Golf Books #31 (Preferred Lies: A Journey to the Heart of Golf)

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Andrew Greig,  a mountaineer, novelist and poet, examines life and golf. The sport conjures up a great many images, most involving upper-crust aristocracy, private clubs and affluent practitioners. The author, a proud Scot and on-and-off golfer, argues that it is actually remarkably universal: a game for men and women, for blue-collar workers as well as executives, for those who enjoy the beauty of somewhat overgrown nature as well as those who prefer well-manicured greens. Recovering from brain surgery, Greig approached the links to meditate on a variety of issues, most relating, perhaps not unexpectedly, to mortality. He took the opportunity to visit 18 golf courses in his native Scotland, from the northern point of the Orkney Islands to the celebrated greens of St. Andrews.

Along the way, he ruminates on issues relating to the game and to life in general. The attempt to quantify the success of a round of golf with a scorecard can artificially taint and ruin a perfectly valid pursuit, he declares. A lopsided scorecard cruelly shows one player failing to measure up to a superior; declining scores suggest age and his mortality. Greig’s self-consciousness about his game also leads him to question his preference for playing alone as a means of avoiding the frustrations of competing. He eventually learns that company does not necessarily require competition and comes to enjoy fellowship on the course. He explores with great vulnerability and openness his relationships with his friends, brothers, father and wife. A portrait emerges of a man by no means perfect, but in many ways complete.

Greig’s purely struck prose is not the only strength of this book. For one thing he has excellent taste in golf courses.’ (Lawrence Donegan THE GUARDIAN )

‘If you have, or ever have had, any interest in golf, buy this book and read it. Buy it for your loved one, your lost one, the Saturday morning medal deserter . . . They and you will love it, inhabit it, and possibly be transformed by it. It’s the best book about golf I’ve ever read.’ (Tom Moreton SUNDAY HERALD )

PREFERRED LIES is satisfying, demanding, allusive and provocative. I finished it not merely wishing I was as good at golf as Greig, but also as good at learning from it.’ (Rick Gekoski SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY )

Greig….., has crafted a wonderful book about how it feels to be alive, in which the game of golf is a conduit for sensation. Here, golf isn’t a metaphor for life – it is life. Sculpted in luminous prose, which echoes his work as one of Scotland’s leading poets and novelists, this is a beautiful, affecting piece of work.’ (Mike Aitken THE SCOTSMAN )

a wonderful and wise book, quite unlike any golfing book you will have ever read before. (Dermot Bolger THE IRISH TIMES )

‘PREFERRED LIES feels like quite a special book.’ (Tom Cox THE INDEPENDENT )

‘He does have an ear for the way people talk and express themselves on and off the course.’ (Ian Dunlop THE SPECTATOR )

‘The pleasure of this book is no doubt down to the fact that the author is an accomplished writer’ (GOLF INTERNATIONAL )

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