Missing Links

( 28 )


Missing Links is the story of four middle-class buddies who live outside Boston and for years have been 1) utterly obsessed with golf and 2) a regular foursome at Ponkaquoque Municipal Course and Deli, not so fondly known as Ponky, the single worst golf course in America. Just adjacent to the municipal course lies the Mayflower Country Club, the most exclusive private course in all of Boston and a major thorn in their collective sides. Frustrated by the Mayflower's finely manicured greens and snooty members, ...

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Missing Links is the story of four middle-class buddies who live outside Boston and for years have been 1) utterly obsessed with golf and 2) a regular foursome at Ponkaquoque Municipal Course and Deli, not so fondly known as Ponky, the single worst golf course in America. Just adjacent to the municipal course lies the Mayflower Country Club, the most exclusive private course in all of Boston and a major thorn in their collective sides. Frustrated by the Mayflower's finely manicured greens and snooty members, three of Ponky's most courageous—Two Down, Dannie, and Stick—set up a bet: $1,000 apiece, and the first man to finagle his way onto the Mayflower takes all.

One of the three will eventually play the course, but their friendships—and everything else—change as various truths unravel and the old Ponky starts looking like the home they never should have left.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Don't get started reading this book.  It will take three burly men to pull you away from it."
—Bob Costas, NBC commentator

"You don't need to know your bogeys from your birdies to find at least three laughs per page in this novel."
The New York Times Book Review

"If you're obsessed with the 'green game,' and it's raining or snowing, or we're under nuclear attack so you can't get out on the course, Missing Links should give you a temporary fix."
Rocky Mountain News

"Snappy prose, believable characters, and the funniest take on blue-collar hacking and gambling since Dan Jenkins's The Glory Game at Goat Hill...it's social satire and pure irreverence that keep this story in the groove."
Los Angeles Times

"Part Damon Runyon, part Raymond Chandler, and part Caddyshack...I was hooked for the full 18."
Entertainment Weekly

"A great piece of fiction."
Denver Post

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Some time ago, Reilly, a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, contributed a humorous article about the Ponkapoag Golf Club, aka Ponky, a blue-collar golf course in Canton, Mass. The author's first novel returns to Ponkychanged here to the Ponkaquogue Municipal Course and Deli in Boston's working-class neighborhood of Dorchesterfor a rollicking tale about a grungy group of "Ponkys" who aspire to play at the Mayflower, a nearby elite, invitation-only course. Narrator and Ponky leader Raymond Lee Hart initiates a group bet to see which member of his regular foursome can become the first Ponky to play at the snooty club. The Ponkys' schemes include a night raid on the Mayflower, a forgery scam and a pair of romances that offer potential access to a Mayflower foursome. Reilly resolves the bet halfway through the novel but saves his funniest moments for a final play in which Hart and another Ponky square off against Hart's stuffy, domineering father and a second Mayflower member. The humor occasionally flags, particularly when the author takes the father/son conflict a bit too seriously, and a working knowledge of golf is required to appreciate much of the funny stuff. But from scratch players to duffers, all who spend their leisure time chasing the little white ball will relish this wry tribute to the game. (June)
Kirkus Reviews
From Sports Illustrated writer Reilly, easily the wittiest golf novel yet—the Bull Durham of the genre, and the closest thing to Caddyshack on paper we're likely to get.

