Posted by: 12stepgolf | November 19, 2009

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

Thanksgiving for “The Old Game

away from the maddening crowd

Golf has a spirit and a soul beyond the technical dimensions of a club a ball and a swing.  We do want to get the ball into the mole hole, and that should be good enough.  What we find on our “Fairway less Traveled” is our relationship to golf and ourselves and our fellow human beings.

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

We strike the little white ball out into green field with the hopes of getting it into the little mole hill, with as few strokes as possible.  Why would golf reveal ourselves to us 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 sport limits our understanding of the spirituality of the game.  Golf is a game.  Golf is more like chess than any sport, which needs the brute force of one’s physical abilities.  Our 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.  I was at the driving range a few years ago and there was a gentleman there who was an amputee.  He stood there on his one leg balanced with a crutch.  His swing was impeccable and I must say his distance was further than most of the “able” bodied gents I know.  I 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, that would probably not bother any of us, but he too wanted perfection.  Oh, by the way, he did all this one handed, he had his left hand on his crutch, so he could keep his balance.

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 not 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.  The love of the game may be that golf is a present because 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, not respect for the course and forbid to abide by the rules and etiquette of the game. There is “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 effect 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.”

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.

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  golfing, I would throw my bag over my shoulder and jump the ditch at the 5th hole 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.  Most courses are only concerned with the business of golf and not golf, in and of itself. 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.

We are losing the soul of golf, and it saddens me.  One of the most egregious failing of the modern golf 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, henc the game of golf was born.  The endearing name “pasture pool” is not really heard much these days.

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.

“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, Golf in the Kingdom

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.


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