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There are no other sports to touch golf in the equipment stakes. I believe that so strongly that, yes, I just used the word "period". Wedges with varying lofts and bounce soles, in copper, matt black or polished steel. Grooves you want to clean the night before you play.

Bladed irons that are impossible to hit but impossible not to sit and look at, drivers you can actually adjust, which come with tools that let you experiment with where the club head sits on the shaft, like you actually know what you're doing. That's before you start on the accessories. Gloves so clean and smooth it'd be a privilege to be strangled by hands that wore them, velvety smooth towels that hang just so from your bag, and balls so white and pure and innocent the night before you play, untarnished by tomorrow's tank into the halfway hut or your hurling one into the lake after a poor run of scoring.

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Hit three in the trees and you've done a tenner. Ball markers, pitch-mark repairers, wooden tees of various lengths, umbrellas, soft spikes, hard spikes, hats, windproofs and waterproofs. And that's just the minimum. The absolute basics before you feel safe and ready to get out on the course.

Zip it all up in the pockets the evening before, with the plasters, the sunscreen, the water, the socks, the pencil, the course planner, the hip flask. And the wallet.

You're definitely going to need that. No deals get done on the golf course.

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This isn't Howards' Way. And if you're engaged in the sensitive stage of a business negotiation, do you really want to let your most difficult client see you this vulnerable, stripped bare emotionally, muttering to yourself, alone in the woods, in these trousers?

Some talk about the scenery. But you'll only notice it if you're playing well, and odds are you won't be, in which case you could be playing on the moon and you wouldn't even give planet Earth a glance, only noticing the little patch of rock your ball had come to rest on. Fucking moon dust.

Fucking absence of gravity. You kind of have to admire the sheer scale and ambition of this game, though. To water the course and tend it and trim it in a way that doesn't cause members to complain about an unsightly patch of untended turf takes teams of ground staff, reservoirs full of water, buckets of money. To play just a few holes on a good course is as decadent as a Nero-hosted New Year's party back in ancient Rome. Play it in countries where water and food are scarce, where the sun turns earth to dust, but the course you're playing on is so green it makes your eyes hurt as you trundle around for miles in your golf cart and your caddie earns a wage that wouldn't cover your new putter grip: that can bring on a fairly advanced case of Western middle-class guilt.

Before you hook one into the trees. Then you have other things to worry about. There are other reasons to play. A secret all golfers know is that it's one of the greatest, neatest, no-questions-asked ways you can have a legitimate weekend away from your wife or girlfriend for an entire 48 hours or longer. Throw a golf bag into the boot of the car, however, and it's like a powerful mind trick, a blind spot, that can be taken advantage of at surprisingly regular intervals.

Golf, in essence, is a simple game. Keep your head down, bend your knees, left arm straight, spine upright but tilted, grip the club right but grip it light, rotate your arms not your hands, keep your backswing short, remember "low and slow", stay together, swing not hit, throw your hips, accelerate into the hitting zone, shake hands with the target, know your circles, stay on plane, follow through to a photo finish. Shout, "Fore! You watch professionals play. You stiff a few on the driving range.

You start to feel that a real breakthrough is one swing-thought away. It isn't.

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This is why you keep playing, because you can't understand why a game that appears so simple can also be so complicated. The room feels like a remnant of the British Empire, which it is. On the yellow-lettered boards around the room, the names of club champions and presidents change in the mids from Walkers to Singhs.

Fans turn overhead. Across the open pavilion, a local waiter slices the crust off a sandwich with a strange look on his face. The banker is one of the gods Anil believes in. He is Anil's benefactor. His sponsor.

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The Investment Banker doesn't know Anil's family, doesn't want to. It's better that way. It's easier to cut a man loose if you've never met his children. Twenty-seven years ago, the wall didn't exist.

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Which is to say, there was no structure, built from brick and stone, separating the golf course from the rest of the city. There was a wall, though, tall and impregnable, inside all the squatters who'd come to Mumbai from the villages. They cobbled huts on the edge of the huge expanse of green. Maybe it reminded them of the places they'd left behind. They'd never heard of golf, so they had no way of knowing their community marred the side of the 10th fairway. This was the world Anil was born into, where birth determines everything.

Call it luck or fate or God, the power behind the word doesn't change. Whatever would happen in Anil's life would happen to him. His mother, Radha Mane, was 8 years old when her parents married her to one of her cousins, a man who caddied at the club. For the first four years of marriage, she lived with her mother. When she was 10, the family tattooed her husband's name on her.

When she turned 12, she moved in with him. He climbed on top of her.


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Nine months later, she sat in their shack alone. She was illiterate. Had never been inside a school. There was no money. No food in the house.

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It was around sundown. The pains came, and she didn't know what to do. In a shack beside a fairway, Radha delivered her child alone. The baby cried, but she couldn't feed him until she fed herself. She washed her son and named him Anil, which means wind. She wrapped him in cloth. She waited. Two hours later, her mother returned with torn pieces of bread and part of an onion.

Radha ate, then fed Anil. Every day revolved around eating enough to make it to the next one. Her mom went through garbage cans to find scraps. Radha sent her son to plead for leftovers from hotels and restaurants. When she cleaned houses, she tucked away anything left on plates when her bosses finished.

Her husband, Bajrang Mane, did little to help, Anil said, drunk much of the time, knocking her around until Anil grew big enough to stop him. This was their life. They lived in a state of negative symbiosis with the club, which valued their cheap labor even as the members griped about the ramshackle camp staring them in the face as they lined up their tee shot at the par-3 10th. The golf club members wanted all the squatters gone, trying over and over to evict them. Once, a woman protested by dousing herself in kerosene and holding a match, threatening to immolate herself if they took another step.

The club finally succeeded by locking everyone in jail for a night while the shacks were torn down. Anil was about 9. A wall kept them out. The village reconstituted itself on the sidewalk beside the wall, a few dozen yards from where people had lived before. Radha would never set foot on the property again. Bajrang kept going to work as a caddie, never once picking up a club himself. His drinking pushed the rest of their family away.