It’s the weekend and that’s when a lot of golfers who work during the week like to play their rounds. If you’ve golfed or watched it on television, you might think of it as rather non-violent. Well, at least where people are concerned. Violence against uncooperative golf clubs is another matter entirely. But really, golf courses can be dangerous places, and I don’t just mean in terms of getting caught in a sand trap. There are several crime fiction stories that feature golf courses and actually that makes sense. Golf courses can be remote, and even those that are closer to a town or city have some pretty secluded spots. So they’re effective places to leave bodies.
For instance, in Agatha Christie’s The Murder on the Links, Hercule Poirot gets a letter from Paul Renauld, a Canadian émigré to France. In the letter, Renauld says that he’s in fear for his life, and he asks Poirot’s assistance. Poirot and Captain Hastings travel to Merlinville-sur-Mer, but by the time they get there it’s too late. Renauld has been stabbed and his body found on a new golf course next to the Renauld home Villa Geneviève. At first the police believe that Renauld was murdered because of his business dealings in South America. But Poirot soon discovers that Paul Renuald was hiding an important part of his past. It’s that secret that set in motion the chain of events that led to his death. There’s another Agatha Christie story in which golf clubs prove to be important, but no spoilers…
In Rex Stout’s Fer de Lance, Holland University president Paul Barstow is golfing one day when he suddenly dies, apparently from a stroke. But it’s soon proven that he was really poisoned. Meanwhile Nero Wolfe gets a visit from Maria Maffei, whose brother Carlo has mysteriously disappeared. Everyone thinks he’s gone back to Italy but she doesn’t believe it. When his body is discovered, Wolfe and Archie Goodwin know that something larger is going on. It turns out that Carlo Maffei was an expert metalworker who’d created a specially-made golf club. It also turns out that that golf club was the weapon used to poison Paul Barstow. But Maffei didn’t even know Barstow; he had no motive for murder. What’s more, it’s discovered that he didn’t even know that the golf club he’d made would be used as a murder weapon. When he found out that the golf club was used to kill he threatened to tell what he knew and was murdered to ensure that he wouldn’t. Now Wolfe and Goodwin work to find out who paid Maffei to make the golf club and later killed him and Barstow.
Elizabeth Daly’s Unexpected Night features the investigation into the death of Amberly Cowden, who’s come to Ford’s Beach, Maine with his mother Eleanor, his sister Alma and his tutor Hugh Sanderson. Amberly is set to inherit a very large fortune once he reaches the age of twenty-one; however, he’s in bad health and not expected to live long. Still, he is determined to make this trip to financially support his cousin Arthur Atwood, who’s got a small theatre group in the area. In the last hours before he actually turns twenty-one, Amberly and his family arrive at the Ocean House Resort and settle in. The next morning his body is found at the bottom of a nearby cliff and detective Mitchell is assigned to the case. The easiest explanation for the death is that Amberly succumbed to the heart disease that was already shortening his life. But if that’s so, what was he doing out by the cliff late at night? And, since he died just after inheriting a large fortune, in whose interest was it that he should die so conveniently? Rare book expert Henry Gamadge is also staying at the Ocean House, and has already struck up a friendship with the Barclays, who are cousins to the Cowdens. So he begins to ask questions too, and he and Mitchell, each in a different way, try to piece together what happened. Then there’s another death. Then, Alma Cowden is golfing one day when she’s nearly killed by a fast-moving golf ball (and yes, that can do a lot of damage). It looks as though someone is targeting the Cowden family and Gamadge and Mitchell have to work quickly to find out who’s behind the murders and the attempts (for there is another one) on Alma Cowden’s life before there’s yet another death.
Lest you think that golf-related mysteries are a thing of the past, there are quite recent ones as well. For instance, there’s Nelson Brunanski’s Crooked Lake. In that novel, we meet Nick Taylor, who’s Head Greenskeeper at Saskatechewan’s Crooked Lake Regional Park and Golf Course. One day, Taylor is abruptly fired from his job. He believes he’s been ‘railroaded’ and blames Board of Directors member Harvey Kristoff. Later that day, Kristoff is found dead next to the green on the seventh hole, bludgeoned by a golf club. The police begin investigating and one of the first people they speak to is John ‘Bart’ Bartowski, who with his wife Rosie owns a fly-fishing holiday lodge. Bart’s been a friend of Nick’s for years and what’s more, he spoke to him on the morning of the murder. There’s quite a lot of evidence against Nick – evidence that goes beyond his anger at being fired. But Bart doesn’t want to believe Nick’s guilty. Besides, he and Nick are practically life-long friends. So when Nick’s lawyer Frank Hendrickson asks for Bart’s insights, he’s only too happy to oblige. Soon, Bart begins to suspect that Nick was framed and starts asking his own questions. It turns out that there are more suspects than it seemed on the surface and when Bart becomes a target himself, it seems that he was right about Nick being framed. In the end, and after another death, Bart is able to figure out who killed Harvey Kristoff and why.
Michael Balkind has written two novels Dead Ball and Sudden Death that feature professional golfer Reid Clark. He works with his agent and friend Buck Green and private investigator Jay Scott. In Dead Ball for instance, Scott helps Clark and Green investigate the murder of Clark’s best friend Bob Thomas. The murder takes place on the grounds of AllSport, a large golfing complex he and Clark created in New York’s Catskill Mountains. AllSport’s purpose among other things is to introduce golf to inner-city young people, who might not otherwise have the chance to play. When Thomas’ body is found though, the facility is locked down until Clark, Scott and Green can discover who killed Bob Thomas.
There are other crime novels too that feature golf courses. So don’t try to convince me of the ‘gentle’ nature of the sport. Fore!!
*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Dave Gillon’s Double Bogey Blues, made popular by Mickey Jones.