133 of 140 people found the following review helpful
on July 27, 1999
It's either funny or sad that none of the reviews I've read about this book, either in print or on Amazon, recognize the source of this story: the Indian epic, the Mahabharata. The Mahabharata is one of the greatest stories ever told - and the Bhagavad Gita is given smack dab in the middle of it.
"The Legend of Bagger Vance" is a retelling of this epic, and a summary of the Bhagavad Gita, in a wonderful golf story. In the Mahabharata, Arjuna must fight a war against his step-brothers and cousins over possession of the kingdom. It is a righteous war, for he and his brothers are the heirs. But he refuses to fight, saying that war is futile and that it would be better to die than to fight one's family. So his charioteer, Lord Krishna, an incarnation of God, has to park the chariot and give him a really long lecture about why he should put aside his doubts, do his duty, and fight. Of course, it takes him the whole Bhagavad Gita to explain why this is a good thing to do, and it involves helping Arjuna understand who he really is, who God is, and what the nature of reality is. Along the way, he explains how to find peace in the midst of action, and to discover our true nature.
The Bhagavad Gita explains how to find union with God in the midst of daily life, and "The Legend of Bagger Vance" gives a very readable restatement of how to live a truly authentic life (and play great "golf" - whatever your form of "golf" is).
In "Legend," our hero, Rannulph Junah (R.Junah for those who like things spelled out) is a world-weary war veteran who is asked to play a game of golf with Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones. He reluctantly agrees, then tries to withdraw, saying that in a world torn apart by conflict and the Depression, it was futile, senseless, stupid, and insulting to hit a small dimpled ball around a course in yet one more form of combat. His caddy, Bagger Vance (Bhagavan, an honorific title for the Lord or for a spiritual master), then spends the rest of the story talking him through the 36-hole tournament, stripping away his confusion and delusion to help him find the truth of his Authentic Stroke and see the value of doing our inborn duty that life presents to us.
Does he succeed? Can we? Read this fun story and find out!
Afterwards, get Kamala Subramaniam's version of the "Mahabharata" and enjoy an even more interesting story.
39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on October 25, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I was browsing the shelves of my local library and was surprised to see that "The Legend of Bagger Vance" was sitting next to "Gates of Fire", both written by Steven Pressfield. Since I was thoroughly captivated by "Gates..." I thought I'd give "...Bagger" a chance. Even though I'm not an active golfer, having golfed twice, several years ago, this story is relevant to anyone who is interested in learning and remembering life's lessons.
Initially, I wasn't quite sure what to expect but as the characters were brought to life and the basic storyline was established, I began to realize I was reading something special. For example, Pressfield gives a great description of being in the "Zone", that rare and special time when ability is maximized with fluid and natural effort resulting in optimal performance. Winning becomes a by-product; the act itself or the Authentic Swing as Bagger Vance identifies it is what's important. Life's lesson seems to be for us not to worry about the results of our behavior. Instead, each of us strives for being our Authentic Self, and the results will take care of itself. If, in our striving, we feel isolated, we also need to remember we are never alone but are accompanied by a Higher Power, however we choose to define it.
Obviously,"The Legend of Bagger Vance" has so much more to offer than can be explained in this short review. However, I'm here to tell you that by just reading it the lessons learned will take care of themselves.
80 of 88 people found the following review helpful
on March 13, 2000
I picked up a few golf books this Winter to get me into the spirit and look forward to the upcoming season. One of the books I picked up was recommended to me by a friend, "The Legend of Bagger Vance". I enjoyed this book as a reader and as a golfer.
The basic premise: can a golfer return to the game after a long absence, guided by a mystical caddie, to compete with a couple of the world's best competitors? As a golfer, I say no. When I haven't been playing for a while, it takes a lot more than my mental approach to get my game back on track.
This story takes you on a mystical journey on e legendary golf course on a foggy, windy island of the coast of Savannah. I always enjoy stories that take me to a different time using some actual characters of the day. The setting is one of the strong points of the book. This author does an excellent job describing the golf world in the early 1930s.
The real strength of the book is the mysterious Bagger Vance who encourages the lead character to transcend the physical world to overcome his golfing challenges. We all know how much golf is a mental game. This book takes it a step further. Forget about keeping your left arm straight, your head down, and your wrists firm, this book will remind you that there are "other" elements at play in the game of golf.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on September 10, 2000
I have just finished reading the book, and I cannot truly describe what I think to be one of the greatest books ever written. There is so much sage advice and lessons to be learned about life until it makes you wonder if you have to play golf in order to learn these lessons. However, one thing golf does is teach you the art of discipline. When Bagger Vance describes the "Authentic Swing" in Chapter 11, I, who have played the game of golf for 37 years, realized that in all this time, I never realized all that he was describing, but that was all so true. When my wife read the book, she called me on the phone at work and said, "You have always known the path. You just didn't know it was the path." Maybe we all know the path, but if you don't read this book, if you don't grasp the subtle meaning of life translated through a simple sport, then you are missing out on so much. This is truly a classic and the lessons learned from this book will last long after the book does become a classic. It is not just for those of us who hack it up out there on the course. It is also for those who watch us.
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on November 19, 2000
I'm a sucker for wanting to read a book before seeing the movie and actually finished this one a few hours before I left for the theater. What I particularly enjoyed in my reading was being able to picture Matt Damon and Will Smith in the starring roles. For the first time ever, though, I enjoyed the movie more than the book. In reading through a number of Amazon reviews, I note that most of the 5 star reviews are given by those who love the game of golf even if it doesn't love them at times.
I am not a golfer so I found all the paragraphs devoted to the perfect swing, the right club and every other minute nuance of golf to be quite boring and tedious. I did, however, enjoy the lessons on life taught by Bagger Vance to anyone who would listen.
The overall story is good. In order to save Krewe Island Golf Club from going under during the depression, the owner comes up with the wonderful idea of having a first class golf match between professional golfers Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen. Unfortunately, the founding fathers of this great Southern city of Savannah will not support it unless one of their own golfers gets to compete. They choose Rannulph Junah, who once was a great golfer in his own right -- before he went off to fight in the war and returned a troubled man who likes to drink heavily. He initially refuses to compete but Bagger Vance convinces him otherwise. He helps Rannulph to reconnect with his "authentic swing" -- the swing that is ours alone -- the swing that each person is born with. At this point I'm thinking that every golfer out there is loving this. But Bagger Vance's message is farther reaching than just finding your authentic swing. While you're there, find your authentic self -- the one you were born with before you were deluded by life's experiences.
Throughout the book, you wonder if Bagger Vance is real or someone just sent here to help Junah through the match. Junah himself, in referring to Bagger, says in the book that "he was unable to assimilate his (Bagger's) wisdom or any wisdom. Nothing he said worked, then or later, except one single truth: the fact of his existance and of his love. That is all I needed then and all I will every need."
Isn't this all any one person needs in life? And it is there for the taking. That is the message of Bagger Vance or whatever higher power you deem him to be. Do yourself a favor after reading this book -- go see the movie to continue your fascination with this character and your connection to a higher being.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on September 9, 2000
The story tees off with a golf caddy named Bagger Vance, a local hero and golfer named, Jonas and two world reknown golfers at a local country club in the deep humid south of the 1930's. The event of a fictional golf game is watched and recorded by a young boy who years later retells the story of the game to another young man. After the author takes us on a stroll through a southern golf course we come to the realization, God is every where, even on the links. The story is a metaphoric tale that puts the work of God into a human perspective. We also realize that we all possess inate abilities that often are lost by our earthly desire to conform with our environment. After reading the Legend of Bagger Vance you will want to begin working on "your" game and never again will you look at inane activities without considering the past. Great book should be read by anyone who loves the south, golf, history, and God.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on May 18, 2005
Last winter in a philosophy class I was assigned to read a book called the Legend of Bagger Vance. At first, I rejected the entire idea of the book. Golf and philosophy? he had to be kidding right? And the main people in the book - Bagger, Junah, Hardy, Michael - how could they all take a silly game of golf so seriously? (I am not really much of a sports fan.)
It took a few class discussions, but I quickly realized my error. The Legend of Bagger Vance is a rare gem. Packed with religion (it is, after all, based on the Hindu text the Bhagavad-Gita), philosophy, and a rare kind of literary magic, Pressfield has rewritten and submitted a doctrine for the ages in the guise of a book about golf.
Most of the book focuses on a famous game played at Krewe Island between a local has been golf hero, Rannulph Junah and his caddie Bagger Vance, and the two best players of the day Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen. (The latter two men did actually exist). The story is retold by Hardy as an old man, who was a young boy at the time of the game, to his young friend Michael. Michael recently quit med school, which Hardy can understand. He is a doctor himself and understands the stress and pressure of pursuing such a career. But when Hardy hears that Michael also quit golf - he decides to do something to bring his young friend back to the game. Through his retelling of the story, an excursion to a local friend, and a few other things I'm not mentioning, lest I spoil it for you, he tells us a magical story about duty, struggle and doing what you were meant to do.
I would suggest this book to anyone, but more specifically certainly any golfer (may you find your authentic swing), anyone who has an affinity for Eastern wisdom, and any person who is searching for meaning in this very confusing world. The movie, which I will not get into here, I would not suggest seeing, simply because it distorts a beautiful story. Main characters are deleted and romances are added - maybe you'd likeit, but I know I wouldn't.
But the book is marvelous. I'm what you could call a book worm, reading 10-20 books a month, but a semester has passed since I closed Bagger Vance, having read its final pages, and it still impacts me daily. The wisdom, philosophy and magic in this book are almost too powerful to convey on paper. But I have tried. Please, give this book a chance. It doesn't look like much, but it is.
I know myself and my friends have all enjoyed it immensely. Maybe it could change your life too.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"The Legend of Bagger Vance" is a wonderful story of a damaged man's personal redemption through the magical game of golf. Rannulph Junah is a former golden boy who, in recent years, has been ravaged by demons that he cannot overcome. Junah was the pride of Savannah, Georgia. He was a good-looking young kid who was also a gifted golf player. He seemed to have every door open to him for his future. But, then he went off to fight during World War I. Apparently, he saw and experienced things during the war that left him shaken. When he returned to the states, he became a recluse who drowned his sorrows in alcohol. Fast-forwarding more than a decade shows Savannah as a thriving town with a brand new championship golf course. The denizens of Savannah desperately want to bring fame and notoriety to this new course. Therefore, they hatch a plan to have an exhibition tournament involving two of the biggest names in golf in that day, Bobby Jones (two years removed from golf's only grand slam and about to retire and go into practicing law... and building the Augusta National Golf Course) and Walter Hagen (a larger than life character who was always very engaging to the gallery). Because civic pride was on the line, the organizers wanted one of their own as a third member of this exhibition. After much debate, Junah was settled on as the most likely candidate to compete. Of course, Junah did not seek this 'honor', nor did he wish to endure the pressure that such a selection carried. Many of the townspeople were also concerned that Junah's erratic behavior over the previous decade could do more harm than good to the town's reputation.
Enter Bagger Vance, a mystical figure who seems be in Savannah for only one reason, to help Junah compete in this match and to help him overcome the demons that plague him. In a nod to Eastern philosophy, Vance helps Junah look within himself to find the answers and redemption he is looking for via 'the Authentic Swing'. The 'Authentic Swing' is both a metaphorical and a literal representation of a place in life that all men strive for where they are not burdened by demons and distractions and are able to achieve all it is that they seek. With Bagger Vance serving as his caddie, Junah embarks on the 36-hole odyssey of this golf match. Early on, every hole becomes a image of the demons that Junah battles and the hopes and disappointments of an entire town. As the match goes on, it becomes clear that each hole is not only a competition for the honor of Savannah, but also a deeply personal battle for Junah's soul. Does he win and find redemption? I dare not say in this review. If you have read the book, then you know the answer. For those of you who have not read this book, do so. It is not only the moving tale of Rannulph Junah, but also a metaphorical look at the battles all of us face.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on March 22, 2000
My father, an avid golfer, recommended "The legend of Bagger Vance" to me. As I picked it up and began to read, I expected nothing more than a simple innocent story about the underdog holding steady with the favorites in the golf match of a lifetime.
Three and a half hours later, I set the book down, sweat pouring down my face, hands numbly releasing the pages. "The Legend of Bagger Vance" is the most daring book I have ever read. In it, the entire face of reality is questioned, and cataclysmic issues are reopened over what appears to be a simple game of golf.
The plot is unimportant. What matters is the tone of the book. And believe me, it has tone.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on May 1, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Hidden behind the story of a local hero's return to the game he once relished, and the caddie who taught him more than just how to find his perfect golf swing, is a heartwarming novel which displays both the beauty and the innocence of the game and its ability to transcend the sullied and repulsive competitive nature found within society. Such qualities are what make The Legend of Bagger Vance more than just a golf novel brimming with counsel. Instead, a bag full of life lessons, three white men, one black caddie, and a pristine green golf course are what make this story one of the greatest philosophical novels of all time. "Swing your True Swing, your Authentic Swing. Remember, the game is simple. The ball doesn't move. It simply sits and waits. Now strike it, Junah. Hold nothing back. Hit is with everything you have." With only brief words, the life mentor, turned caddie, has divulged not only the secret to the game of golf, but the key secret to the ultimate game: The Game of Life. Through the use of sports accuracy, emotional appeal, and the personal experience of the characters, The Legend of Bagger Vance, not only demonstrates its ability to showcase the qualities of the game that are often left unnoticed by fans and media alike, such as the purity of competition, but also is able to educate one in wondrous yet frequently complex game of life. Due to such feats, a story of this magnitude must garner recognition as one of the greatest thought provoking and philosophical novels of all time.