There are certain figures of contemporary popular culture that operate somewhere between the mainstream media and certain countercultures that offer and alternative, creative and somewhat unusual lifestyle. Hunter S. Thompson, the acclaimed journalist and founder of the gonzo journalism movement, is a figure that epitomises that thin slither of life with an unnerving eccentricity.
Whether it be the one year of his life spent riding around with the Hells Angels motorcycle gang in a bid to write the perfect article, or the moment he decided to run for Sheriff in Pitkin County, Colorado as part of the Freak Power ticket, Thompson has very rarely allowed normal social constraints to dampen his free-flowing series of bizarrely unconventional masterplans.
After creating Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, a book that not only signifies some of his greatest work to date, but a project which would later birth a close friendship between the author and actor Johnny Depp following the cinematic recreation of his words, Thompson’s fame knew no bounds. For Thompson, an enigmatic personality whose imagination was endless, his door was always open to like-minded creatives who were willing to push the realms of accessibility through any means necessary.
Residing in what he described as his “fortified compound” in Woody Creek, Colorado, Thompson, often hosted the likes of Jack Nicholson, John Cusack, Harry Dean Stanton, Bob Dylan and more at his farm where he would shoot guns, drink, write and get high with a drive like no other. But while Thompson lived in this aforementioned sphere of life between mainstream and underground life, there’s one man who the writer found a bond so strikingly similar; Bill Murray.
Thompson’s friendship with Bill Murray was exactly as you’d imagine; slightly strange, highly hilarious and endlessly creative. So, when Thompson was awake cooking up his latest creation at 3am in the summer of 2004, he needed help. He needed guidance on this groundbreaking creation, a mind so as equally confusing as his own. Picking up the telephone, Thompson called Murray to get his advice on the idea which was going to change sport forever. It was time, in Thompson’s mind, that the world embraced ‘Shotgun Golf’, a mindbogglingly dangerous venture not to be ignored.
Famously, Thompson once remarked: “I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.”
Well, he’s not wrong.
Detailing his plans as part of an article for ESPN, Thompson explained the premise of his new sport: One golfer, one shooter and a field judge. The aim of the game, obviously, is for the shooter to blow the golfer’s ball out of the game with a 12-gauge shotgun, an idea which seemingly combines clay pigeon shooting and traditional golf.
“I called Bill Murray with an idea that would change both our lives forever,” Thompson wrote in his article. “It was 3:30 on a dark Tuesday morning when I heard the phone ring on his personal line in New Jersey. ‘Good thinking,’ I said to myself as I fired up a thin Cohiba. ‘He’s bound to be wide awake and crackling at this time of day, or at least I can leave a very excited message’.”
Thompson added: “My eerie hunch was right. The crazy bugger picked up on the fourth ring, and I felt my heart racing. ‘Hot damn!’ I thought. ‘This is how empires are built.’ Late? I know not late.”
Below, enjoy Thompson’s transcript of his late-night business proposition to Bill Murray:
HST: “Hi, Bill, it’s Hunter.”
BILL: “Hi, Hunter.”
HST: “Are you ready for a powerful idea? I want to ask you about golf in Japan. I understand they’re building vertical driving ranges on top of each other.”
BILL (sounding strangely alert): “Yes, they have them outdoors, under roofs …”
HST: “I’ve seen pictures. I thought they looked like bowling alleys stacked on top of each other.”
HST: “I’m working on a profoundly goofy story here. It’s wonderful. I’ve invented a new sport. It’s called Shotgun Golf. We will rule the world with this thing.”
HST: “I’ve called you for some consulting advice on how to launch it. We’ve actually already launched it. Last spring, the Sheriff and I played a game outside in the yard here. He had my Ping Beryllium 9-iron, and I had his shotgun, and about 100 yards away, we had a linoleum green and a flag set up. He was pitching toward the green. And I was standing about 10 feet away from him, with the alley-sweeper. And my objective was to blow his ball off course, like a clay pigeon.”
HST: “It didn’t work at first. The birdshot I was using was too small. But double-aught buck finally worked for sure. And it was fun.”
HST: “OK, I didn’t want to wake you up, but I knew you’d want to be in on the ground floor of this thing.”
HST: “Do you want to discuss this tomorrow?”
BILL: “I think I might have a queer dream about it now, but …” (Laughs.)
HST: “This sport has a HUGE future. Golf in America will soon come to this.”
BILL: “It will bring a whole new meaning to the words ‘Driving Range’.”
HST: “Especially when you stack them on top of each other. I’ve seen it in Japan.”
BILL: “They definitely have multi-level driving ranges. Yes.”
HST: (Laughs.) “How does that work? Do they have extremely high ceilings?”
BILL: “No. The roof above your tee only projects out about 10 feet, and they have another range right above you. It’s like they took the façade off a building. People would be hanging out of their offices.”
HST: “I see. It’s like one of those original Hyatt Regency Hotels. Like an atrium. In the middle of the building you could jump straight down into the lobby?”
BILL: “Exactly like that!”
HST: “It’s like people driving balls from one balcony to the next.”
BILL: (Laughs.) “Yes, they could.”
HST: “I could be on the eighth floor and you on the sixth? Or on the fifteenth. And we’d be driving across a lake.”
BILL: “They have flags out every 150 yards, every 200 yards, every 250 yards. It’s just whether you are hitting it at ground level, or from five stories up.”
HST: “I want to find out more about this. This definitely has a future to it.”
BILL: “They have one here in the city — down at Chelsea Pier.”
HST: “You must have played a lot of golf in Japan.”
BILL: “Not much; I just had one really great day of golf. I worked most of the time. But I did play one beautiful golf course. They have seasonal greens, two different types of grass. It’s really beautiful.”
HST: “Well, I’m writing a column for ESPN.com and I want to know if you like my new golf idea. A two-man team.”
BILL: “Well, with all safety in mind, yes. Two-man team? Yeah! That sounds great. I think it would create a whole new look. It would create a whole new clothing line.”
HST: “Absolutely. You’ll need a whole new wardrobe for this game.”
BILL: “Shooting glasses and everything.”
HST: “We’ll obviously have to make a movie. This will mushroom or mutate — either way — into a real craze. And given the mood of this country, being that a lot of people in the mood to play golf are also in the mood to shoot something, I think it would take off like a gigantic fad.”
BILL: “I think the two-man team idea would be wonderful competition and is something the Ryder Cup would pick up on.”
HST: “I was talking with the Sheriff about it earlier. But in one-man competition, I’d have to compete against you, say, in both of the arts — the shooting AND the golfing. But if you do the Ryder Cup, you’d have to have the clothing line first. I’m going to write about this for ESPN tonight. I’m naming you and the Sheriff as the founding consultants.”
BILL: “Sounds good.”
HST: “OK, I’ll call you tomorrow. And by the way, I’ll see if I can twist some arms and get you an Oscar. But I want a Nobel Prize in return.”
BILL: “Well, we can work together on this. This is definitely a team challenge.” (Laughing.)
HST: “OK. We’ll talk tomorrow.”
BILL: “Good night.”
So there it is. Shotgun Golf will soon take America by storm. I see it as the first truly violent leisure sport. Millions will crave it.