'The Doonbeg Ghosts' by Ivan Morris

By: Bob Spiwak


Ivan Morris is the first non-American to win the coveted Golf Nut of the Year award by the Golf Nuts Society of America. He's authored two previous books and is senior columnist with Golf Digest Ireland. Greg Norman designed the Doonbeg course, and the story begins on the Auld sod of Doonbeg.

The "Doonbeg Ghosts" is a romp through time and space, with Morris and his dead golf buddy "Tail Gunner" as the central characters. They had made a deal when both were vertical that the first to go to heaven would report to the survivor on Earth what heavenly golf was like. Tail Gunner comes to Morris in a dream. For the rest of the book, they defy the time/space continuum playing golf and, on their journey, meet many luminaries of golf. Along with a very live Greg Norman, they play various courses with Old Tom Morris, Alister Mackenzie, Jack Nicklaus, Darren Clarke, Nick Faldo (pre-Golf Channel), Bob Jones and other legends.

Most of the book has Ireland as its setting, and author Morris is well familiar with the golf there, with membership at Ballybunion, Limerick and Lahinch. It would be difficult to offer up the plot because, to me, there is very little. As the ghosts and live people are encountered in no particular order, conversations evolve. Some deal with the swing and other participatory aspects of golf. But in the main, from Ireland to Africa, the book is a discussion of golf architecture, including the how's and why's of the designs of courses that have stood the test of a century and longer.

The literal centerpiece of the book is a section of lovely color photos of some of the courses; Doonbeg in particular, and Royal County Down, Lahinch and others.

I was fortunate to have nearby a copy of "The Pocket Guide to Golf Courses - Ireland," which is a great help in visually navigating the places played by the book's characters. I hope to have a review of this shortly.

For me, the most intriguing aspect of golf is the venue, and the philosophy and attitude of the architect who designed it. With this in mind, it may come as a surprise when I state that my favorite course anywhere is in Castlegar, British Columbia, Canada, each hole of which was designed by different members.

"Doonbeg" is not cheap. Although small in stature, paying for it and the shipping from England ended up, as I recall, in the neighborhood of 30 American dollars. But it's well worth the cost, because with no plot it matters not how it ends. And between the first and last pages are well-written pieces that can be reread many times for information and reference, as well as entertainment.

"The Doonbeg Ghosts," by Ivan Morris, 2006, Beckenham Publishing Ltd, UK, 137 pages; ISBN #0-9548040-2-3.

Bob Spiwak took up golf in 1953 as a respite from the rigors of selling bibles door-to-door in North Dakota. Though suffering a four-year lapse, he's back to being a fanatical golfer. Spiwak has written articles for almost every golf magazine in the Western world. Bob's most treasured golf antiquity is a nod he got from Gerald Ford at the 1990 Golf Summit. Spiwak lives in Mazama, Wash., with his wife and several pets next to his fabled ultraprivate Whispering Rattlesnakes Golf & Flubbers Club.

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