Golf and the Spirit: A Golfers Love Affair with the Game

“Golf was invented a billion years ago-don’t you remember?” Old Scottish Golf Saying

Golf has a spirit intrinsic to its very essence. There is more to this wonderful game than just the club, the ball and the swing. We strike the little white ball out into a green field with the hopes of getting it into the little mole hill in the fewest strokes possible. Why would golf reveal ourselves to ourselves when we do this exercise of the simplest of tasks?

There is that spirit and that soul of the game that few are willing to acknowledge. The way golf penetrates our very being can be associated with one form of “spiritual experience“. It can also become just one more thing to conquer on our quest for ego inflation. Either way golfers become absorbed with the game.

How does golf captivate us? Defining golf as a sport limits our understanding of the spirituality of the game. Golf is a game. like chess than any sport, which needs the brute force of one’s physical abilities. fitness is necessary, but it is not as important as in softball, tennis or flag football.

Golf can be enjoyed by anyone regardless of age, sex or physical prowess. was at the driving range a few years ago and there was a gentleman there who was an amputee. stood there on his one leg balanced with a crutch. swing was impeccable and I must say his distance was further than most of the “able” bodied gents I know. had to laugh when he showed his dissatisfaction as his ball would have that slight curve at the end and then drift away from that straight line, we all desire. The deviation was ever so slight and would probably not have bothered any of us, but he too wanted perfection. by the way,he did all this one handed, he had his left hand on his crutch, so he could keep his balance.

"Golf is not just exercise; it is an adventure, a romance.....a Shakespeare play in which disaster and comedy are intertwined {and} you have to live with the consequences of each action"——Harold Segall, writer

We go back to the year 1457 when King James II banned golf because the cadets were neglecting their combat training in favor of the game of golf. Warriors learning the art of conquest would rather play a simple little game called “gowf”. We have a long historical line that has the obsession documented, it is not just in our head. What makes it so addictive and why does it fascinate us so?

We walk to the tee box and look out over the field of conquest. It is one person against an enemy of devious and treacherous methods to defeat us. This enemy we call the course, has hidden weapons to frustrate us and humble us and defeat us.

It is the golfer and the course, there are no other games like it. When one bowls alone it is on the same “lane” each and every time, length and width pre-determined with no deviations.

“one of the advantages bowling has over golf is that you seldom lose a bowling ball” Don Carter

The love of the game may be that golf is a present, it can be such a surprise to find that ball nestled up against a tree or just under a bush or rolled up on the green into the hole.

Unlike so many other games we play, golf when played alone, relies solely on our own integrity. Golf will teach us the virtues of determination, respect, humility and honesty. We lose our integrity when we show no consideration for other players, no respect for the course and forbid to abide by the rules and etiquette of the game.

There is a golden rule for golfers, too-”That every golfer, regardless of skill, age or gender be treated as you would be treated.”

There has also been established a second golden rule-”There is a basic principle involved, which both rules protect: influence and affect nothing on the golf course except your own ball.”

I will add my two cents worth and say “DO NO HARM”-we have also always said “leave the course in as good or better shape than when you got there.”

“golf is assuredly a mystifying game. It would seem that if a person has hit a golf ball correctly a thousand times, he should be able to duplicate the performance at will. But such is certainly not the case.” Bobby Jones

Golf is a game of intellect and finesse. Course management is an integral part of the game, the hunt. My grand nephew can scream a golf ball down the fairway over 300 yards, one never knows where it is going to land, hook and slice and errant balls. His body has the physical strength but the brain lacks the understanding of the goal of golf, to many of the younger golfers it is all about out driving someone else. My sister, who has some physical shortcomings, still believes she must be the athlete of her youth. She is 72 and won’t allow herself to change her hunting policy. Needless to say she doesn’t do, as well as she could if she would only change her goals.

In our pursuit of capturing the course we are faced with the traitor within us. Golf will expose our personal character strengths or weaknesses and will teach us how to develop patience and the way to personal fulfillment. The 12 Steps, when practiced, will aid us in pursuing happiness with our whole attitude toward golf.

“golf has afforded me an opportunity permitted few men: to create on one of the broadest canvasses known to man and, in doing so, to complement and sometimes, to improve on the work of the greatest Creator of all. Golf courses are built by men, but God provides the venues.” Robert Trent Jones

We can use golf as a time of contemplation and a reflective exercise. We are in a field (or forest) where we have sculpted a course to become one with nature not apart from nature.

