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The Legend of Bagger Vance: A Novel of Golf and the Game of Life

3.82  ·  Rating Details ·  2,767 Ratings  ·  155 Reviews
In the Depression year of 1931, on the golf links at Krewe Island off Savannah's windswept shore, two legends of the game, Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen, meet for a mesmerizing thirty-six-hole showdown. Another golfer will also compete--a troubled local war hero, once a champion, who comes with his mentor and caddie, the mysterious Bagger Vance. Sage and charismatic, it is ...more
Paperback, 282 pages
Published October 3rd 2000 by HarperTorch (first published 1995)
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May 03, 2009 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm not a golfing fanatic, I don't watch it on tv, but I was on the edge of my seat reading about the golf match that is played in the book.

The book is not at all like the film starring Matt Damon and Will Smith as Junah and Baggar Vance respectively. The book highlights the main themes treated in the film, but it goes a lot further.

Golf is a game where you play against yourself, against your mind. Golf represents the war that rages inside each one of us. Each golfer is a warrior, fighting the v
First off, I like to golf. It's fun: get some sunshine, hit a few balls, make a few good shots, make a lot of bad shots, buy drinks from the golf cart girl, and grab a sandwich at the turn. Drive, curse, rough, curse, sand, curse, putt, curse, tap in. There's nothing overly complicated about it, in my opinion.

What I don't like about golf is the cult around it, of which this book is trying to be an epistle. I understand that some people go all out: 90 hole weekend, trips to St. Andrew's, etc. Tha
Riku Sayuj
Apr 23, 2014 Riku Sayuj marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition


The 2000 film The Legend of Bagger Vance, was loosely based on the Gita, with golf taking the place of war (though the hero has been traumatized by World War I).

In the film, the Krishna figure (played by Will Smith) describes to [Ar]Junuh (Matt Damon), for whom he is the caddie (charioteer), the feeling of karma without kama (pure-action, without thought for results) as playing in the zone, a great analogy.

Eric Paulsen
Jul 12, 2012 Eric Paulsen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For any golfer, there are certain irrefutable truths. Integrity is a truth. Respect, competitiveness, focus, peace, and countless others are all integral pieces to golf's puzzle. I have had the very real privilege of knowing the game of golf- not how to play it, or the rules, but to KNOW it. I have seen what it does to me. When I am on the secluded fairway with a club in hand, the green grass speaks to me, sharing life's lessons. This is when I pray. This is when I see the world as it should be- ...more
Todd Vogts
Dec 24, 2015 Todd Vogts rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
"The Legend of Bagger Vance" by Steven Pressfield tees up a message of greater meaning and knocks a long drive down the fairway straight to the pin. The book, which is exquisitely written, discusses the fact that golf is a "higher plane" activity. It makes the point golf is a sport of the gods. It brings you closer to the divine. It is the only sport where the golfer has to judge himself. If he makes an error, the onus is on him to call the penalty. It is a sport where you become one with nature ...more
Feb 23, 2014 Barbara rated it it was ok
Golf is war. War is hell. Golf is hell? Would that the point of this novel was as simple as that transitive property! Sadly, it's not, and I was frustrated in my search for the author's elusive meaning.

The novel recounts a 36-hole golf match between Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen, devised to elevate Savannah out of it's 1931 Depression-era slump. The competition takes place on Krewe Island, a stone's throw from Skidaway, a piece of land demolished in a storm during 1938 - save for the 18th hole, a
Jul 01, 2012 Dale rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'It's not about golf,' said the student to this teacher.

The Legend of Bagger Vance: A Novel of Golf and the Game of Life was on the shelf in my classroom. I hadn't read it yet and was discussing it with one of my students who was looking for something to read. I had suggested it to him since he is a fan of many sports. He said he'd already read it. I told him I had not, since I am not a fan of golf. He looked at me like I was a small, silly child and said, 'It's not about golf.'

At that moment,
Aug 04, 2012 Stephen rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: golf fans
I've loved the movie and recently found a copy of the book so I was looking forward to reading this. The book, as always, tells of details that would never make it in a movie and those details add a certain level of enjoyment but the book is much more of a magical realism/spiritual quest story than the movie.

The movie was lovingly adapted from the book and that attention shows in a first rate film. This is one of those rare cases where I can't decide if I like the movie or the book version bette
James Kuiken
Feb 18, 2015 James Kuiken rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews
Not just a "game". This journey is much more serious than that...

