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  • 30 Mar 2023 10:02 AM | Ben Kline (Administrator)

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    Hickory Wind


    MAR 30

    ▷  LISTEN

    “I'd started out younger
    Had most everything
    All the riches and pleasures
    What else can life bring?
    But it makes me feel better
    Each time it begin
    Callin' me home
    Hickory wind”
    Gram Parsons - “Hickory Wind”

    I recently bought a new turntable, and for the first time in probably two decades began carefully resting a stylus on the outside ridges of some dusty albums, and waiting for the magic to commence. At first it felt like an affectation, this, an overly nostalgic lurch towards the past, but I quickly became glad of the company of these old friends, and of the simplicity of listening to long players they way the artist intended, as a whole piece. It was also refreshing to control the inputs for once; the next song neither the result of some algorithm nor the outcome of yet another forced choice, but an intentional, premeditated act.

    And as the week gets hectic, and I start to feel my energy wane in the face of various deadlines and decisions, two factors keep me looking ahead, staying positive. One is the delightful innocence of a rediscovered Gram Parsons, his voice floating down from an adolescence that is long gone; the other is the single fixed point in this befuddled week, an early tee-time on Friday. My playing partner contracts Covid-19 and must withdraw, and a couple of other friends cannot fill the void at short notice, so when Friday morning arrives, I am about to cancel the slot and instead stare at the brutal blank page in front of me when the blue sky starts to emerge through the blinds.

    And I know that I need to golf this morning, need it to clear the cobwebs. Need it for my soul, and for my busy mind. And Gram is on my shoulder as I peer into the shed, and it can only be hickory golf today. There’s something in the experience of playing with old sticks that mirrors the act of listening to vinyl, as if in paying tribute to the ways of the past you are rewarded with a certain lightness.

    So I pretend not to notice the smirks of a few other early risers who spot rusting tools in this carry bag, and set off in search of something. The forecast for the weekend and beyond is for more rain, but this morning West Byfleet is reserved for the sun, and signs of spring are all around. As I move swiftly through Abercromby’s glorious corridors, sweeping the ball from a tee with an ancient brassie and clipping niblicks from the fine turf, beams of light are casting across the landscape, the bark of the silver birch bleached a brilliant white.

    The slower rhythm that these sticks demand is good for me, too. Now and then I lunge at the ball, but it never works so well, and on the occasions when I just let the club swing, it all takes care of itself, and I wonder why I am always so keen to complicate matters. By the turn most of my worries have drifted away, and a path ahead seems so much clearer. And as I reach the brow of the twelfth’s gentle incline, and savour the sight of the bunker and green ahead, basking in this heavenly morning, the gentle bluster of the wind sand-blasts my mind and I am grateful for golf’s calming influence, once again.

    The thirteenth is as beautiful as always, viewed from this elevated platform over on the left, and the still waters of this lake before me seem a tough ask with hickories, especially into this wind. Over the ball, the slick leather grip of my Approaching Mashie unsettles me, as it needs a crisp strike to reach with this old weapon, but the gentle, persistent tap of some unseen Great Spotted Woodpecker is helpful, a metronome by which to remember my own cadence. And somehow the swing matches the requirement, and this precious ball sails off into the cool breeze, bounding through the green to leave the surface of my Walden Pond undisturbed.

    When I reach the ball, at the furthest boundary of this course, the lie is tight and a little muddy, and I am at once both fearful for what is to come and grateful that I have no audience out here to see it. For it will probably be a fat or a thin, but unlikely anything in between, and after a wretched practice swing, the thought enters my head that perhaps the ball could yet dive beneath the surface of the hazard over which it just flew. It would take a spectacular breakdown of coordination to do so, but the jerky action of the dress rehearsal suggests it’s not outside the realms of possibility.

    A red kite floats past, catching my attention with an imperial glide, and somehow in that observed majesty I am reminded of the positive stroke that got me here, and of the need to trust in my own fragile confidence. And the Approach Cleek comes back gently, and accelerates through the ball, pinching it from the ground and popping it just over the fringe and down onto the green. And as it starts to swing left, taking the borrow as if on a string to the hole, I hold my breath and marvel at the latest lesson this wild game offers me.

