‘Lost Balls’ by Charles Lindsay

By: Jeff Shelley

The subtitle of this outstanding book – “Great Holes, Tough Shots, and Bad Lies” – captures the odd situations golfers – and golf balls – frequently find themselves in. The depictions herein are priceless. From author John Updike taking a proper penalty drop from an unplayable lie, to a circa 1900 golf ball that became the permanent home for ladybugs, the images are graphic and telling.

After a brief introduction by Updike, Lindsay launches into the first section, called “Old World.” Here, the oversize photos include an antique Penfold Ace golf ball that’s about to be smote by a wooden driver; a cow-dung hazard on the seventh hole at Barra Golf club on the Isle of Barra, Scotland; and the striking standing stones at the Lundin Ladies Golf Club in Fife, Scotland. Dogs, ponies, snails, a tattered balata ball, graveyards, stone walls, and other filaments of the past illuminate golf courses from around the world while showing that the sport arouses a timeless, and timeworn, passion anywhere you go.

Introduced by Greg Norman, the “New World” section illustrates how the game has penetrated our contemporary lives. Among the more revealing images is a cowboy whaling away at a golf ball on a North Dakota prairie; golf balls embedded in a saguaro cactus in Scottsdale; an underwater golf-ball hunter in a spring-fed creek at Blue Lakes Golf Club near Twin Falls, Idaho; a golfer eyeing his errant ball atop the glassed-in pool screen at Monarch Country Club in Palm City, Fla.; and a raccoon nibbling on a Titleist on the roof of a golf cart – with its open-mouthed owner peeking skyward – at the Meadow Club in Marin County, Calif.

More critters – both of the human and beastly variety, including a threatening grizzly bear chasing golfers off a green at the Yellowstone Club in Big Sky, Montana – point out that golf incursions are not always sedate.

Yet the game endures, a fact evinced by the photo accompanying Lindsay’s “Afterword.” The image is of possibly the world’s oldest golf ball. Made of boxwood with a lead center, the spheroid was excavated in 2003 from an early 16th Century trash heap. A club head found nearby was carbon-dated to 1432.

Such is the allure of Lindsay’s golf book, which digs as deeply into the natural wonders as his previous subjects – fly-fishing in the American West, Balinese rituals and the green turtle, and a Mentawai shaman who ruled the local rain forest. This book is not only a fine compliment for your coffee-table, but a lively conversation piece as well.

‘Lost Balls’ by Charles Lindsay, Bullfinch Press, 2005, 128 pages, $40 (hardcover), ISBN 0-8212-6185-1