The golf-book genre usually falls into two categories: bios of the game's great players, first, and quasi-spiritual agons, second, such as Steven Pressfield's The Legend of Bagger Vance (1995), in which sulking has-been linksters return to the fairways to redeem themselves. The former are written for golfers who like to read, the latter for readers who like to golf. Reilly's debut, however, stands on its own, with a gaggle of loopy characters plucked off the country's municipal courses. They have nicknames like Two Down, Thud, Crowbar, and Stick, and their course is a dogpatch strip called Ponky, where the hazards aren't sand and water but abandoned cars and shopping carts. Stick, a.k.a. Raymond Hart, is a fine golfer who's allowed his talent to decline into lethargy, whiling away his days trying to fleece his golf buddies (the "Chops"). But his life is irrevocably altered when unexpected damage to a hedge reveals an enticing view of the Mayflower, the original snooty WASP haven. The men become consumed by the private Mayflower's perfectly manicured expanse and create a sizable betting pool to reward the first of their brethren managing to play a full 18 holes. Ray should win in a stroll; his father, unbeknownst to the other Chops, is a Mayflower member. But Ray has Oedipal problems, so he vacillates over asking his Old Man for a round. Meanwhile, his buddies devise increasingly elaborate schemes to snare the dough. The first half of the book ends with the winning of the bet. The second involves Ray's love life and a grudge match with his father.

A loving, knowledgeable, laugh-out-loud portrait of the Hardest Sport There Is, as practiced by the blue-collar rakes who compose golf's most devoted fans.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385488860
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/28/1997
  • Edition description: First Broadway Books Trade Paperback Edi
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 136,277
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author

Rick Reilly
Rick Reilly
RICK REILLY is the author of the cult classic Missing Links, Slo Mo, and The Life of Reilly, a New York Times bestseller. A senior writer for Sports Illustrated, he has been voted eight times as the National Sportswriter of the Year by his peers. He lives in Denver, Colorado.
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Read an Excerpt

The day The Bet began to assume its hideous form was the day Hoover lost $208 to his shadow, which is a lot of cash to drop for a man who takes the bus to the golf course.

Hoover wasn't much to look at.  Dannie said his mother must've had to borrow a baby to take to church.  He sort of looked like that skinny guy in Westerns, the one that's always first out of the saloon whenever it looks there's gonna be gunplay.  For somebody who was supposed to be Italian, he was white as plaster of Paris and looked like he tanned nightly under a 40-watt bulb.  Two Down saw him in shorts one time and said, "And now, students, your circulatory system at work."

He had this Lettermanesque gap in his teeth, a little red hair that he covered up with one of those Jackie Stewart racing caps, skinny white arms that were mostly elbow and a score counter on his belt, which had been rubbed shiny with use.

Come to think of it, Hoover wasn't even his real name.  We called him Hoover because he very much sucked.  After most rounds, he was awarded the puke-orange Naugahyde La-Z-Boy in the Pit of Despair, reserved for the day's biggest loser.

Hoover's real name was Alberto de Salvo, which also happened to be the name of the Boston Strangler.  That figured.  Hoover apparently had all his luck surgically removed as a small boy.

Still, Hoover loved the game.  He had every color book Harvey Penick ever wrote, including the Little Red Book, the Little Green Book, the Little Shoebox of Stuff Harvey Penick Forgot the First Two Times, the Little Blue Two-Volume Videocassette featuring the 13 Most Important Things Harvey Penick Asks You to Remember at the Moment of Impact, and the Little Fuchsia Book: New Stuff Harvey's Agent Wanted Him to Include.

Hoover would spend sleepless nights worrying about shaft kick points.  He actually knew what his swing weight was.  He was obsessed with equipment.  He would no sooner have just received his boron-headed, titanium-shafted Big Bertha in the mail than he would banish it to his trunk and bring out a brand-new, French-bubble-shafted, graphite-headed Whaling Wendy, which, unfortunately, the factory forgot to de-shank, and so then he'd have to dump that and go to his mercury-loaded, airstream Colossal Cathy.

He was some kind of MIT scientist and somebody said his IQ was 153, which goes to show you golf is not a game you want to think too much about.  Bless his heart, Hoover thought way too much.  He believed in a person's inner "chakras" and had his adjusted after very bad rounds.  He tried pneumatic balls, which actually did add 15 yards to his drive, until it got hot and they started exploding in his bag, which caused most of the guys in his group to dive for cover, thinking the darling youngsters that live in the Roosevelt Park projects off 13 were spraying the course again for amusement.  After that, he played nothing but Titleists 8s.

