The golfist is more than a golfer.

The golfist is a follower of golfism. A golfer will play occasionally for company, to avoid yard work, and to hide from the wife. A golfer plays for money, for competition, and for status. 

A golfist, on the other hand, goes to worship in the greeny cathedral of his passion. He labors for that pure moment that affirms the presence of perfection in his otherwise imperfect world, no matter how evanescent. The turn of his swing is like the turn of a prayer wheel. His sufferings, his achy joints, his deep pain the mortifications and deprivations of a monk. 

What is Golfism or Why am I a Golfist?

I was at work the other day, when someone brought it to my attention that some people thought I was playing too much golf. Ever since the season started, I have been focusing on tuning my game. The time spent, usually in the early evening, runs about an hour and a half -the time it takes to play a “speed nine.”

In response, I thought about taking my golf underground, to deny my involvement, and evade the scrutiny. But then I realized it would be caving in to a basic prejudice people have about golf and golfers. There are two sides to this coin: ignorance by non-golfers and failure by golfers to defend themselves.

If I was taking that time at the end of the day to run in preparation for a marathon, it would be considered laudable, but practicing sand shots and putting for an hour is viewed as dilettantism.

It was while I contemplated the approach shot on #1, that it was revealed to me that I was no longer just playing a game but also living completely and fully. My drive had drawn partially up the hill, landed, then rolled back. I was 165 yards from the middle where the pin was. It was an uphill stance. I set up for a fade, framed my stance at the large oak on the left, aimed my clubface at the pin, and felt completely comfortable in that moment, aware of myself, my thoughts, my body, my club, and the tiny white ball.

The fading sunlight on the ball brings different things into focus, and I was no longer just there on Wakonda #1, but nowhere and everywhere. I remember swinging and striking the ball which arced to the left, peaked on line with the oak tree, then gently arced right like a promise fulfilled. It landed on the upslope slightly left of the pin, taking a flopping bounce out of sight over the fringe. It was only a few feet from the hole. This moment was not only satisfying, it was transcendant.

Golfism is the set of beliefs centered around this moment. No, that’s not right. There are no beliefs. Does a rabbit have a set of beliefs set around the transcendance of running fast? It just is “rabbit.” Words clog the flow of this “my presence emphatic.”

 

addendum: 12-25-2008 -reading through my blog this past year, I realize that when the playing season effectively ended with the first frosts, my blog has been mostly about the grievances of a middle-aged man. No apologies here. Swinging the golf club serves the same function as the whirling dances of the dervish, the inhalation of the mind altering vapors of the oracle,  and the rhythmic drum beating of the shaman. Without it, without the connection to the spiritual plane, all we have is our myopic vision on the middle world and our daily struggles to survive. May your ball find the hole efficiently. 

shamans_drum