Bond, Golf and Me
Landing the role of the world's most famous secret agent not only elevated Sir Sean Connery to international stardom it also set alight passion for the game of golf. In this extract from his book Being a Scot, the original 007 explains all.
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 the 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. GOLFCOURSE - DAY
JAMES BOND spots GOLDFINGER cheating.
You play a Slazenger 1, don't you?
This is a Slazenger 7.
JAMES BOND shows GOLDFINGER his own golf ball.
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.
August 31, 1962:
Recently announced as the
new face of super-agent
James Bond, a 32 year-old
Sean Connery. Little did he know
that his golfing skills would
soon be put to the test in
During the filming of Goldfinger, I learned
the essential challenge of links golf in Royal
Dornoch in the northeast 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 show business 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 of the event got off to a
flying start. We settled on the out-and-back
Ayrshire course of Royal Troon, and chose
the week following the British 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 for the
tournament. The amateurs included the
comedian Jimmy Tarbuck, the footballer
Kenny Dalglish, 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 drivable par-four. But
when two players in the first half-dozen
holed out in an eagle three to each claim
their prize of £500, Iain Stewart thought
we'd all be left penniless. Fortunately only
one more player holed out in three. 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.
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 Scottish county of the Kingdom of Fife.
"Extraordinary powers are unleashed in a
back-swing governed by true gravity," says
Shivas. "If you practise the skill of the inner
eye you put streamers of heart power for the
ball to fly up on." I thought Murphy was on
He was describing "inner
golf", that state of grace which every golfer
aspires to but seldom reaches, when every
stroke transcends past form. It's that feeling
of a winning certainty which must happen in
every sport when the player enters what
Murphy calls "the zone". My friend Jackie
Stewart confirmed this as a motor-racing
As soon as I read Golf in the Kingdom, I
thought of its visual possibilities on the
screen. For years Clint Eastwood held the
movie rights and serendipitously, in the spirit
of the book, he had me down to play the
enigmatic Shivas. For permission to film at
the Royal & Ancient Golf Club at St Andrews,
I put him in touch with the Secretary, who
Clint, given his title, may have thought held
a more lowly position in this venerable club
than he did. When he dropped in on the
course by helicopter, the Secretary was less
than impressed. This left little to discuss,
and nothing much more was heard of Clint's
Sad, because a screen version of Golf
in the Kingdom would have been a great double
for me, combining my passions for golf
and the movies, especially if we had been
able to film at St Andrews. But as the hippytrippy
'60s imploded into the cynical '70s,
'Golf in the Swingdom' - as one sneering
reviewer in Scotland called it - Murphy's
quirky vision was soon lost in the rough for
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 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, considered to be the finest golf
course 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 to ask
permission for this from the foursome, but
he returned to say that their answer was no.
So he got on to 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
Then he turned to the caddie: "Take all
their bags back on the cart to the club
"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.
The Vatican of golf is the Royal & Ancient
Golf Club of St Andrews because it established
the rules of golf in 1754. Some ten
years later the number of holes at St
Andrews was reduced from 22 to 18, and
slowly over the years golf courses around
the world fell into line. With a worldwide
membership of 2,400, the R&A is among the
hardest golf clubs in the world to join.
Fortunately, when Sir Iain Stewart was
Captain of the R&A, he proposed me. I was
able to do the same for my old friend, the
world-champion racing driver Jackie Stewart,
who can now proudly sport the R&A necktie.
Its emblem depicts St Andrew bearing the
saltire cross on which he was crucified.
"Only the Scots would have thought of celebrating
a national game," said the golfer and
broadcaster Alistair Cooke, "with the figure
of a tortured saint."
Copyright © Sean Connery 2008
Extracted from BEING A SCOT by Sean Connery and Murray Grigor,
published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson
and generally available at £20.00.
Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International.