"Wh th fck you nly ply Ttlst 8s?" Thud (the Almost Human) asked him one day with his mouth occupied with his ninth fried egg sandwich of the day.

"Because," Hoover told him.  "The number eight is the only perfectly aerodynamic number you can get on a golf ball.  Any other number will affect the flight."

"Rt.  Nd I'm Jck Fckng Nckls." Thud munched.

As much as you wanted him to succeed once—just once—it was hopeless. He would take the club back very, very, very slowly, stop halfway up, raise his elbows straight over his head and twist his body like he was trying to win Hernia of the Month.  Then he would come crashing down at the ball in hopes that maybe it would not have time to see him coming.  Dannie said he sort of looked like a man trapped in a moving car with a bee.  His goal was to shoot his weight, which was 105, but he'd never done it.  Of course, he'd only been playing Ponky seven years.

And after each horrible shot or bad break or terrible round of high-tension golf, Hoover would plunk himself down in the puke-orange La-Z-Boy, loose a large sigh, fling his Jackie Stewart cap toward the hatrack, miss and say, "Rats get fat.  Good men die."

"What does that mean anyway?" Cementhead asked him once after he'd put up a double radio station.

And Hoover said, "It is the universal and ultimate order of things.  It means that hard work, diligence, patience and good deeds aren't worth anything at all.  It means the centers of things do not hold.  All is chaos.  It means karma is dead."

And Cementhead asked, "What does that mean anyway?"

Still, Hoover had a will.  You could beat him like egg whites and the next day he'd be back, doubling the bets, convinced the breakthrough was just around the corner.  He'd say that "a person's golf swing can only truly be foolproof when tested under pressure," and we'd all very much agree and pretty soon he'd be taking all the action we'd give him.

The day Hoover dropped the $208 was one of those early September afternoons that can't decide whether to be summer or winter and the usual suspects were hanging around.  The Stringley brothers, slower than refund checks, had teed off just in front of us.  The Stringley brothers were these identical eighty-five-year-old twins who only played against each other and always for the same action: $1 a hole, instant whip-out, although nothing the Stringley brothers did was instant.  You'd be behind them and you'd see one of them totter up to his putt and gag it in and cackle what he always cackled: "T-t-t-t-t-take a s-s-s-s-s-suck a that!"  And then the other one would begrudgingly hand it over.

"Me and Stick in forty years," said Two Down.

We had our own usual games going—giant skins, carryovers, incest, $10 two-downs, double the backs, Alohas (double everything on 18), a game or two of Las Vegas, complimentary presses whenever and wherever the hell you felt like it and unlimited junk, which was anything else that you could dream up.

The usual and absolutely nonnegotiable assortment of penalties and assessments were in place, set forth by Two Down many years ago, encased in plastic and blue-duct-taped to the top of the corner table in the salmonella paradise of a lunchroom known to us as the Pit of Despair.

Schedule of Fines

Hackalooski (player with higher handicap giving player with lower handicap advice)...$5
Ernest and Julio (excessive whining)...$2
Hit and Whip (player hitting a bad shot and blaming another player in the group)...$5
Venturi (analyzing your swing too much)...$2
Collared shirt...$2
Each logo over the one-logo limit per player...$1
Double plumb bob...$1
Purposeful, willful and distracting talk of pooni...$3

Once in a while, with his 40 handicap and his chakras fixed up nice and his Jackie Stewart on snug, Hoover could get into your Hanes pretty quick.  And that's what happened that day.

He had me down $25, Chunkin' Charlie down $40, and Two Down down a good $100, and had accepted absolutely free and complimentary presses from all of us.  Not only that, if he double-bogeyed out, he'd break 100, which would be on a par with a lobster climbing out of the tank at Jimmy's Seafood Grill, taking the stage and whistling the entire score of Cats.

"Gentlemen, we shall be stacking up some of that flat tender in the Pit of Despair very soon," Hoover said, beaming.

Chunkin' Charlie was up first on 15.  He hit a very good drive and gave it the big Walter Hagen pose.

Charlie: "Boys, if you like golf, you gotta like that shot."

