September 14, 1997

By Mark Lindquist

By Michael Murphy

Michael Murphy’s ”Golf in the Kingdom” is the best-selling golf novel ever published, maybe because it’s as much about metaphysics as it is about golf — about golf as spiritual knight errantry. Now Murphy (a founder of the Esalen Institute) is back, 25 years later, with a sequel, written in the hope of resurrecting Shivas Irons, the hero of ”Golf in the Kingdom.” But, as often happens, the new book lacks the impact of its precursor. After all, many other ”Zen and the Art of” books have subsequently mined this territory, and while Murphy’s ideas about psychology, philosophy and sports were on the cutting edge in 1972, many have since become commonplace maxims. Even the most earthbound N.F.L. lineman knows there are moments when we’re in ”the zone,” operating well beyond our everyday performance levels. Though ”The Kingdom of Shivas Irons” is ostensibly about Murphy’s search for the elusive Shivas Irons, its true concern is our quest for these moments of transcendence, and the book succeeds as a handbook for spiritual adventure. Still, there is always, as Murphy admits, the nagging question: Why golf?


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