Guns and Irons

March 30, 1998

In the years since Golf in the Kingdom was published in 1972,
scores of people have told me of supernormal experiences they've
had while playing golf. These believers speak with such
conviction, with such a sense of secrets shared, that I
sometimes feel like Father Murphy taking golf confessions. It's
a role I love, for the tales I hear are both uncanny and sublime.

In my sequel, The Kingdom of Shivas Irons, I recounted a letter
I got from a lawyer who reported seeing a ball marker on a green
400 yards away. I proposed that he had experienced clairvoyance,
had "married his eyesight and second sight," to paraphrase
Shivas Irons. Last fall I was on a book tour when Craig
Farnsworth, a former optometrist who trained sharpshooters for
the Secret Service after writing the golf book See It and Sink
It, told me about a man who could "quarter a quarter"--shoot a
coin into four pieces with four shots--from several hundred
yards. When I publicly doubted his report, saying that no one
can see a coin from such a distance, a man in the audience stood
and said, "Don't lose your nerve." He was Lyle Nelson, a former
Olympic biathlete who insisted that great shooters sometimes hit
bull's-eyes they cannot see. Shivas Irons was right, he said: We
can see with the mind's eye.

Later that night, over beers, Nelson told me about Lanny
Bassham, an Olympic gold medal marksman who claims that when "in
the zone," a great shooter can adjust his aim while a bullet
moves through the barrel of his gun. Bassham and Nelson know
marksmen who believe they can even "bend the bullet in flight."
All this sounds so much like golfers' "in the zone" stories of
supernormal accuracy--marksmanship on the course--that my faith
in golf's gift for evoking such feats has been strengthened.
Whether through cultivation or unexpected inspiration, the game
really can lift our natural talents to seemingly impossible
heights.

Michael Murphy is working on a book of philosophy.

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BURGESS VisionaryMurphy wants golfers to shoot for perfection. [Michael Murphy]

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)