Of Golf And God
It seemed like an almost perfect golf shot in my golf world. It was straight down the middle and maybe 220 yards. For me and most other people that is very acceptable. Yet when we drove the cart toward the path of the ball we discovered a stream running directly over the fairway maybe 10 feet wide. My ball was nowhere to be found as the hazard ate it. Many times I have hit the ball crooked and felt like I deserved any trouble I found myself in. Yet here this shot seemed so perfect. It didn’t seem fair that my ball was lost and a penalty stroke was needed. There is a course here in town that had a similar issue. Hitting an almost perfect drive right down the center of the fairway you could find yourself behind a tree. That’s right, someone had planted a tree in the middle of the fairway! This tree was there for years and I’m sure was the brunt of many a curse word throughout time. One morning workers at the golf course noticed something very strange. That tree that was the enemy of thousands of golfers throughout the years was discovered laying dead in the fairway. I mean literally laying there the victim of a middle of the night sawing. I guess a golfer having been victimized once too often by the giant with the big trunk and long branches had decided to take the law into their own hands. Climbing over the fence at 3 or 4 in the morning towing their chainsaw, the deed was accomplished. While many of the adjacent neighbors slept through it I can imagine someone waking up from the roaring of the saw wondering what in the world? While many non golfers scratched their heads when they heard the news, I believe that many golfers rejoiced and felt the sawing was completely justified!
Golf can be the strangest of games. Unlike other sports that we play where the ball is moving before being hit or kicked, the golf ball just sits there as still as can be waiting for it’s punishment. Yet, hitting a golf ball straight is a constant battle even for the pros. It is hard to believe sometimes how a Tiger Woods or any other pro who practices all of the time can mess up so bad. Yet, if you think about it, the game is designed for the average person and sometimes the pros to fail.
There are 300 to 450 dimples on a golf ball. The dimples are designed to make the ball better able to cut through the air reducing the drag effect. Dimples also allow the effect of side spin in shot direction. When striking the ball if the club head is the slightest percentage off of squared the ball will not go perfectly straight. Multiply that factor by an incorrect path of the swing and you can see how difficult it is to consistently hit the ball straight. The course designers know this fact and they can make it very difficult for most of us who are not consistently on the fairway. The fairway is a place of low cut grass that is perfect for hitting the ball on. When we go crooked we encounter the rough. The rough is just as it sounds “rough.” You will find your ball on hard ground or in deep grass or both. Sometimes the ball will get buried by the grass and will be tough to hit solidly. When we do hit it solidly there may still be a problem of trees, bushes, and sand traps to maneuver around and over.
On a normal hole keeping the ball straight and in the middle of the fairway is the way to go. Hitting from the low grass will help to hit the ball solid and straight on the next hit. Every golfer knows this simple rule, but executing those straight shots is very hard to do. John Feinstein wrote a book called “A Good Walk Spoiled.” Just the title tells volumes about how the game of golf can make such a good thing into a painful experience. One time years ago I went to play a course by myself. In those days if you were alone the course worker would try to put you in with another group. In this case he put me with a married couple. It got to be a pretty embarrassing situation because the guy was not playing very well at all. Every shot he was hitting was a mishit. He started throwing his club and making a scene. It was embarrassing for his wife and a distraction to me. In his case it wasn’t a tree, it wasn’t the course difficulty, and it wasn’t that something was wrong with his clubs. The problem was him, and that is the hardest problem for any of us to deal with.
Besides the rough and tree problems holes sometimes have water hazards and sand traps. Sand traps are interesting. They are normally placed right around the greens. A good looking shot that seems headed for the green can end up in a sand trap. Playing a ball out of the sand requires some special skills that most of us don’t practice enough. Obviously the game of golf can be very frustrating. You can hit a good looking shot and find yourself in trouble, or you can hit a crooked shot and know you will be in trouble.
On the other hand sometimes you get lucky. I was playing with a friend the other day and he hit a ball that was going into the woods. His ball happened to hit a tree or it’s branches just right and bounced in the fairway. A couple of times he mishit his iron shots, but each time it turned out OK because his ball still made the green. We all have had these nice bounces and breaks, but we know they are nothing to depend on.
Arnold Palmer had a style that endeared him to the hearts of America. It was a style he called “go for broke.” Arnold was constantly getting himself into trouble but by his great recovery skills, he was able to make incredible shots! Sometimes we all have that Palmer mindset. We hit the ball crooked and it ends up behind a tree. We figure out some miraculous shot that maybe we could pull off 1 time out of 100 and we try it. Naturally we end up in far worse trouble than we were before and with another shot on our score. We try another miraculous shot and the same result occurs. By the time the hole is over we have recorded an 8 or more!
The Christian walk has so many parallels to the game of golf! There are the straight and narrow path and there are traps. There are rough areas where we have to walk and there are hazards we are not prepared for. Sometimes in the game of golf we should just take our medicine. When we go astray out into the rough it is often better to just chip the ball back into the fairway. The one stroke in doing that often saves many strokes down the road. The same can be said about Christianity. When we get off of the path the best thing to do is get right back on it. We will all find ourselves with obstacles in our way and potential hazards. When we find ourselves in the hazard it is best to get back on the fairway as quick as possible and start moving forward again! As in golf when trouble comes it is hard not to feel down. Knowing in the troubles of life that God is there to help us makes a big difference! He will help us through the rough spots if we put our complete trust in him! When we find ourselves behind a tree spiritually, we should pray that God gives us the wisdom to get around it. We shouldn’t try to take the law into our own hands. If it is his will God will remove the tree and he won’t need a chainsaw to do it!