It's Halloween, and Ed Hipp is surrounded by enough cosmetics to
resurrect Norma Desmond from Sunset Boulevard. Resplendent in
black pumps and a white brocade gown, he outlines his mouth with
eyeliner and trowels foundation onto his cheeks. Hipp smears on
some go-to-hell-scarlet lipstick, and his makeup is done. The
44-year-old family man wears a face that has become an odd
caricature of womanly beauty. "I'll tell you the difference
between our golf team and others in Iowa," he deadpans as he
leads his kids away for a little trick-or-treating. "We're the
only one with a coach who's a cross-dresser."
That turns out to be the least of the differences. As coach at
tiny Maharishi High (enrollment: 179) in Fairfield, Hipp applies
mystical precepts to golf. His unorthodox training techniques
run from sun salutations to aromatherapy to pulse therapy to a
hopped-up form of transcendental meditation (TM) called yogic
flying. Hipp's Maharishi Pioneers are undeniably transcendent.
Last May, in only their third season, they won the Iowa state
high school Class 1A championship by 19 strokes. Hipp called it
a "consciousness-based victory."
To clear their heads and calm their nerves, golfers try a host
of relaxation strategies. Greg Norman dabbles in Zen; Tiger
Woods can be hypnotized talking to his psychological coach over
the phone. Hipp says TM is the only method that both flushes a
golfer's mind of thought and joins his consciousness with other
invisible fields of the universe, such as gravity. "Having
gained equanimity in birdie and bogey, then I am to come out and
play," Hipp wrote in his two-act play, The Song of Golf. "In
this yoga, the resolute intellect is one-pointed, like a wedge
shot in a windless place."
At 6'0" and 185 pounds, Hipp seems to be a solid enough
phenomenon. He's a gentle, measured, corduroyed kind of guy who
preaches inner peace and metaphysical fitness. His golfers
meditate up to three hours a day, eat no red meat and get to bed
by 10 p.m. "Our whole lives are a preshot routine," says
Pioneers captain Noah Schechtman. "Ed never puts competing
before enlightenment. He's the only golf coach in the state who
spends more time coaching the player than the swing."
Duffer dharma is more elusive than a Zen koan. "Golf is a game,"
offers Hipp's own golfing guru, Fred Shoemaker, who founded the
School for Extraordinary Golf in Carmel Valley, Calif. "In order
to have a game, something must be more important than something
else. If what already is is more important than what isn't,
game's over. Golf is a game in which what isn't is more
important than what is."
What is certain is that after dropping out of North Carolina
State in 1972, Hipp went to Europe, where he learned TM. He
liked meditating so much that he began teaching it. Fifteen
years ago he moved to Fairfield, where adepts of Maharishi were
living and sowing karma amid the corn and bean fields of
Hipp didn't take up golf until he was 25, but when he did, he
took it up devoutly. By 1988 he was managing Fairfield's
municipal driving range. It was a marginal operation, and in
1990 Hipp took over the lease. Hipp had his 11-year-old stepson,
Devon Abrams, and a bunch of his classmates retrieve range
balls. In return they got 50 cents an hour and free lessons.
Those early Hippsters became the core of the Maharishi Pioneers.
"I taught them to generate each shot from the basis of calmness
rather than the basis of reaction," Hipp says. "And that golf is
a series of breakdowns. The winner is the one who manages those
Like Hipp, the Pioneers have more than a little aura of
tranquillity about them. The coach's most diligent pupil, the
aptly named Lyric Duveyoung, used to practice the Bertholy
Method of posed positioning for 2 1/2 hours a day. Duveyoung won
Fairfield's 1992 junior title as a 14-year-old and has
successfully defended it every year since. Last year he snagged
Iowa's Class 1A high school individual crown.
The Pioneers formed in 1994. In their inaugural season they
finished 10-1 in the Southeast Iowa Super Conference and third
in the state. In '95 they were 13-1 and second in the state.
This year they were 13-1 and won it all. Even bad weather
doesn't faze them. "The key is patience and surrender," intones
Schechtman. "If you get anxious over a bad hole and press, you
lose your connection with nature."
