Saturday, 5 July 2008

Golf's Grip

Or the Oldest Member Clubs

P. G Wodehouse’s ‘The Heart of a Goof’ is superficially about golf – and you might need to check-out a couple of key words and phrases, not least mashie-niblick, in order to savour to the full all the delights contained within: But don’t be fooled – Wodehouse, like ‘the Oldest Member’, uses golf simply as the excuse to draw you into a series of nine gripping tales of deceit, love and warfare. I am tempted to say siren-like. In fact I will say siren like: Wodehouse, and the oldest member, siren-like, trap the unsuspecting passer-by in tales of neatly woven passions and barely suppressed expletives.

As befits the short, nine hole course, each story is unique in its play – but some are more unique than others.

Hole one explains the title – a goof in golf is a special type of player, one that has allowed the noblest of games to get to him and, as a consequence, suffers torments at the poor quality of his or her play (for Wodehouse’s is a strangely egalitarian game with regard to gender). Only love and a slight amount of cheating on behalf of a loved one, can save the nascent romance and push the goof to a proposal.

Holes two and three are a touch exotic in that they are played across the water – and involve the most Wodehousian combination of butler and gambling debts and revolve around suffering a long suffering, but not too present, wife. Money is involved here – as you would expect when touching down on American golfing soil. There is also the entrance of what surely must be the most superior of all Wodehouse’s superior butlers.

Hole four is back on terror firma – the horror being the need to contain oneself whilst out on the course with a ‘lady’, and the dangers of failure to achieve self expression. It’s something of a short hole, but the tension is held ‘til the final putt.

Sartorial elegance, the might plus4 and the arrogance of the newly elevated form the matter of hole five: A severe warning to all who value friendship and take up golf.

Hole six has us with the need for a mummy boy to turn hero (and discard some wet woollen underwear) – whereas the last three holes are ‘linked’ in that the players involved form around a trio of Golfing Male, Golfing Female and (yuk) poet. Don’t be fooled however into thinking they will play in a similar way – there are surprises lurking around the bends, and the final entrance of the Golfing Sister stymies all bets.

Damn fine play I‘d say!

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