The author of this links-obsessed memoir spent his junior year abroad playing golf in Scotland. So much for the rigors of a Harvard education.
History major Kilfara received permission to research his thesis on the history of golf at Scotland’s University of St. Andrews, but he spent much more time on the links than in the library. And why not? His dormitory was a short walk to the Old Course, perhaps the best-known links in the world. Better yet, as a student, he could secure a season’s pass for the cost of a single round at many of the more exclusive American fairways. His memoir is really two discrete explorations. The first is a hole-by-hole account of Kilfara’s encounters with Scotland’s best courses: Cruden Bay, Carnoustie, and Muirfield, to name a few. He does a fine job of evoking the frustration that these windswept venues can provoke in the typical American golfer raised on a diet of meticulously maintained, tree-lined fairways. After he manages his first-ever hole-in-one, Kilfara launches into a rumination on the elusive notion of perfection as it applies to golf. If two shots struck from the same spot both drop in the hole, can one be more perfect than the other? Metaphysics it’s not, but these are the kinds of questions that occur to the golf-centric. The second, less successful strain of thought recounts the author’s time away from the links. To his credit, the achingly young Kilfara is refreshingly candid about his college-era shortcomings, which included an off-putting competitiveness and a sense of entitlement that flowed from a sheltered and relatively privileged youth. In the end, though, without a club in hand the 20-year-old Kilfara just isn’t a whole lot of fun. Even the courtship of his future wife comes off as stiff.
Of interest only to those—and there are so many—who can’t read enough about Scottish golf.