Me: "Right.  Until you find it in an old Hunt's can."

Two Down: "You'll probably have to play it out backward."

Charlie: "Five says I make par."

Me and Two Down: "Bank."

Now it was Two Down's turn.  He hit his patented screaming low hook that would've sailed under a '63 Valiant and not touched earth or oil pan.

Now it was Hoover's turn.  He was just about ready to take the club back when Two Down said a very hideous thing.

"Hey, Hoov."

"What?" Hoover said.

"You probably know more about the golf swing than anybody here, right?"


He still wouldn't look up.

"Well," said Two Down, "don't you think it's funny that you never see your shadow during your swing?"

"Kindly go fuck yourself," replied Hoover, not moving an inch, head still, knees bent, eyes peeled on his Titleist 8.

"Well," continued Two Down.  "I mean, in golf, everybody is supposed to stay perfectly still and nobody's supposed to breathe so you have absolutely no distractions.  But then right in front of you, your own shadow is going through all kinds of contortions, going this way and that, all the time, and yet nobody ever notices it during the swing."

"Do you mind?" said Hoover.

"Actually," said Two Down, "I guess if you did notice your shadow, it would help your swing.  I mean, you could see whether your club face was a little open at the top or whether your elbow was flying or all kinds of stuff."

"Double fornicate yourself," answered Hoover.

But this last was said with a clink of doubt in his voice, as though maybe Two Down's words had seeped into his cranium and were bouncing around with the Pythagorean theorem and double quark Pi and everything else he had in there. Here, a scientist who had devoted most of his life to the understanding of golf and all its tangents had never thought about the proper use and purpose of the shadow during the swing.

You could see his mind working.  Why is it that nobody notices their shadow? Had he ever even seen his shadow during the swing? He let his eyes steal away from the Titleist 8 to look.  There it was.  Plain as day.  Why hadn't his shadow ever bothered him before?

In a fair and just world, Hoover would've stepped away from the ball and somebody would've told a joke or mentioned the weather or reported the news that Thud recently broke his record for the longest urination in Ponky history last week when he peed so long his foursome had to let two groups through.  But nobody did.

Hoover stayed frozen over the ball, had to be forty-five seconds—and everybody stayed quiet.

At last, he started to take a swing, his shadow square in front of him.  It looked like an innocent little swing at first and then about two feet back he lurched a little.  Then, at the top, he gave it an industrial-strength downward lurch, so that now he resembled more a Navy signalman landing a MIG on an aircraft carrier than a golfer.

The ball, confused, went about 8 feet up and 6 feet sideways, bounced off a sick-looking pine tree nobody had hit in the history of Ponky and drowned itself in shame in the pond in front of the tee box.

I still believe that if Charlie and me hadn't been there, Two Down would have been the first man in Massachusetts golf history strangled by a resonant-resistant, Loomis-blend Meaty Martha.

Hoover stayed silent.  We stayed silent.  Hoover reloaded and set up again, but there was a fabric of dread draped over the moment.  This was not like somebody jangling keys or pumping cart brakes.  This was a shadow and it would be back again tomorrow and the day after that.  Worse, it was his shadow, a sinister prank pulled on him by his own scrawny body.  Naturally, Hoover saw it again and pile-drived another Titleist 8 into the pond.

One thing for sure, the synapses and nerve signals that sent messages from Hoover's brain to Hoover's body were completely severed.  Hoover was now a man without logic.  He could not escape the sight of his shadow.  He drop-kicked another one in a glob of mud, smother-toed one into the Murkwood Forest, then sliced one over the Elcar fence, off Manelli's dry cleaners and under a sky-blue '85 LTD.  He was lying 10 and still on the tee.  Breaking 100 was now history.

Naturally, in a moment like this, any true friend, any caring person, would stay quiet.

Two: "Now you've got it corrected, Hoovs."

Chunkin' Charlie: "Hey, Hoovs.  When you go find that one ball, can you check and see if my shirts are done?"

