Front Cover

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pp. Front -i

Title Page

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pp. ii-iii

Copyright Page

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pp. iv-iv

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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pp. vii-viii

At age fourteen, I was asked what I wanted to do when I grew up. My response was that I wanted to be a golf pro. I had just fallen in love with the game, and the idea of playing it the rest of my life sounded ideal. I had heard Fuzzy Zoeller once say that he was a lucky man because he never had a job. He simply played golf. Like Fuzzy, I didn’t want a “real” job, ...

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INTRODUCTION Warm-Up

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pp. 1-3

A frequent comment about the eternal issues of philosophy is that everything is a footnote to the ancient philosophers Plato and Aristotle. Subsequent philosophers are simply clarifying and expanding their comprehensive consideration of the ultimate questions of humanity. So why write a book about golf and philosophy? Plato and Aristotle never played golf, so what is there ...

THE FRONT NINE

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pp. 4-5

I. The Beauty of the Game

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pp. 6-7

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FIRST HOLE: GOLF AND THE IMPORTANCE OF PLAY

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pp. 9-14

The statistics are clear. Whether we want to or not, most of us work too much. Sure, we often talk about playing sports like golf, but as adults, there is nothing more we do with our lives than work. We will not sleep as much, spend as much time with our families and friends, eat as much, or recreate and rest as much as we will work. Don’t get me wrong; work is important. Our work gives access to salary, stuff, success, and a sense of identity. But...

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SECOND HOLE: ON THE BEAUTY AND SUBLIMITY OF GOLF

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pp. 15-30

Though golf does not require great stamina, the coordination involved in hitting a ball hundreds of yards to a small patch of grass is a testament to human evolution and perseverance. Indeed, given the difficulty of the game and the frustration it engenders, it is not surprising that large numbers of those who try the game quit within a relatively short time.1 What, then, ...

II. Golf and Moral Character

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pp. 31-31

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THIRD HOLE: FINDING THE (FAIR)WAY WITH CONFUCIUS AND BEN HOGAN

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pp. 33-48

Although it may not be obvious to the average hacker or first-year philosophy student, I think a persuasive case can be made that there is a useful and instructive analogy between the best golfer and his pursuit of excellence in the game of golf and the good human person and his pursuit of human flourishing. Th e key to the effectiveness of the analogy, however, is that we ...

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FOURTH HOLE: “QUIET . . . PLEASE! ”

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pp. 49-63

Good manners are never a waste of time—civility, madam, always civility.If asked to name a civil sport or game, many people would no doubt choose golf. Civil people certainly play golf, yet does golf promote civility? I shall defend a qualified “yes” to the question. But as we shall see, answering the question is not as easy or straightforward as one might think. To make my ...

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Fifth Hole: How Golf Builds and Shapes Moral Character

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pp. 65-84

Historically, coaches, teachers, and advocates for sport argue that sport builds character. Many sport enthusiasts put great stock in the notion that sport builds positive character values such as honesty, responsibility, fairness, and respect, and they believe them to be one of the ultimate goals of sports participation. These individuals argue that athletic participation and ...

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Sixth Hole: Virtue Ethics: From Caddyshack to Better Golf

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pp. 85-96

Justin Leonard knew that if he made his forty-five-foot birdie putt against Jos

III. Ethical Issues within Golf

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pp. 97-97

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Seventh Hole: Cheating and Gamesmanship among Amateur and Professional Golfers

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pp. 99-108

To understand golf it is essential to realize its initial connection with class and amateurism. Organized golf began for upper-class males with the foundation in 1754 of the Society of St. Andrews Golfers, which became the Royal and Ancient Golf Club in St. Andrews, Scotland. Th e United States followed by emphasizing elitism and amateurism and in 1894 established the Amateur ...

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Eighth Hole: Playing Through? Racism and Sexism in Golf

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pp. 109-120

In the feature article of the December 23, 1996, issue of Sports Illustrated, “The Chosen One,” dedicated to its Sportsman of the Year, Tiger Woods, his father, Earl, remarked that his son would “do more than any other man in history to change the course of humanity.” Th e reference here is... not merely to sports history, which would put Woods in competition with figures like Jackie Robinson and Muhammad Ali, but the whole of history,

IV. Golf and Rationality

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pp. 121-121

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NINTH HOLE: IS GOLF INHERENTLY IRRATIONAL?