    From the moment the ball starts moving it has a chance, but ten feet out it is never anything but this minor miracle, and the meeting of urethane and aluminium seems to echo through the trees like some celebration of a golfing life. This time a Green Woodpecker chortles away, perhaps as stunned as I am at the glory of this early morning and an unexpected birdie. And, though I play golf alone today, I am far from lonesome, for besides the woodpeckers and the kite, I have the ghosts of Gram Parsons and John Abercromby for a gallery, and my smile reaches from ear to ear.

    Of course it won’t last, this insight. Over the chip, there’s some intangible sense of the need to be decisive, to take action rather than suffer at the hands of distraction. But from the very next tee I am a little quick, and the margin for error with shallow persimmon cannot flatter this topped drive, so it will be a three shot hole, the fourteenth, and I ponder how short-lived our golfing secrets are. They drift in and out as independently as the refrains of certain songs, and we must just cherish them while they are present, and accept that we may in time forgot them altogether.

    And then, as I stroll up the eighteenth, an ocean of turf ablaze with golden dew, it is nearly over again, and all of the other things that had me so cluttered not two hours before seem so much clearer now. The trust, and patience, with which that devilish chip was somehow played must be translated into the rest of Friday.

    For golf has worked its wizardry on me again, and I know I need to let some things go and re-focus on others, and above all permit that part of life that is lived off the course to learn from the bits that just went well on it. Listening to my instincts, looking for authenticity. For “it makes me feel better, each time it begin, callin' me home, hickory wind”.

    Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed it, please consider sharing it with other like-minded souls. Stymied will now take a short break in order to complete a few other projects (including the one hinted at below), but you can find some additional articles posted on the GolfToday website, or in the Stymied archive. I hope to return in about a month with some new material!


  • 21 Mar 2023 3:07 PM | Ben Kline (Administrator)

    Members, please login and check the new videos on our Member Portal. They include Fred Shoemaker talking about the origins of the Shivas Irons Society and a new book talk from Dr. Rich, Better Golf — Better Life.

    For a limited time only, non-members can view the SIS Origin Story by clicking the link below.

    SIS Origin Story

  • 18 Jan 2021 1:07 PM | Daniel Renteria (Administrator)

    This SIS book reading of Martin Wells' new golf book - No One Playing - was held on Zoom on January 13, 2021. 


  • 4 Oct 2020 1:29 PM | Daniel Renteria (Administrator)

    Fred Shoemaker, a Master Coach, Master Listener, and kindred spirit of Shivas Irons discusses teaching, learning and life in this Podcast from Teacher Stories!



  • 19 Dec 2019 10:21 AM | Daniel Renteria (Administrator)

    Enjoy this Article on Meditation from the Shivas Newsletter archives by long time SIS Member Dave Korba


    Shivas and Meditation by Dave Korba

  • 10 Dec 2019 11:28 AM | Daniel Renteria (Administrator)

    A message from long time SIS member Pete Shoemaker who has written a wonderful story and a lovely book for young golfers...

    Dear Friends,

    It’s been a pleasure knowing many of you over the years and sharing my songs and skits with you.  I’ve written and just published a children's picture book with a golf theme entitled The Dolphin Who Loves Golfin’.  It embodies the joyous spirit and love of the game that we all share, and I know that beloved founder Steve Cohen would heartily approve.  It’s the perfect way for the golfing parent or grandparent to share the Shivas spirit with the next generation.

    The Dolphin Who Loves Golfin' is a poetry-picture book for young children. It tells the story of Don the Dolphin, whose courage and joy—along with an
    amazing stroke of fortune— help him overcome his self-doubts and become a star. The setting is the beautiful Monterey Peninsula during the U.S. Open
    at Pebble Beach.

    I’m working with Ben Kline on a fund-raiser for the Society.  If you use this link and the discount code “SHIVAS” to purchase the book, half of the profits will go to the Society.  This promotion will run through Christmas.  

    Thank you and happy holidays.  I’ll close with the verse from the last page of the book, and I hope you can read the whole story.

    Pete Shoemaker

    No matter how big it may seem,
    Keep your eye upon your dream.
    Your joy will always save the day,
    The Dolphin-Who-Loves-Golfin’ way!

