Remembering Your Swing: A Review of Steven Pressfield’s ‘The Authentic Swing’

The Authentic Swing: Notes From the Writing of a First Novel
by Steven Pressfield
Black Irish Entertainment, 2013

Golf swingAfter years of writing unpublished novels, but on the verge of having a breakthrough as a screenwriter, Steven Pressfield’s Muse spoke. Listening, he decided to walk away from screenwriting and begin work on a novel about golf set in the 1920s. His agent fired him.

The Authentic Swing, written in the style of Pressfield’s previous books The War of Art and Turning Pro, is a record of the writing of the book that became The Legend of Bagger Vance. Pressfield explores the imaginative writing process and, above all, the search for what he calls the authentic swing.

Pressfield confesses early on that Bagger Vance was stolen. Well, at least the structure was (he encourages you to do this, too). The novel was based on the Hindu text The Bhagavad Gita, which he explains as a mentor-protege story. But the mentor comes as the servant–in the case of Bagger Vance, the caddy. Golf is not only the subject of the novel, but also Pressfield’s explanatory device for The Authentic Swing.

Pressfield - Authentic Swing coverGolf, as Pressfield explores, is an individual sport. You have no teammate to blame for failure. Even your opponent is not a direct factor on your performance. He can’t stop you. You can only stop yourself. Anyone familiar with Pressfield’s concept of The Resistance, the inner voice we each possess that seeks to sabotage our success, will recognize immediately why Pressfield was drawn to it.

Writing is the search for one’s own swing, the authentic swing. “[T]he golfer cannot swing anyone else’s swing. He can only swing his own.” Pressfield argues everyone’s swing is innate: “The golf swing is not learned, it is remembered.”

This is the search for what one is supposed to be, fighting the Resistance that so desires to excuse us to be something else. Golf, Pressfield’s metaphor for writing, turns out to be his metaphor for life.


Read the Pinstripe Pulpit reviews of Steven Pressfield’s Turning Pro and Warrior Ethos.

[A copy of this book was supplied by the publisher for review purposes.]