John Updike is one of great American writer’s of his generation and has written extensively over his career for various publications on one of his favorite subjects-the game of golf. His book “Golf Dreams”, a compilation of his writings on golf, is a staple on the bookshelves of most serious golfer readers.
His style of writing is soothing like a warm fire in the hearth on a chilly New England evening with an undercurrent of humility and humor that evokes a knowing nod and a smile as we just shake our head as to say, yes that is how it is with golf.
Sometimes he is stating the obvious, “The golf swing is like a suitcase into which we are trying to pack one too many items – if we remember to keep our heads still, we forget to shift our weight; if we remember to shift our weight, we lift our head, or stiffen the left knee, or uncock the wrists too soon.” And sometimes he is more subtle and descriptive, “The secrets of a locale declare themselves in the interstices of a golf game: the sun-baked spiciness of Caribbean underbrush, the resiny scent and slippery lie beneath a stand of Vermont pines, the numerous anthills of Pennsylvania, like so many cones of spilled coffee grounds.” The insight he provides as he reflects on the mystery of this great game leaves the reader feeling richer for the experience, much like a walk with friends on the links.
John Updike wrote his wonderful essay “The Spirit of the Game” as part of the USGA’s Centennial Celebration in 1994. The USGA included it as the introduction in their Centennial book saying, “The USGA Museum is proud to honor one of golf’s greatest writers, in his own words”.
USGA Centennial Celebration Book, 1994