  • 18 Jul 2019 1:21 PM | Daniel Renteria (Administrator)

    Lorne Duncan, or Duncan or Dunc to his friends has made a rich and interesting journey through life as a caddie on most of the professional tours all over the world. Canadian by birth and somewhat European by accent and virtue of his time spent caddying overseas for several of golf's greats and not so greats, Duncan possesses a wonderful spirit, love of the game, and gift for telling his stories. 


    This is part two of a two part series. Click on the link below and enjoy.


    Four Lazy Weeks 48.69 KB

  • 17 Jul 2019 12:14 PM | Daniel Renteria (Administrator)

    From Shivas Irons Society Member Kieron Pinard-Byrne: A short story celebrating Irish golf in honor of the 2019 Open Championship titled Golfer In The Rye

    Read it by clicking on the link below.


    Golfer In The Rye 246.18 KB

  • 10 Apr 2019 11:14 AM | Daniel Renteria (Administrator)

    The Shivas Valuables Pouch

    Looking for a unique solution to store your tees, your keys and golf sundries? Want a place to put them that's stylish and says "I am a Shivas Irons Society supporter?" Then look no further.  We have a limited supply of beautiful, exquisitely crafted leather valuables pouches. They are available in a variety of colors as pictured below. Click here to order yours for $129; ($99 for current SIS members) simply write Valuables Pouch in the information form and you will be contacted by a staff member to help you select the color of your choice.

  • 4 Apr 2019 10:50 AM | Daniel Renteria (Administrator)


    Michael Murphy imagined his Golf In The Kingdom protagonist, and the Society’s namesake, Shivas Irons, as a wise and unassuming master teacher who guides his pupils to a nuanced understanding of their true nature using golf as the vehicle to explore inner and outer realms.

    If Michael’s muse had steered him to fuse humor and transformation, he might have given Shivas a younger brother, a globetrotting vagabond with an equally deep—but different­—love for the game.  Our new character might be on a quest to play in every corner of this planet, to see its sights, meet its people and play its courses.  And, he’d favor caddying to support his adventures.

    Enter Lorne Duncan (“Duncan”) our real-life protagonist.  Duncan is a lovely 60-year-old Canadian golfer who’s witnessed contemporary golf history from inside the ropes.  For 40 years, he’s caddied on all tours, on all continents, while living a minimalistic lifestyle beautifully exemplified by the sandals he sports everywhere.  Duncan gets our vote for the role of Shivas’ brother, his love of the game is so authentic, vital and without pretense.

    While here during this year's AT&T Pro Am at Pebble Beach where he caddied for young Matt Fitzpatrick, Duncan generously shared about his adventurous life with us.  He was a treat to be with and to watch in action.

    Below is the first ‘installment’ of a book Duncan has yet to finish but may share with us over time.   We hope you enjoy his honest tone and the stories that render a world we don’t see on TV.  Oh, and don’t be fooled: Duncan is a fine caddie.

    A Work in Progress by Lorne Duncan

    Chapter One

    "I'm a caddie."

    "A what?"

    "A  c a d d i e."

    "You mean like those guys who carry the bag on TV?"


    "Wow, I love golf! Tell me, how do you become a caddie?"

    And then for the ten-thousandth time, you recount how you got started, what a caddie does and you dance around until the inevitable "So how much does a caddie make?" question.

    Caddies are, for some unknown reason, the only people on earth to whom you're allowed to ask this question within 10 seconds of meeting.

    This predictable—and understandable—kind of exchange started me thinking that maybe I’d get some business cards printed describing the life of a caddie so I could just hand it out rather than repeat the routine.  As you can see, I got a little a carried away: my business card became a chapter and is now well on its way to becoming a book.

    Or the longest business card in history.

    This book is a collaboration between Colin Byrne and myself.  I’d have written it on my own but the book was Colin’s idea and given the fact that he's dyslexic, I knew he'd need my help.

    I’ve known Colin for 30 years and we’ve traveled all over this planet together in search of players, percentage checks and pleasure.  Any book about caddying will ultimately be as much about travel as about golf.  I think it's safe to say that the love of travel is the bond that Mr. Byrne and I share.  We have traveled as much for our own pleasure as we have for work.  In fact for almost 25 years now I have maintained no permanent residence and have spent my weeks away from the tour trying to travel to some place I have not been to before.

