily after skulking an eight-iron on number seven and then three-putting from inside twelve feet. After three weeks, I went back to my Soviet Union-inspired five-year plan (one successful golf harvest every five years). Given my background, I figured I’d identify with the Hiaasen’s tribulations as he returned to the game after a thirty-two absence. His stated goals were simple: “besting the lowest eighteen-hole score of [his] youth (88), and completing a tournament without crumbling to pieces.” Though I had not read any of Hiaasen’s many books, I had enjoyed David Wood’s golf travel adventure book and thought a second helping of golf humor couldn’t hurt.

Unfortunately, Hiaasen’s book is much like his golf game: it starts off quite well with many funny experiences, but it loses steam halfway through and struggles to the finish. His strongest stretches are when he’s describing his feelings about the game and how golf plays or played a role in his relationships, including the ones with his father, mother, son and friends. However, he spends too much time describing equipment changes, ineffective gadgets and fruitless lessons. Even worse are the many paragraphs depicting his horrible rounds and individual shots, both good and bad, a flaw that Wood successfully avoided. Ironically, his description of the sport could just as easily be applied to his book: “It surrenders just enough good shots to let you talk yourself out of quitting.”

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