Golf, Theology, and Play

Fascinating article over at Books & Culture: Breaking 80
Golfers don’t want to be better people. They want to be better golfers by Mark Galli
. Or at least it was fascinating to me as I am interested in golf, theology, books, etc.

I was struck by some of his analogies:

. . . it seems patently clear that golf is a living apologetic for hard-core Calvinism.

You hit a near-perfect iron to the green, so accurate it strikes the flag stick-and then ricochets off and ends up in a sand trap. So much for your perfect iron. On the next hole, you wickedly slice a drive into a thick cluster of trees, hear a frightening thud-and see your ball magically bounce out into the middle of the fairway. This sort of thing happens in every round. There is no sense shaking one’s fist heavenward or cursing the ways of this inscrutable god. If one wants to get on in the life of golf, the best posture is to humbly accept this god’s complete sovereignty and prepare for the next shot.


Galli has an interesting conclusion:

Golf books that teach you how to play the game better and better are really the most theological of golf books, because they take the game of golf most seriously, as if it were play. And though the Christian golfer should surely try to be virtuous while on the golf course, he is most Christian, and most virtuous, when he’s simply trying to lower his score.

Read the article to see how he comes to that conclusion.

BTW, Galli recommends Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf by Ben Hogan:

I recommend the most theologically informed and eschatologically hopeful golf book written in the last twenty years: Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf. There are two reasons it remains very near the top of the list of bestselling golf books. First, it seeks to answers the golfer’s ongoing existential question: “How do you build a swing that you can depend on to repeat in all kinds of wind and weather, under all kinds of presses and pressure?”

Second, it proclaims a gospel-some splendid good news (caps are in the original): “THE AVERAGE GOLFER IS ENTIRELY CAPABLE OF BUILDING A REPEATING SWING AND BREAKING 80.” It is the kingdom of golf heaven drawn near.

I added it to my wish list.

About the author

Kevin Holtsberry

I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season – oh, and watching golf too).

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1 Comment

  • Ha! This is a good post for me today. I spent a bit of time arguing Calvinism and Scripture over on Thinklings.org earlier.

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