(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

At a country club in Deming, New Mexico, Dillon Ripley practices his golf swing with the help of the resident pro, Allie Martin. There is little question that Dillon Ripley approaches the game as a sacred experience and not merely as an entertaining sport. On weekends he is accompanied by his wife, Jimmie, as he tries to instill in her his own reverence for the game. Golf, he tells her, is bliss and bane, like love itself. Ripley so reveres the game that he uses archaic terms such as “mashie,” “niblick,” and “spoon” to describe various kinds of golf clubs. Having delved into the ancient history of golf, he is familiar with its lore and minutiae.

In his daily life, Ripley is a prosperous vice president of the Farmers and Merchants Bank (loan department), and he repeatedly tells his favorite golfing partners—Watts Gunn, Phinizy Spalding, and Poot Taylor—that he intends to take his wife and four children to Scotland to play at the Old Course at St. Andrews—the home of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club. His love and enthusiasm for the sport is so profound that he once declared, on the fourteenth hole, that he had discovered “what best tested the kind we are . . . the hazards of unmown fescue and bent grass, or a sand wedge misplaced from a bunker known as the Valley of Sin.” In short, what separates humans from beasts and makes them most human is how successfully they emerge from their struggles in the Valley of Sin—literally and metaphorically.

It is at the fourteenth hole on a beautiful May afternoon, however, that Dillon Ripley faces the most traumatic vision of his life when his caddy, Tommy Steward, spots a Volvo speeding toward them. In it are Ripley’s golf pro, Allie Martin, and his wife, Jimmie Ripley—both naked. Dillon’s golf partners recognize—as does Ripley—that a corrupting agent has entered their lovely...

(The entire section is 764 words.)