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Two excellent books

My recent golf trip to Turkey (more about that in another blog post soon) gave me the change to read both of these excellent books.

An American Caddy in St Andrews

What an awesome homage to St Andrews and one written with great affection and respect for both the caddies he met and the town itself. There truly is something special about this town I call home and Oliver really manages to capture some of that in this book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and whizzed through it in record time (for me). It's a lovely memoir, full of fond memories of the author's time living and working in St Andrews. I approached this book with quite low expectations and, while it took a chapter or two to get going, I then struggled to put it down.

It's surprising how much has changed in the 12+ years since he wrote it though. While The Old Course itself has not changed, many of the bars and restaurants he talks about have gone. The recent growth in golf's popularity has also seen the demand for caddies become greater than ever. As a regular walker of the links, I'm increasingly surprised at the number of caddy bibs I see each time I'm playing. There were even caddies out on the Eden this morning, and that's pretty rare!

Oliver has had family connections to St Andrews his whole life and his love for the town is only surpassed by the love he has for his Great Uncle Ken. Throughout the book, you watch the bond with Ken and with St Andrews grow ever stronger. You also watch the author growing up and assess what's important to him as he matures. Caddying teaches him many life lessons, as do Uncle Ken and his best friend Henry.

This book is about much more than being a caddy, it's about learning life, contentment and finding your place in the world. It's really nicely written and I found it a joy to read.

Golf in the Kingdom

First published in 1971, this book has developed a cult-like status among those who have read it. It needs to be approached with an open mind, and it's wont be everyone's cup of tea, but I enjoyed (most of) it. Blending golf and psychology/spirituality, this book addresses many things I've been trying to explore in my blog! Every golfer knows there's more to the game than just hitting the ball.

The book is set in the fictional town of Burningbush, which has striking similarities to St Andrews. It is the story of how the author, Michael Murphy met the guru/mythical teacher, Shivas Irons and what he learned about himself through golf. We are also given glimpses of the mysterious Seamus MacDuff as he roams the fairways. I actually think Shivas and Seamus are the same person. If you have ever stubled across SpeedGolfRob I have a theory that he may be based on a combination of Shivas and Seamus.

There is so much philosophy and mindfulness in this book. It touches on so many of the things that fascinate me about the game. The comparisons with life in general and the lessons you can learn from golf and apply in all areas of your life. Almost everything I've read about in modern golf psychology books is touched on somewhere within this book. The abiding message is about gratitude and enjoyment of the game. Mindful walking is a strong theme too. There are interesting comments about improvement and how "trying too hard is the surest way to ruin your game" and that your should "beware the quicksands of perfection". There is a lot about the universality of golf and playing from your "inner body" and with "true gravity".

Although I've not watched it, there is also a movie of the book, made in 2009 at Bandon Dunes. Having read the book, I'm really not sure that I would want to watch the movie. Springing from the book is the Shivas Irons Society and who are a non-profit organisation dedicated to golf as a mindful pursuit - please check them out.

It's really hard to summarise this book well and I would advise you to read it yourself and make up your own mind. Readers will take different things from it and while I really liked it, others will not like it at all.

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