(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Opening with a young woman and man on a golf course, the story has five scenes, four on the golf course and one in a clubhouse, with no transitions between the scenes. In the first scene the man is looking for his golf ball. He has made a bad stroke, and neither he nor the young woman knows where the ball landed. She suggests that he take a drop—that is, forget finding the ball and drop another at the spot where the lost ball disappeared. Because this will cost him a penalty stroke as well as his ball, he does not want to do it. The man asks the young woman where she thinks his ball went; she replies that he hooked it so badly she could not follow it. He says that he did not hook it, he sliced it, and she should know the difference by now. Hook or slice, she says, the ball is lost, so there is no difference. She ought to learn the difference, he says. Perhaps he should play with florescent orange balls so that he could find them more easily. Eventually, he comes around to her original suggestion: to take a drop.

On the seventh green the man has already had four strokes and now cannot see the flag. When he asks the young woman what she thinks, she says that if she were the pin, she would be back and to the left of the green. When he explains that he wants to know which club he should use, they begin a new argument, until he prepares to use his seven iron. After going through elaborate preparatory motions, he steps back from the ball and then climbs the hill to see where the hole is. It is exactly where the young woman said it would be, so he decides that it is, after all, an eight-iron shot.

In the third scene, the man becomes discouraged by his score, so the woman reminds him of the game’s other benefits—such as fresh air and exercise. The man suggests that she does not really like the game, and he encourages her to try playing herself. If she found that she liked it, he would buy her a set of clubs. Changing the subject, she offers him a four-leaf clover that she has found. He puts it in his shirt pocket, thanks her, and kisses her on the forehead.

The fourth scene opens at the eighth hole, which will be a difficult shot. The green is trapped all the way around, there is very little fairway, and the hill from the tee to the green is steep, sandy, and rocky. From the tee, the green is invisible, so the woman is stationed down the hill to follow the ball’s path. After she calls out that she is ready, she hears the man call “fore” and hears the club hit the ball. The ball bounces through the rough, ricochets off a rock or stump, and is propelled toward the green, where it rolls into the hole. A hole in one.

When the man asks where his ball has landed, the woman does not immediately reply. Instead, she lets him wonder, telling him where the ball landed, amidst the rocks, and waits for his next question: “Did it ricochet?” he asks. Yes, she answers, right toward the green. She tells him that he will be surprised. After she finally tells him that the ball is in the hole, she must work to convince him. The man turns away from her and throws the ball, which he has fished out of the hole, at the trees, an expression, she assumes, of happiness.

The final scene starts abruptly. Reminiscing, the man describes his father’s old clubs, with which he learned to play: their slightly crooked wooden shafts, heavy twine bindings, varnished look, and the...

(The entire section is 1386 words.)