A book that brings together golf and the ancient Japanese poetic form of haiku seems highly unlikely; however, author Paul J. Zingg makes such a combination seem as natural as the gorse and broom that line the fairways of Scottish links courses.
Relevant original haiku (usually, but not always, 17 syllables each) introduce each of Zingg’s 72 essays on the famous courses, outstanding players and the intricacies of the game. For example, this haiku introduces a chapter titled “Fairways”: “Tee shot finds the rough,/ ‘fairways are overrated’—/ says the big hitter.” While the haiku are impressive, it’s the essays that make this an outstanding work, bound to enthrall golfers of every level and make most of them burn with envy.
Zingg notes in Essay 46, “Game Changer,” for centuries golf was considered a pastime only for the aristocracy. But a “poor French-Canadian immigrant” named Francis Ouimet changed all that by winning the U.S. Open in 1913. Golf then became a game for the masses. Thus, most readers of Be the Pine; Be the Ball, will never have the opportunity to play at the most hallowed of courses in Scotland and Ireland and the elite courses in the U.S. and around the world. But they can visit the Old Course at St. Andrews, Ballybunion, Pebble Beach, Augusta National, and many others vicariously through Zingg’s essays.
The author’s precise descriptions are the highlight of this excellent book, but his insights into important golfers, from Mary Queen of Scotts to Tiger Woods, are a pleasure to read. Further, his anecdotes about golfing in inclement weather, playing by the rules, and the history of the game are thoroughly enjoyable.
The problem with most golf books is that they are too long and redundant or that they are too technical to be interesting or fun to read. Zingg’s Be the Pine, Be the Ball is just the right length, fascinating and fun.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.