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pp. 123-133

Woodrow Wilson famously described golf as “a game in which one endeavors to control a ball with implements ill adapted for the purpose.” Yet President Wilson was an avid golfer—so much so that he even used black golf balls so he could play in the snow. This learned and seemingly rational person spent his leisure time doggedly pursuing an activity that he himself characterized ...

THE BACK NINE

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pp. 134-135

V. Personal Reflections

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pp. 136-137

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TENTH HOLE: LIFE LESSONS

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pp. 139-153

Four. Three. Two. One. Seven-thirty, on the dot. We’re talking rocket science here. You can’t phone for a tee time before seven-thirty, the day before you want to play. And you don’t want to be back in the queue (hundreds will be competing for a small handful of spots) when the call goes through. So timing is everything. And what timing means here is: ...

VI. Golf, Mysticism, and Self-Understanding (Amen Corner)

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pp. 154-155

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ELEVENTH HOLE: PHILOSOPHY IN THE KINGDOM

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pp. 157-170

Michael Murphy’s best-selling 1972 golf novel, Golf in the Kingdom, and the more recent movie The Legend of Bagger Vance, directed by Robert Redford, exemplify one of popular culture’s main attitudes toward the sport of golf: mysticism.1 The average, and even pro, golfer would in all likelihood probably never claim to have had a mystical experience while playing golf, but ...

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TWELFTH HOLE: MIDROUND AND MIDLIFE DEFINING MOMENTS

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pp. 171-182

Defining moments in golf are oft en thought to occur at the end of the game: Larry Mize chipping in to win the 1987 Masters; Paul Azinger holing a bunker shot on the final hole at the 1993 Memorial tournament; Roberto De Vincenzo signing an incorrect scorecard to lose his chance to win the 1968 Masters; Jean Van de Velde’s final hole collapse at the 1999 British Open. ...

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THIRTEENTH HOLE: FREE AND EASY WANDERING ON THE GOLF COURSE

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pp. 183-201

One of golf ’s old saws has it that in every round you will hit one shot just good enough to bring you back to the course another day. Th e good shot will stick with you as all the bad ones blend together. You will start to think how good a round you could play if only you could string a few of those shots together. Vexingly, this kind of thinking may be the source of your ...

VII. Golf and Idealism

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pp. 193-193

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FOURTEENTH HOLE: PLATO AND CONFUCIUS ON THE FORM OF GOLF

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pp. 195-207

Unless you are a Luddite1 or spend all your time on the driving range, it seems indisputable that in the twenty-first century the trend toward globalization will continue and accelerate. It is simply impossible to deny that the world as we know it continues to shrink. Events in distant corners of the world have the power to produce almost instantaneous consequences ...

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FIFTEENTH HOLE: THE “IDEAL” SWING, THE “IDEAL” BODY

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pp. 209-220

Movement is fascinating, especially when it is highly skilled, and most particularly in domains in which excellence in skilled performance is highly prized and even glorified. Golf, for better or worse, is one such domain. For the unfortunate masses—most of us—the golf swing is one of the most frustratingly complex and difficult maneuvers to master in all of sport. Wanting ...

VIII. Golf and Meaning

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pp. 221-221

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SIXTEENTH HOLE: GOLF AND THE MEANING OF LIFE

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pp. 223-237

In May 2008, at the age of thirty-seven, Annika Sorenstam stunned the golfing world by announcing her retirement from the LPGA Tour. Even some of the players close to her were surprised at the news, as the announcement came in the prime of her golfing career. In just the previous weekend, at the Michelob Ultra Open in Williamsburg, Virginia, she finished play ...

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SEVENTEENTH HOLE: MORE THAN A PLAYING PARTNER

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pp. 239-251

The angel Clarence in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life may have said it correctly when he observed, “No man is a failure who has friends.” Humans love others, and family and friends are what make life special. Golf, on the other hand, is oft en thought to be the ultimate lonely and solitary sport—an individual alone against the course. Winning or losing is totally ...

IX. Parting Shots

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pp. 253-253

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EIGHTEENTH HOLE: SWING THOUGHTS

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pp. 255-259

Th e philosophical analyses in the previous chapters are just the beginning of the connection between golf and philosophy. Below are several additional (yet related) philosophical questions applied to golf. They are intended to provoke further thought, reflection, and discussion of the game, its players, and the world. You might try to answer one or more per round and ...

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THE FIELD

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pp. 261-265

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INDEX

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pp. 276-290