    So why another book about caddying?  Surely it's been done before? 

    Caddie books seem to fall into two broad categories: the first is by people—journalists—who became caddies to write a book about caddies; the second is by so-called ‘famous’ caddies who’ve worked for famous players.  The first is well written but with no real reservoir of experience and the latter seems to have no purpose beyond boring their audience to death. I've been caddying for forty years now and Colin thirty, and though we’ve had our fair share of successes, it seemed like it was time a couple of ‘real caddies’ tell their story.  So here we are.

    I'm what they call in this business ‘a lifer’. I left Canada at the age of 21 and have spent my whole adult life caddying.  I see myself doing nothing else.  In other words, I'm on a life sentence with no sign of parole.

    Now, before I go any further, I want to go on record as saying that I am the worst caddie I know.  The world of tour golf is a pretty closed one and after forty years I am still amazed that players are willing to employ me.  Now you’d think that the thought of having to admit to that level of incompetence after 40 years of experience would be a burden too great to bear.  Not at all.  Let me let you in on what may be the one and only absolutely true statement in this book:  a caddie is only as good as his/her player.  If someone starting out in this trade asked me what was the single most important thing I could suggest that would make them a better caddie I would tell them, "Go find yourself a better player!"  So every time I picked up Nick Faldo's, Corey Pavin's or Jesper Parnevik's bag, I too became a greatcaddie.  Famous even. (Oh yes, I've had more then my fifteen minutes.)

    A ‘famous caddie’.  Now there's an idea to explore.  Imagine you’re in a restaurant and your friend says to you, "Look behind. See that guy coming through the door? That guy is a famous poet."  You'd look around.  Or,"You see that woman at the next table? She's a famous actress.”  Same thing, you'd have a look over.  But, "You see that guy sitting up at the bar?” (And that's just where a caddie would be, famous or not.) "That guy is a famous caddie".

    "What, one of those guys that carry a golf bag"?


    And at this point you'd start doing some mental arithmetic on how may drinks your mate's had and then make some subtle attempt to change the subject.

    There is nothing more ephemeral then a famous caddie.  As Dave Musgrove, Sandy Lyle's caddie, once said "You’re only one shot away for the car park".  And "the car park" is where unemployed caddies reside.  I've actually heard of caddies that, after pulling a peculiarly bad club, were sacked while the ball was still in flight.  I suppose there is such an animal as a "famous" caddie but I can tell you, I wouldn't want to hang my hat on it.

    Just recently I finished reading William Borrow's Junky.  The jacket cover suggests that what made it such an outstanding piece of literature is its honesty. Well I want this to be great literature too so I’d better come clean: I'm the dyslexic one, not Colin. That's right, a dyslexic caddie. This probably goes a long way to explaining why I'm the worst caddie I know.  At 61 years of age I still confuse left and right.  This can be a bit of a problem when your player wants to know where the wind is coming from.  I'm also one of the worst people you've ever seen with numbers. This can lead to what is known by us loopers as a ‘mystery’.  A mystery is arrived at by adding up your yardages incorrectly which makes pulling a club pretty much impossible and I am the master of mysteries.  Agatha Christie’s got nothing on me.  So you’re probably saying to yourself, “How did he ever get someone to hire a dyslexic?”  Well, this was written by a dyslexic and so far you're still reading so I must have done something right!

    I can say I never planned to write a book, although many have suggested it. But I guess all those years making my way from point A to point B around the globe, it's sort of been building. I was paired with Greg Norman several years back in Perth.  After nine holes of virtual silence he says to me as we walk off the 10th tee, "So Duncan, been on any interesting travel recently?" I nearly fell over. (I didn’t know he even knew my name, let alone that I had a reputation as a traveller.)  I said…

    “Yeah, I just hitchhiked out here from Sydney".

    "What!! How long did that take?"

    "Four days."

    He shook his head and said, "So when's the book coming out?"

    I suppose that taking four days getting to a tournament would seem ridiculous to a guy who flies around on his private jet but for the rest of us mere mortals on tour seeking adventure—and of course trying to save a buck—the low slow road was, and always will be, the only option.

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