I kind of backed into reading The Legend of Bagger Vance. I was familiar with the adaptation of the story from watching the movie (which I liked), but I started reading Steven Pressfield’s books because I was trying to improve myself as an author – and I was very interested in how he has been so successful – so I started with The Authentic Swing: Notes from the Writing of a First Novel…which, by the way, knocked my socks off (see m
Megan Montana
Jan 06, 2015 Megan Montana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This text either awakened or reawakened something in me; I am not sure which. It reminded me - made me remember. Read it.
Megan Gery
I hate seeing the movie before reading the book, but I saw this movie years ago-- so long ago that I'd forgotten the plot, or lack thereof.

I really enjoy Steven Pressfield's writing-- it glides smoothly down the page without drawing attention to itself or stalling. I would have enjoyed it more if the book contained less technical information about the game of golf. I know that's stupid, because it's a golf book, but I did get a little bogged down and found my attention wandering when one of the
Jim Johnson
Jul 25, 2013 Jim Johnson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although they were two completely different stories, this is one of those rare occasions (The Shawshank Redemption comes to mind) when the book and movie do not match but both are superbly told stories. I wouldn't change either and I feel uplifted by the two.

The book is far more supernatural and spiritual than the movie and (given my own skepticism and atheism) I was surprised to find that I enjoyed this fictional tale immensely. On previous occassions, I have tried reading books with similar th
Phil Gerkin
May 30, 2013 Phil Gerkin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Golf is a metaphor for life couched in Hindu tradition. It is written in the clear, plain-prose style that is both easy-to-read and beautiful. There were times I found myself holding my breath at the prose. The religious focus evokes the central message of many religions while relying on specific metaphors from the Hindu faith. This author won't presume to elucidate thematic messages, but rather, let readers learn from Junah and Harley and Michael and Irene and Beggar, himself. There is much to ...more
Oct 13, 2009 Alan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Life is about action; about following through. It is also the search for our authentic self, or if you're a golfer, for your authentic swing! If you've lost your authentic self, it can be found...same with your authentic swing!

This book is based, in huge part, on the hindu scripture "the bhagavad gita" and has many spiritual, moral, and personal lessons to teach us. Describing it doesn't do it justice. You have to read it for yourself to understand. Don't let the golf angle put you off. If you l
Sep 30, 2015 Karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I listened on unabridged cassette from a stack borrowed from a friend. I never saw the movie & I don't like golf so really wasn't sure I would be interested in this book. I was wrong! I really liked it. It takes place in 1931 near Savannah (that caught my attention!) on a golf course at Krewe Island. Two golf legends are brought in for a 36 holed tournament, Bobby Jones & Walter Hagen. A third golfer, Rannulph Junah, a local, troubled war hero struggling to find meaning in his life was o ...more
Jake Muehlschlegel
In Savannah Georgia, the Great Depression had hit the people as hard as the rest of the country. In a desperate attempt to save her fathers gem of the south golf club from bankruptcy, Adele Invergordon organizes a golf tournament with an unheard of prize of $20,000. The match will feature the graceful and legendary Bobby Jones, the swashbuckling and confident Walters Hagen, and Savannah's own war hero Rannulph Junah. Junah has come back from the traumatizing first world war and has lost himself ...more
Jul 25, 2012 Andre rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am not a fan of golf, but I appreciated and greatly like this book. This book could be about cabinet making or washing windows and it would still be a great read. Some people may object to the eastern mysticism, but I think that speaks more of them than this book. Also, the movie was a two star effort with four star actors and this book is so much more. Please, do not let the movie stop anyone from reading the book.
Craig Cote
Jul 20, 2014 Craig Cote rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a fan of Steven Pressfield's historical recreations, this novel -- his first -- seems like it doesn't fit in with his canon. Which isn't really fair, as most of the novel takes place in 1931 which is earlier than "Killing Rommel". Perhaps it is that it lacks the aspect of war and conflict in the other books. Regardless, it has been on my radar but not had quite the same priority.

I'm not a fan of golf. Mostly, I think it is over-hyped. This probably played into my prioritization too. But I enj
May 10, 2014 Larry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoy golf. When I found that one of my favorite movies was based upon a book of the same name, I felt compelled to read it. As I should have expected, it is different from the movie. I’m not sure if it was better or worse – but I am certainly glad I read it.