To keep that connection, Hipp and his Pioneers meditate twice a
day, in the morning and early evening, on sheet-covered
mattresses spread out in the Maharishi Patanjali Golden Dome of
Pure Knowledge. They practice an advanced form of meditation
called TM-Sidhi, otherwise known as yogic flying. "Golf is a
test of mind-and-body coordination," Schechtman says. "Yogic
flying is the ultimate test." He folds his legs in a yogic knot,
rests his hands lightly in front of him and silently chants his
mantra. For five minutes he idles motionlessly, eyes shut in
serene contemplation. Suddenly he begins to shake. And rattle.
And roll. And rising to the occasion, he bounces on his bum like
a human Super Ball. He hops startlingly high and surprisingly
far, propelled, he maintains, only by his belief in the
teachings of Maharishi, the Seer of Flying. "When I'm in the air
I feel like I'm getting a zap of bliss," he says. "Or hitting a
really good tee shot, a perfect shot."
Cynicism about all this bliss-zapping circulates among Hipp's
fellow coaches. They smelled a rat in Hipp's use of
aromatherapy. Maharishi promotes a line of fragrant,
mood-altering remedies made from the oil of herbs such as rose,
sandalwood and jasmine. Hipp would give each of the Pioneers an
oil-soaked cotton ball. When stressed or nervous, they would
pull the balls out of their pockets and take a whiff. During the
1994 state sectionals, a rival coach asked Hipp, "What are your
"Is that a performance enhancer?"
"Yeah, but it's completely natural. It's made from flowers."
The coach protested to the Iowa Athletic Association, which
found Maharishi's flower power to be pungent but legal. Since
then Hipp has had his Pioneers dab the unguents directly onto
their shirts. In one recent match Duveyoung lined up a putt,
sniffed one shoulder, eyed the lie, stepped back and then
sniffed his other shoulder. "I always know it's a tough shot
when it's a double smell," Hipp says.
Team meetings are held in Hipp's "lodge"--a converted garage in
back of his house. Practicing their swings with phantom clubs,
the Pioneers seem to be drifting through a series of ghost
moves, blissed out in self-forgetfulness.
Hipp's most harmonious lodge meeting convened before this year's
state finals. "We spent two hours here, clarifying our
intentions," he says. Hipp recorded those intentions on a large
"I want to finish in the top five."
"I want to place first."
"I want to shoot a 69."
After an hour and a half of clarification, Duveyoung said, "This
isn't working for me. I don't see anything up there that will
make me play my best." Hipp tore the sheet off the pad and let
it feather to the floor. Half an hour later, the golfers had
hammered out their true intent: "Our commitment is to give the
sincerest expressions of our hearts."
The Pioneers played the championship tournament expressively and
with heart. "We were one big team," says Duveyoung. "Other
schools tended to be just a bunch of individuals." He shot a 76,
losing a playoff for the state individual title. Schechtman was
fourth with a 79. Fifth was teammate Ted Hirsch, who shot a 43
on the front nine, then steadied and came home with a 37 on the
back. "Even after that 43, Ted recognized he was still in the
game," Hipp says. "His only goal was to express his heart
Next spring, construction is slated to begin on the Royal Lotus
Golf Course and Country Club, a semiprivate course in Fairfield.
Hipp will be the club pro. "The course should exert a subtle
energy," he says. "The energy would cause golfers to be happier,
play better and be more enlightened." Consultants from the
Maharishi Sthapatya Veda Institute were enlisted to ensure that
the design conformed to ancient Vedic principles of
directionality and proportionality, and that the course radiated
maximum enlightenment. But the consultants, who at first knew
nothing about golf, advised that every hole face either north or
east. "Unfortunately, if you think about it, you wouldn't ever
get back to the clubhouse," Hipp says. "Unless one clubhouse was
in Iowa and one in Minnesota."
Now that this small detail has been resolved, Hipp dreams about
opening day. "I dream about Maharishi standing on the 1st tee in
his dhoti, hitting the first drive." Though it's unlikely he'll
show up, the Netherlands-based ascetic is said to be a fan of
the game. "Ah, golf!" he once mused. "A very royal sport. Just
walking along the green fairways." And as we all know, it's the
walking--the space between--where the real game is played.
COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY LAYNE KENNEDY The Pioneers play their shots with resolute intellect and sincere expression from their hearts. [People holding golf clubs]
COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY LAYNE KENNEDY While Hipp (left) and the team meditated, Schechtman elevated his game in a yogic flying session. [Ed Hipp, Noah Schechtman, and three others, all in lotus position]