On Faith: Find connection in golf and GodMany places are already in the middle of the golfing season while on the North Shore we’re still somewhat close to its beginning. Considering our state has the highest ratio of golf courses per capita in the United States, we take the game of golf very seriously. For some during the summer months golf may even replace worship.
By: Rev. Michael Lyons, Holy Spirit Catholic Church, Two Harbors, Lake County News Chronicle
Many places are already in the middle of the golfing season while on the North Shore we’re still somewhat close to its beginning. Considering our state has the highest ratio of golf courses per capita in the United States, we take the game of golf very seriously. For some during the summer months golf may even replace worship.
Adlai Stevenson once said, “Some of us worship in churches, some in synagogues, some on golf courses.” Perhaps it is this association of golf with worship that has given the game of golf the aura of spirituality. How you are on the course may reflect some of what is going on in your spiritual journey toward God.
The game is all about you. Unlike other sports, you alone are in control. The ball doesn’t move until you make it do so. No one is passing to you as in football. Neither are you tackled or tagged. You alone are the creator and recipient of the consequences of your plays.
I’ve seen otherwise rational friends rant about a misplaced or shanked shot, a hook or slice into the deep woods. I’ve seen clubs tossed as if a decisive play in the Master’s was at stake. Will Rogers said golf is good for the soul in that you get so mad at yourself you forget to hate your enemies.
On the golf course, as in life, fantasy and reality often collide.
Some are so inspired by one good drive they act like the merchant in the gospel who finds the pearl — they purchase the latest technical advance in a driver and at considerable cost as well. (Matthew 13)
That never diminishes the patience, self-discipline, and integrity which the game requires. Otherwise the surprises of grace cannot and should not be expected.
Integrity demands we impose penalties on ourselves whenever appropriate. Admitting that some decisions are wrong and may require repentance is always redemptive. And playing the ball where it lies, in life as in golf, can enrich our spiritual journey with Christ’s own merit.
Integrity also requires we keep an accurate score. Nowhere in the world is there as much self-forgiveness as on the golf course. Perhaps that is why the writer John Updike, an avid golfer himself, said that golf appeals to the child in us, and just how child-like players become is proven by our frequent inability to count past five.
Didn’t Jesus tell us we must become like little children if we are to enter the kingdom of heaven? (Matthew 18) Indeed. Children may play by their own rules but they also insist the rules must be followed. Sometimes their sense of fairness can put many grownups to shame.
Children also enjoy a care-free and imaginative approach to their play. They remain open to surprise and to the wonders that surround them. As in many other things it is the attitude of the heart that matters most in our spiritual journey with others toward God. As Bobby Jones, the great American golfer said, 90 percent of golf is between the ears.
All things considered, golf is an apt metaphor for the spiritual journey. Reliance on God always, a sense of wonder and appreciation for the giftedness of life itself, acceptance of both our abilities and limitations, and a ready affirmation of the success of others.
These are all part of what that wonderful, and at times frustrating game of golf invites us to experience. Whatever your game, relax, and for God’s sake enjoy it.