The Edict: A Novel from the Beginnings of Golf
Penned by golf architect Bob Cupp, The Edict is his hymn to the game’s development from its probable beginnings in the shepherd’s fields of Scotland to the 1457 edict passed by King James II banning “futball and golfe.” Unfortunately, it isn’t a novel at all, but a miscellany wrapped in the cloak of fiction. The story opens in 1448 with the introduction of the main character, young shepherd Caeril Patersone, just after his father has been killed in battle, then moves into the first of the author’s numerous nonfiction theories regarding the game’s genesis. The history presented is evocative, as Cupp describes the land off the eastern coast of Scotland, the sheep grazing the turf to a smooth “playing” surface, and the construction of St. Andrew’s Cathedral. Cupp believes the game had to begin in Scotland given the nature of the Scots themselves: a “bucolic but ingenious, quiet but steely race.”
Jump forward to 1456 and Caeril, now eighteen, a shepherd and a competition golfer. And continue jumping genres as Caeril struggles to win the championship golf title at St. Andrew’s. Throughout, Cupp gives readers numerous asides, some presented as tales told over cups of single-malt whisky, and shameless anachronisms, as when the author leaps onto the page to describe how players had assistants, or clubmen, not yet known as “caddies,” since that term initially “referred to cadets who served as pages for Mary, Queen of Scots, but Mary would not appear in Scotland for another sixty years…”
Cupp’s affection for golf is evident, his pen fluid and his tone light, and so it seems churlish to criticize the book as a whole. Still, given the subtitle’s (deliberately?) misleading claim, The Edict is bound to disappoint readers who accept it at its word and expect to read a solid historical novel from a major publisher about, well, the beginnings of golf.