Then Crowbar hit him with some movie dialogue: "You're not too smart, are you? I like that it in a man."

Cementhead: "It Happened One Night?"

Crowbar: "Body Heat."

Cementhead: "Damn!"

Hoover wasn't listening.  He was digging out more golf balls.  He Gretzkyed two more slap shots into the pond before he finally bent the Meaty Martha over his knee and snapped it, Bo Jackson style.  He took out his 8-iron and bellied one barely over the pond and into the fairway.  He enjoyed an 18.

For the next two holes, the brooding Hoover was tormented by his shadow.  He could not help but see it.  And even when the sun was to his back and he could not see it, he was afraid he might see it.  He was a very good candidate for the centerfold in Psychology Today.

He was on his way to losing all those presses and the complimentary presses and whatever other jing nightmares that hadn't occurred to him yet.  The horror of the thing that he'd done was starting to mount up inside his eyes, like somebody was starting a bonfire just behind his forehead.

He sat down on the 18th tee and put his face entirely in the palms of his bony hands and his eyebrows seemed to slide off his forehead and come to rest just level with his nose, and he was basically just a lot of black clouds and red hair.  He looked like a man who had just backed over his own dog.

"Rats get fat?" Dannie asked.

"Good men die," I said sadly.

"Don't worry about it, Hoovs," said Two Down helpfully.  "You won't have the same problem tomorrow."

"Why?" asked Hoover darkly.

"Because," said Two Down, "it's supposed to be cloudy."

And that's when Hoover went triple O.J.

Chops officially recognize two kinds of mad.  Joan Crawford Mad gets you helicoptering clubs and looking for wet places to throw your worthy opponent. O.J. Mad is when you are so mad you begin turning in a circle, trying to decide whether to drive your cart into a lake, rip off your clothes and throw yourself on a barbed-wire fence or calmly walk over to the stone wall and begin smashing body parts against it, some of them your own.  What you usually end up doing is something painful like losing a crown biting as hard as possible on your putter or purposely taking one shoe and spiking the other and missing, thereby painfully piercing your ankle.

Hoover stalked over to his bag, took out his ball retriever, telescoped it out all the way and began walking toward Two Down, who backed away slowly toward the eight-foot hedge that ran behind the tee box and protected the Mayflower from us.

"It's just a game, Hoovs," said Two Down.

Hoover had him backed up against the hedge.  He set up like Yaz, screamed wildly and took a wild swing at Two Down's head.

Naturally, dodging an eighteen-foot ball retriever is a very easy thing to do and the retriever missed Two and whipped violently into the hedge.  But this did not deter Hoover.  He continued to whack against the same spot, despite the fact that Two Down was well out of the way.  Hoover was not going to take any shit whatsoever from a hedge.

Finally, the retriever felt enough was enough and refused to come out.  Hoover and Chunkin' Charlie grabbed the retriever right at the edge of the hedge and yanked.  Nothing.  Hoover, Charlie an

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 28 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 28 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2011

    The best golf book ever

    This book was so funny that my wife would come in to check on me. She'd find me laughing so hard that tears were streaming down my cheeks. This is not something that happens often.

    You don't have to play golf to enjoy this book.

    I live near Cape Cod but felt compelled drive over an hour to play "Ponky" myself after reading this book. It's awful. Thanks Rick.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 26, 2014

    Great Golf Fiction - you should check it out!!

    I had some unexpected flight delays and was in search of a new book to pass the time. Missing Links was the perfect answer. I nearly finished it before arriving at my final destination - I just couldn't put it down. I plan to also buy and read the sequel.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2014

