Several filmmakers, including Gus Van Sant and Clint Eastwood, have taken swings at bringing Michael Murphy’s 1971 bestseller, “Golf in the Kingdom,” to the screen, ultimately stymied by the challenge of visualizing its peculiar mix of golf and mysticism. In this shoestring outing, Susan Streitfeld (“Female Perversions”) opts for an unsettling mix of low-tech cinematic tricks and temporal reshufflings to simulate the process of enlightenment to sometimes laudable, usually ludicrous effect. Released July 29 at Gotham’s AMC 25, “Golf” fails to make par.
On his way to an Indian ashram, a brash young American (ex-child star Mason Gamble, unconvincing) stops at Scotland’s legendary Burningbush golf course, where he receives a 24-hour initiation into the game’s profound, life-changing properties from resident guru/golf pro Shivas Irons (David O’Hara, coasting on his burr). Murphy’s pretentious pronouncements, reprised countless times, ring hollow, even when mouthed by vets like Malcolm McDowell and Julian Sands. A certain dream logic struggles for expression, but the film’s obsessive cross-cutting, extreme closeups and slow dissolves feel more disjunctive than meditative. Striking compositions against fantastical rock formations on Oregon’s coastline suggest Streitfeld may have fared better with less effort.