Golf Dreams by John Updike - review by Julian Barnes

Julian Barnes

The Game which Demands a Saintly Letting Go

Golf Dreams


Hamish Hamilton 201pp £13.99 order from our bookshop

It’s hard to underestimate how rebarbative golf is to the non-golfist. Not as catatonically boring as chess is to the non-chessist, but close behind. I once showed the typescript of a novel to a friend whose broadest sympathy can normally be relied upon at this vulnerable literary moment. My book happened to open on the golf course, and the location seemed relevant to the psychodynamics: I was aiming to set a weird human tenderness against the stuffy formality of the game. ‘It got off to rather a slow start,’ my friend reported, ‘because of all the bloody golf.’

You can see what enrages the non-golfist (a golfist, as opposed to a golfer, is anyone whose life has been, even once, long in the past, touched by the sudden beauties of the game). There’s the false, tailored landscape; the enormous pauses between brief and seemingly similar pieces of action;

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