Some people don’t even realize they are playing an outdoor game the way they complain about the birds or the squirrels or even an alligator or two. We have lost this aspect of the game because so few of us walk the course anymore. When I began to golf, I would throw my bag over my shoulder and jump the ditch at the 5th tee box and walk the course to the clubhouse, then walk the rest of the way until I got to the 4th green and hop the ditch back to the house. It was rare to see carts on any course.

Today we are all concerned with the pace of play-hurry-hurry-hurry. Pace of play is the rhythm and tempo to the dance we do on the course, not the speed at which we play. Once we learn the steps to that dance (the rhythm) the more likely you will be able to keep up with the foursome ahead of you. Most courses are only concerned with the business of golf and not golf, in and of itself. A round of golf is to be played in a specified time frame to accommodate for more golfers to be on the course in a day. More golfers equal more greens fees. Golfers are just as much to blame for this rat race down the fairway. I have been a part of the complaints of those “slow” guys in front of us. There is no real need to hit into the foursome in front you and no need to stand on the tee with your hands on your hips, when we do these things we have lost the spirit of the game, and speed is the game and not golf.

It doesn’t matter whether we are on a public course or a private one, the need to get out there hit the ball and get the round over with and get into the car and drive home has me very bewildered. What is the point, why not just give it up because that is not golf. I have even heard some brag that it only took them x hours to finish 18, what a pity.

"Golf is an open exhibition of overweening ambition, courage deflated by stupidity, skill soured by a whiff of arrogance"—–Alistair Cooke, broadcaster

We are losing the soul of golf, and it saddens me. One of the most egregious failing of the modern golfer is the obsession with the “condition” of the course. They must have carpeted like fairways and every blade of grass must be perfect and Lord there better not be one pock mark on the green. They complain constantly about the rough-yeah that is why it is called rough. With these perfect courses, or so called perfect, they still don’t score well, like it is the course and not themselves.

Golf began in the pastures of Europe with bored shepherds. They took their staffs and hit a stone. They found a mole hole and tried to put the stone in the hole with their staffs, the game of golf was born. Hence the endearing name of " pool", which is not really heard much these days.

I have a driving range at my farm in Michigan. It was cut out from the soy bean field, and is surrounded by that same field. No sod was laid and no grass seed was scattered, it became a “natural” grass driving range. Many of my shots would land in the soy bean field. I would then pitch them out of the soy bean stubble and onto the grass of the driving range. It was great practice, and a shear enjoyment because it took me back to the way the game began.

“Golf is like fishing and hunting. What counts is the companionship and fellowship of friends, not what you catch or shoot” George Archer

I have sympathy for the many golfers I have met over these many years who don’t have a soul for golf. They have no clue for the spirit of the game. Golf for them is just one more thing to involve themselves with. It is just the “in” thing to be doing now.

God love Tiger, he is definitely remarkable, but for all the good he has done for the “business” of golf, he has also done harm to the very game he loves.

I can recall those days when the gallery at any given tournament had the respect and decorum of the game. Today it is like being at a Nick’s game with all the yelling and shouting and lack of respect for the players and the game. Golf has been reduced to another “sporting” event, where you may have a tailgate party and act like a bunch of idiots after you get a few beers in.

The 12 Step Golf system is a way to bring us back to the spirit and essence of golf. We have lost our souls in so many areas of our lives, and if we can bring them back through golf, we will be one step closer to restoring our souls in general. To practice these principles in all our affairs is the goal we can envision as we walk the “Fairway less Traveled”. We can get closer to home the more we utilize the steps and incorporate them into our lives. It is up to us to bring the integrity and honor and virtue back to the game and the world.

“It’s a highly complex, fiendishly demanding, often perverse activity. The exhilarating and frustrating game demands a stillness of mind, a razor sharp focus, and an inexplicable desire to constantly better your game. I mean why, why would you be out there hitting this f’n little ball all over the place?” Michael Murphy, Author--CBC Radio documentary, 2003

The Keepers of the Game:
We want to ensure what gentle men and women learned in the past remains available for golfers today and tomorrow. More than most other games, golf has long been associated with honesty, good manners, and high standards of behavior. Golf should cherish that reputation and do all it can to keep it. Golf etiquette is part of it. So are the basic character building elements of playing the ball as it lies and accepting the occasional bad bounce of the ball.

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