In the years since Golf in the Kingdom was published in 1972, scores of people have told me of supernormal experiences They've had while playing golf. These believers speak with such conviction, with such a sense of secrets shared, that I sometimes feel like Father Murphy taking golf confessions. It's a role I love, for the tales I hear are both uncanny and sublime.
In my sequel, The Kingdom of Shivas Irons, I recounted a letter I got from a lawyer who reported seeing a ball marker on a green 400 yards away. I proposed that he had experienced clairvoyance, had "married his eyesight and second sight," to paraphrase Shivas Irons. Last fall I was on a book tour when Craig Farnsworth, a former optometrist who trained sharpshooters for the Secret Service after writing the golf book See It and Sink It, told me about a man who could "quarter a quarter"—shoot a coin into four pieces with four shots—from several hundred yards. When I publicly doubted his report, saying that no one can see a coin from such a distance, a man in the audience stood and said, "Don't lose your nerve." He was Lyle Nelson, a former Olympic biathlete who insisted that great shooters sometimes hit bull's-eyes they cannot see. Shivas Irons was right, he said: We can see with the mind's eye.
Later that night, over beers, Nelson told me about Lanny Bassham, an Olympic gold medal marksman who claims that when "in the zone," a great shooter can adjust his aim while a bullet moves through the barrel of his gun. Bassham and Nelson know marksmen who believe they can even "bend the bullet in flight." All this sounds so much like golfers' "in the zone" stories of supernormal accuracy—marksmanship on the course—that my faith in golf's gift for evoking such feats has been strengthened. Whether through cultivation or unexpected inspiration, the game really can lift our natural talents to seemingly impossible heights.