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The Downhill Lie: A Hacker’s Return to a Ruinous Sport

Review

The Downhill Lie: A Hacker’s Return to a Ruinous Sport

It
is delightful to encounter a book that, in addition to being an
excellent read, strikes an especially responsive chord in the
reader’s mind. Such was the experience with Carl
Hiaasen’s THE DOWNHILL LIE, an entertaining and enjoyable
saga about the midlife return to the frustrating and fascinating
game of golf that many readers may have gone through in their
lives. As one who gave up the sport in my late 20s, when spending
hours on the golf course became difficult and I found time to
return to the game in my mid-40s, the Hiaasen narrative brought
back many memories and nods of recognition. Perhaps more important,
it offers many laugh-out-loud observations that a wise and humorous
writer shares with his audience.

Many will recognize the Hiaasen name as a newspaper columnist for
the Miami Herald and the author of bawdy and entertaining
novels set in the State of Florida that poke fun at contemporary
issues of American life. A Hiaasen novel skewers politicians,
businessmen, retirees, rednecks and countless other denizens of the
“Sunshine State.” He has applied this formula to more
than a dozen bestselling fictional works.

Now the celebrated author has turned his wry humor inward. After a
32-year absence from the game that he first played with his father,
Hiaasen, now a grandfather with bad hips and other equally bad
appendages, decides it’s time to return to the game he
abandoned in his youth. Why? Because, as he ruefully acknowledges,
“I am one sick bastard.”

While he may be “sick,” he is wonderfully funny. Any
golfer will appreciate his observation about a fine-looking new set
of irons, too beautiful to throw in anger after a bad shot. As he
attempts to explain the golf handicap system, most golfers will nod
in approval. But, just like Hiaasen, they really have no idea how
that tell-tale number that appears after their name bears any
relation to golfing reality. Reading THE DOWNHILL LIE is a reminder
to every golfer of the various circles of the inferno that
constitutes golf, from lessons to gadgets to ecstasy and occasional
humiliation. He experiences it all and shares it with readers in a
fashion that every golfer will understand.

Hiaasen, of course, is not just an average guy returning to the
game of his youth. Indeed, his book allows him extravagances that
the average golfer can only dream about. One day, in a moment of
deep depression, he emails his friend, professional golfer and
television commentator David Feherty. His tale of woe and torment
results in Feherty sending him the latest model Cobra
Driver and ultimately a second model after the first is not quite
the correct club for Hiaasen’s swing. For his effort, Feherty
gets the back page of THE DOWNHILL LIE in the form of a
complimentary blurb.

Every gadget purchased, every club and indeed some of the most
expensive lessons in golf from the prestigious David Leadbetter
Academy are chalked up to research for Hiaasen’s book. I must
admit to pangs of jealousy that he has really come up with the
perfect scam to have someone else pay the price for satisfying his
every golfing whim. That envy is assuaged by two facts: unlike
Hiaasen I can’t write, and nothing he does seems to help his
golf game. Frustration fills the pages of THE DOWNHILL LIE, and
because it is a golfer other than me suffering ignoble fate, I have
to admit it is pretty funny.

I know Hiaasen will never read this review, but perhaps a friend
will call it to his attention. Patience, Carl. Several years ago,
just like you, I returned to the game I had abandoned. I struggled
for a few years, but now at age 60 I am playing the best golf of my
life. True, it is mostly attributable to equipment and the humility
of moving up a set of tees, but it is improvement nonetheless and I
am enjoying every minute of it!

THE DOWNHILL LIE is a perfect Father’s Day gift for your
golfing dad, or the book to take along on your next golfing trip.
Those who have never suffered through golf hell will not understand
Hiaasen’s anguish, but the rest of us have a wonderful
reminder that there are many out there equally frustrated and
tortured by the game invented by drunken Scotsmen.

Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on January 21, 2011

The Downhill Lie: A Hacker’s Return to a Ruinous Sport
by Carl Hiaasen

  • Publication Date: May 6, 2008
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction, Sports
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf
  • ISBN-10: 0307266532
  • ISBN-13: 9780307266538