Deep thoughts with Michael Murphy: On the 50th anniversary of ‘Golf in the Kingdom’

Nov, 2022

“Golf in the Kingdom,” the 1972 novel of Zen and the art of swing maintenance, turns 50 this year, which seemed like a swell excuse to visit with its author, Michael Murphy.

He introduced us to Shivas Irons, the mysterious golf pro and philosopher with whom Murphy played a mythic round of golf on Scotland’s Burningbush Links. The book starts out in a promising manner with a golf round that plays as a wonderful allegory for life. Then, it takes an odd odyssey into philosophy and metaphysics to explain everything from the allure of golf to the purpose for its existence. Murphy’s account reveals the possibilities for transcendence that resides in the human soul, and through its mystic-philosopher, the reader, like Murphy, becomes drawn into new worlds by this ancient and haunting game.

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Murphy’s first book has sold more than 1 million copies and been translated into nine different languages, including recently in Turkish.

“I had no idea that enough people played golf in Turkey,” Murphy said.

Since writing “Golf in the Kingdom,” he’s been hearing from golfers all over the world who have had mystical experiences. Devotees have formed a Shivas Irons Society, who gathered last month at TPC Harding Park to celebrate its beloved characters.

“The game unmasks our deepest nature,” Murphy said. “As William James put it, we all have a mystical seed, but in some of us it’s more developed than in others, but it’s in there, in all of us. If you want to use more mainstream language, we have a soul. OK, or what is used in some studies of comparative religions, we have a deeper self.”

Let’s call this just the beginning of deep thoughts with Michael Murphy.

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