    Strong Enough- Part 8

    Strong Enough- Part 8•|<p>The word 'labrynth' tugged at a feeling in my core but I couldbt put a finger on what it was. I shurged my bag off my shoulder and opened it up. I was talking as I pulled out the blank book and ice pen. "How long are we going to be here?"<br>"Not long." Came another simple and short reply. I gave a small shake of my head before speaking again.<br>"If you dont mindIm just going to... write a journal entry." The lie slipped easily onto my tounge with only a moments hesitation. Jade didnt need to more about me than she had to. She just shrugged in acknolegedment.<br>I opened the journal to the first page. I had to talk to my parent about my dream, i just didnt know where to start. Lamely I wrote the simplest thing possible: hi. No pen marks appeared on the page, and I took a starange comfort in the fact that it hadnt changed.<br>A simple word took form on the page but it wasnt mine.<br>No<br>No what? I wrote back.<br>I know what you are thinking Zia. Its not the right choice<br>The dissadvatages of having a parent with imense power. I let out a silent sigh and began to write back. I have to, its only right. I sat for a minute waiting for answer but none came so I wrote again. I cant risk killing another.<br>At a painfully slow rate the nest set of icey blue letters apeared.<br>Believe me Zia, it is for the best<br>The words faded faster than they appered. I got the feeling that was the en of the conversation and so I sat there, slupmed against the wall watching a girl who was more than likely at risk to fall victims to my uncontroabke curse.<br>My life is just a mess of blood.<p>|•Its good to be back. Next part nest res. And some SE news: parts 1-5 have been posted on my website. Comments are aperciated•|<p>••

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2014

    To Ana

    Yay! What is your website called?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2014

    First hee for SE

    Yah!!!!!! I hope you will use the character I gave to you!! I posted her at strong result one and her name is Cammie Stash!!!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 22, 2009

    A fun read

    Loved this book as well as the sequel, "Shanks for Nothing". A very fun and funny story suitable for anyone who loves the game of golf. This is one of those stories you wish you were apart of. Reilly's writing style keeps you entertained at all times. I read most of this book while on an airplane during my travels for work. Great book for travelers! Helps time go by fast!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2007

    Fun book from cover to cover

    Best fictional sports book I have ever read. Enjoyed the characters, the plot, the bets and the love affairs, which go from mundane to truly bizzare. I also appreciated the diagram layout of the course up front in the book. I have played the real Ponky on a few occasions and this is only slightly an exaggeration. Sadly, the real Ponky, really is a Donald Ross designed course (actually 2 courses)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2001


    this book is one of my personal favorites. I am only 14 years old and i loved it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2001

    Great Book for Real Golfers (not Pro's)

    This is a great book for all golfers that play their game on the public courses of the world! I smiled all the way through it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2001

    I Don't Like being called'Hoover'

    It happens nearly every time we play Golf. One or more really 'suck' that day. Reilly's nicknames add more depth to this book than non-golfers can imagine. We all have nicknames stemming from our adolescent days. Thank God that most of us have not inherited any of these. These names are earned after many years of toil and Reilly blends them beautifully throughout his novel. Any true golfer, Country Club or Public, will read this book in no more than three sessions and most will read it non-stop if time allows.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2001

    Thoroughly Entertaining!

    In the end, Mr. Reilly makes us realize the true nature of the sport. No matter where you play it, golf is about comraderie.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2001


    I borrowed this book from a friend who claimed it to be the best book he has ever read. I was expecting something great and that's what I got! Missing Links is a revealing story about social class and human behavior.....also, very funny. I'm telling everyone I know.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2001

    Very good book

    This was possibly the best book I've ever read. I would recomend it to everyone with a sense of humor. I lent it to a friend and he loved it as well.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2000


    One of the most entertaining books, whether you're into golf or not! This is great!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2000

    Every Hacker Should Own This Book

    This is a truly awesome read. It is hilarious, irreverant and true about the thousands of golf courses around the country. If you can't find some personifications of the people at your course you must not be playing the right courses. This book is a must read every winter/sprng as I begin to dream of summer and all the things that make golf synonomous with life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2000

    Perfect Gift for any golfer

    Hilarious. Award winning quality. Frequently found myself laughing out loud.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2000


    'Absoulutely the funniest book I have ever read...it should be required reading for all hackers.'

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2000


    Very funny. I could not put the book down and finished it in 3 days. Am looking forward to another book as good as 'Missing Links'.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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