>If it’s true what I’ve heard that Jerry Garcia actually carried a 12 handicap at Olympic in the 70s then “What a long and winding road it’s been” may well have been written about a struggling golfer’s journey similar to the one Josh Karp took in writing this book. He’s all over the place. He visits Zen Masters and martial artists, authors, physicists, and philosophers, and his travels take him to Scotland and Wisconsin and points inbetween. Going on the supposition that what works in golf also works in life, he tries to improve his handicap in both fields.
Josh Karp is a native and resident of Glencoe, Illinois, in the high-faluting northern suburbs of Chicago. After college he stumbled around in marketing, law, and baked goods before getting a journalism degree from Northwestern. In his own words. he “found something that he was not bad at”. His written pieces have appeared in Salon, Premier, and the LA Times, and he’s the author of “A Futile and Stupid Gesture: How Doug Kenney and National Lampoon Changed Comdey Forever”. He currently teaches journalism to other students who presumably are not bad at it either.
Josh first played golf in sixth grade and hacked his way around golf teams in high school and college. He wasn’t very good, but then neither were his teams. As an adult he found himself carrying an 18 handicap and a more than healthy dose of curiosity and open-mindedness about methods which may help his golf game.
Inspired by books like “Golf in the Kingdom” and “Zen Golf” he sets out to further explore the links between Zen Buddhism and meditation to success on the golf course and in life.
He explores the “effortless swing” of Yoni Zaluski, and Steve Yellin tries to help him get “in the zone”. He spends time with Doctor Joe Parent, and an assortment of other thinkers of varying magnitude. He visits Buddhists in Scotland, and the Shivas Irons society’s outing in Wisconsin.
By the end of his travels and travails his handicap is down to 11, and he’s gotten very close to one of his goals, to break 80.
Josh’s writing is very casual and personal. At times it’s painfully intimate, and at other times it’s uproaringly funny. Deep philosophical concepts are described in very matter-of-fact terminology, and he doesn’t let the fact that he writes about spirituality keep him from dropping the occasional F-bomb.
“This is psychic power, mind over matter. It’s high-level shit. When you hole out a chip, sink a long putt, or paint a picture that flows directly from your mind to the canvas – that’s the creative unconscious. For guys like you and me – it’s pretty much magic. For Tiger, it’s normal.”
His journey is inspiring in it’s honesty and candidness, and his descriptions of his adventures are colorful and moving:
“His shots make almost no noise. They say that Sam Snead’s irons sounded like the door of a Rolls-Royce being slammed. Mine are loud as well, but never like a Rolls. More like a Buick on good shots, and akin to a Yugo being sideswiped by a Gremlin on the bad ones.”
If you’re at all intersted in the mental side of golf, and if you have an open mind to the pseudo-magical, non-plane aspects of improving your golf game then “Straight Down the Middle” will touch you deeply. Even if you’re not into these things you’ll still be very amused.