Preferred Lies

John Harris, Golf Historian

and member of FineGolf’s Advisory Panel reviews “Preferred Lies, A journey to the heart of golf” by Andrew Greig (Phoenix publishers, 2006). Buy from Amazon here.

Preferred lies, finest courses“A golfer playing on his own can be made to seem a sad, desultory figure, but not in Andrew Greig’s case. Mr Greig trounces those who imagine solitariness to be a vice by showing us golf’s unique capacity to absorb the human mind, by turns troubled and then euphoric. He is that most insightful of golf writers, the one who has lived other lives and written other stories. As a result this book does not suffer from the familiar modern traps of cliché and exaggeration.

Greig’s starting point for the book is a confrontation with his own mortality while miraculously recovering from a massive brain injury.
He is unsentimental about his circumstances but as the interior monologue develops, the reader gradually perceives the immense emotional odyssey that the writer is undergoing. In the circumstances, it seems more noble and fitting that he journeys largely alone. Rediscovering his long lost roots in golf after a mountaineering career, he decides to visit a select series of Scottish locations, all chosen with the criterion that they fit an inner vision of what will uplift and restore him.
There has been a glut of golf literature over the last decade, much of it American, employing a travelogue format, and embracing the familiar resonant course names of Scotland, and not all of it is bad. But where Greig’s offering differs is that he ponders long enough to absorb the landscapes and often chooses quite humble places, in order to revel in the exhilaration of being merely alive. In the first swings of the club after his infirmity the writer is brought back to his family’s roots in Fife and his grief for lost friends and departed relatives. Slowly, subtly, the words of the journey, especially to such wilds as Orkney and Iona, centre on the spirit of the nation and the fundamentals of why golf beguiles us.
The book is living proof of the words of another great writer:

At the back of our brains…there is a forgotten blaze or burst of astonishment
at our own existence. The object of the … spiritual life is to dig for this submerged
sunrise of wonder; so that a man sitting in a chair might suddenly understand that
he was actually alive, and be happy.”

Lorne Smith adds a small quote from the book exemplifying Grieg’s view of typical American and Scottish attitudes to life!

” ‘You play lovely golf, Andy’ Joan said. I blushed with pleasure. I’d never been told this by anyone who was any good.

‘ It doesn’t happen often’ I replied. ‘You should see me on bad days’.

She glanced at me quizzically, shook her head. ‘Have you never heard of positive thinking?’

‘Sure’ I laughted. ‘In Scotland we call it kidding yourself !’

‘I call it unhelpful pessimism.’

‘We call it realism.’ ”

NB. Page 91. The man who won the first Open Championship was Willie Park sen. not Old Tom Morris.

Reader Comments

On April 20th, 2010 Melvyn Hunter Morrow said:

I agree that Willie Park won the 1860 Championship belt, but I have been advised that the Championship was not titled ‘Open’ until 1861 when Old Tom Morris won. So technically Old Tom did win the first official Open.

On April 28th, 2010 Hugh Wolley said:

Awesome book. I have read it twice already.
Good work.

Regards
Hugh Wolley

Leave us a Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *