Actor Sean Connery, the original and best James Bond, has revealed that preparing for the movie Goldfinger led to his lifelong passion for golf.
In his just released memoir, Connery says he came to see golf as a metaphor for living, that it greatly enhanced his life and was the nearest he ever came to having a religion.
The autobiography, “Being a Scott” was released this week on Connery’s 78th Birthday in Edinburgh.
The following excerpt was published in the UK Telegraph.
I never had a hankering to play golf, despite growing up in Scotland just down the road from Bruntsfield Links, which is one of the oldest golf courses in the world. It wasn’t until I was taught enough golf to look as though I could outwit the accomplished golfer Gert Frobe in Goldfinger that I got the bug. I began to take lessons on a course near Pinewood film studios and was immediately hooked on the game. Soon it would nearly take over my life.
I began to see golf as a metaphor for living, for in golf you are basically on your own, competing against yourself and always trying to do better. If you cheat, you will be the loser, because you are cheating yourself. When Ian Fleming portrayed Auric Goldfinger as a smooth cheater, James Bond had no regrets when he switched his golf balls, since to be cheated is the just reward of the cheater.
Ext. Golf course – day Bond spots Goldfinger cheating.
Bond: “You play a Slazenger 1, don’t you?”
Goldfinger: “Yes, why?”
Bond: “This is a Slazenger 7.”
Bond shows Goldfinger his own golf ball.
Bond: “Here’s my Penfold Hearts. You must have played the wrong ball somewhere on the 18th fairway. We are playing strict rules, so I’m afraid you lose the hole and the match.”
During the filming of Goldfinger, I learned the essential challenge of links golf at Royal Dornoch in the north-east Highlands. Ever since then I have been drawn to links golf and its enduring challenges, and I’ve learnt to play a variety of shots under constantly changing conditions. It’s quite naked golf. There aren’t many trees, or other features, to aid your alignment. Much is left to the imagination and to picturing the shot. Then there’s the wind, always a factor on a links course. You’re required to play run-up shots and to work the ball this way and that.
Within a few years of Goldfinger, my golf was good enough to play against professionals in competitions. I was invited to join one of Bing Crosby’s showbusiness amateur teams against professional golfers in America, which was an early forerunner of the pro-ams. It gave me the idea of promoting a pro-am tournament in Scotland to showcase our Scottish International Education Trust. Since one of its first board members, the shipbuilder Sir Iain Stewart, had fabulous connections in the world of golf, the planning got off to a flying start.
We settled on the out-and-back Ayrshire course of Royal Troon, and chose the week following the Open. Since all the key players in the world would be congregating at St Andrews that year, travelling down to Troon from Fife would hardly be crossing the Atlantic. Because the Troon course had been having problems with encroaching tides and with crowd control, we recruited rugby players as volunteer policemen, who made a great job controlling the 20,000 who came. The amateurs included the comedian Jimmy Tarbuck, the footballer Kenny Dalglish and the boxer Henry Cooper, along with Eric Sykes and me.
Sponsors put up generous prizes and we allowed them to place their logo on the holes for £1,000. Eagle Star Insurance took the first hole, which was a driveable par four. But when two players in the first half-dozen holed out in eagle to each claim their prize of £500, Iain Stewart thought we’d all be left penniless. Fortunately only one more player holed out in two. The tournament was a great success, with Christy O’Connor becoming the all-round winner, and it re-established Royal Troon as a venue for future Opens. In 1970 I won a trophy at a tournament in Morocco, La Coupe du Roi de Maroc. Then the next day I was drawn against a brilliant player who had won the women’s trophy. That was Micheline Roquebrune. We were married one year later.
In the late 1960s, when I was mastering the game, a remarkable book came out, catching the spirit of the times. Michael Murphy’s Golf in the Kingdom took the frustrations that often befall the average golfer and turned them into a mystical Zen experience. A young golfer takes lessons from a wily left-handed all-knowing professional called Shivas Irons. It’s a name charged with meaning for the impressionable young man from California, straight out of college, on his way to seek enlightenment in India. Shivas is a seer who delivers golfing nuggets of Celtic wisdom in the spirit of a Zen master. His name comes from Aberdeenshire and could derive from the old Scots verb “shiv”, meaning to push or shove. Then there’s the debatable phrase “to be blown to smithereens”, which he shifts to “shivereens” so as to connect the name to Shiva – the ancient Hindu god of destruction. And redemption. So Murphy finds his shaman, not in an Indian ashram with his mystic guru Aurobindo, but out there on a golf course in the Kingdom of Fife.
Over the years golf has taught me much, and its implicit codes of conduct have provided me with the nearest I have ever come to a religion. A golf player is on his honour to call a shot against himself and to be considerate to other players following up behind. I can illustrate this well from an incident I heard about when playing a round at Pine Valley in America.
Cliff Robertson, a veteran golfer in his 80s who carried the whole history of Pine Valley on his shoulders, came up behind a foursome. Etiquette would have normally let him play through. He asked the caddie for permission for this from the foursome, but he returned to say that their answer was no. So he got on his cart and went up to them.
“Before you say anything,” he told them, “you have no standing. There is no one in front of you. Now you are not going through.” Then he turned to his caddie: “Take all their bags back on the cart to the clubhouse.”
“Hey, don’t touch our clubs!” one protested.
“Who invited you?”
“You will never set foot on Pine Valley in your lives again. And your friend is now barred from Pine Valley for a year. Now I would like to play through.”
What a marvellous lesson that was.
I am always keen to slip away for a round of golf whenever a movie schedule makes it possible. When filming John le Carre’s The Russia House I was invited by that all-round sportsman Sven Tumba to play on the first golf course in the Soviet Union. The enterprising Swede had not only threaded his nine fairways around high-rise tenements a 10-minute drive from Red Square, he had also founded a golf school. One of its most gifted students, the teenager Denis Zherebko, was ready to tee off with us to inaugurate the course in 1989.
The Moscow City Club has since grown, with membership now every bit as expensive as
its American counterparts. Having long banned the game in the Soviet Union for its bourgeois decadence, how Stalin would have scowled.
During the war, when the British embassy was packed with Scots, the UK enjoyed remarkably close relations with the USSR. Bob Dunbar, the press officer who later ran the London Film School, told me how they would often break away from Foreign Office etiquette to sink a few drinks with such adversaries as the film director Sergei Eisenstein and even Stalin himself. The ambassador, Sir Archibald Clark Kerr, was a witty Australian Scot who had forged close relations with Stalin. When he left Moscow towards the end of the war he met his replacement, Sir Maurice Peterson.
“How do you think you’ll manage to get on with Stalin?” he asked the new ambassador.
“Easy, old boy, I’ll invite him out regularly for a round of golf.” In fact this routine diplomat soon alienated the dictator. The nights of hard-drinking bonhomie were gone for ever. Stiff-upper-lipped diplomacy became the order of the day, as international relations began their slow freeze into the Cold War.
Not all Communists were so averse to golf. When President Eisenhower made the front page of The New York Times by hitting a hole-in-one, Fidel Castro was driven to ask Che Guevara to teach him the game.
“He had been a caddie once to earn some money in his spare time,” the Cuban president remembered. “I, on the other hand, knew absolutely nothing about this expensive sport.” Expensive sport or not, Cuba now boasts a world-class 18-hole golf course at the beach resort of Varadero. Through an improbable international sports initiative, Cubans are now being coached by British golfers in exchange for Cubans training British teams in baseball. Whoever brokered that one must surely deserve promotion.
Golf has greatly enhanced my life. Through golfing I have met remarkable people, some of whom have been truly inspirational. It was through golf that I met Sir Iain Stewart, who pioneered new industrial relations on the Clyde, which opened my mind to the possibility of political change.
I met the flying ace Douglas Bader on the golf course. He never let the loss of his legs affect his game, eventually getting his handicap down to an extraordinary five. Long before the aerial Battle of Britain he had lost both legs in a flying accident. To the Germans he became a legend, because every time they shot him down he escaped. His last camp commandant eventually clipped his wings by locking away his prosthetic legs.