The core of the story presented in the movie is the same as the book. It’s a mythical match-up of the legendary golfers Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen at a Savannah resort – with the last minute addition of the local war hero. Once e
You know that adage that the book is always better [than the movie]? Not always. I enjoyed the movie based on this book, although a lot of that has to do with Robert Redford's gauzy, diaphanous direction. Also, the movie didn't make me feel like I had to be a golfer to understand it, whereas there are whole sections of this book I had no idea what they were talking about. I was fine with that, I expected it based on some things I read about the book, and I think that's reasonable. However, I am ...more
Jan 04, 2016 Wade rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is enjoyable and gives evidence of the brilliance and talent of Pressfield but is still somewhat lacking and leaves a little to be desired. There is a mysticism herein that, while a bit overwhelming, shows an audacity in the writer that is promising and is a rather interesting aspect to the story and gives a strange sort of depth of philosophy to the book.

The story telling is engaging but the development of characters is somewhat lacking which wouldn't be a problem except that the deve
Jun 18, 2014 Terrie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Never thought I'd like a book with golf as it's plot, but this is such a lovely book. The metaphor is wonderful and the story moves along so smoothy. Highly recommend.
Todd Kinsey
Aug 18, 2015 Todd Kinsey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Anita Ashland
May 31, 2016 Anita Ashland rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This story is all about golf as a metaphor for life, with the path to an authentic swing described as discipline, wisdom and love. The mystical caddie Bagger Vance's advice is all about finding the swing, which has existed since the beginning of time, rather than about trying to create and perfect a swing."Intelligence does not reside in the brain but in the hands. Let them do the thinking, they're far wiser than you are. Be patient. Let the club settle. Don't make a move toward the ball until t ...more
Clinton Murphy
A good metaphor should be subtle, allowing the reader to find their own meaning within the context of the story. Sadly this is not the case with Bagger Vance. Mr. Pressfield bashes you over the head with his spiritual message. This is a shame, as he is at his best when describing the details of the game of golf itself. If you can get past all the mystical mumbo-jumbo there is a well crafted, if fanciful, match to follow. However, if that is what you are looking for you are better off with “The G ...more
Kurt Van Deusen
I finished this one 3 weeks ago. Second time I've read it and still a great read.
Jun 10, 2016 Joe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book was well written and the story fairly interesting but I just didn't get it.

I can see it tried to show golf as a metaphor for deeper meaning and living a full life free of limitations. But I just didn't get how the authentic swing was meant to translate in to some deeper meaning for life.

If you are intelligent and into these kinds of things you might love it and it might change your life. But if you aren't that smart and wish the author just said what he meant directly and not crypticall
Betty Dickie
I don't often say this, but the movie was better. The book is well written but way too into the lingo and adoration of golf for a non-golfer. And then where the movie suggested a vaguely messianic persona for Bagger, the book goes way off into what the author calls (1)a god of war; (2)a loving master and so on. And the ending is just strange. I really don't know exactly what he was trying to get at. Is Golf the answer to life? Will hitting just one ball put your life on the right path and open n ...more
Aug 01, 2014 Jane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book--and I don't even like golf!
Alan Livingston
Feb 16, 2015 Alan Livingston rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: golf-fiction
I’ve been told that my book Gabriel’s Creek reminded some readers of The Legend of Bagger Vance. I always took that to be high praise, even though I’d seen the film adaptation but never read Steven Pressfield’s book. I understand many of those comparisons now. Among the most notable is that in both, which appear on the surface to be two golf books, our beloved-but-misunderstood game is really being used as the vehicle to tell a deeper story. I don’t think it’s a plus of one versus another that I ...more
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I was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, in 1943 to a Navy father and mother.

I graduated from Duke University in 1965.

In January of 1966, when I was on the bus leaving Parris Island as a freshly-minted Marine, I looked back and thought there was at least one good thing about this departure. "No matter what happens to me for the rest of my life, no one can ever send me back to this freakin' place a
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“Bagger Vance: Don't make no sense is all... Man say he don't play no golf when he out here this shade of night hittin balls off in the dark where he can't even see 'em...
Rannulph Junuh: Yep... Well, I've done things that have made less sense...
Bagger Vance: As we all have... ”
“This is what I feared for Michael. That his generation, so strong, so well made, so bright and aware beyond its years, would compare itself to us in envy, envy of the clarity of our challenges and the brutish obviousness of our enemies.” 2 likes
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