No Worship on the Golf Course

The returning sun has once again refreshed the air, renewed the grass and summoned golfers from their long winter hibernation. For those of us of the Christian persuasion, this rekindles the profound theological struggle not just about golf on Sundays but about exactly how, where and why we worship God.

Several years ago, the tournament committee at my local club seemed dedicated to the idea that I must tee off just about the time the choir was singing the introit. That led to some serious discussion with then assistant minister Rev. Ruth Draffin at St. Andrew and St. Paul, Montreal, about exactly what I was worshipping on those Sundays when my customary pew was vacant. I think she won the argument and as the deepening wisdom of age paralleled a significant rise in my handicap, so the Sunday comfort of the sanctuary seemed, on balance, more attractive than chasing a silly white ball.

Many have claimed that you cannot worship God on a golf course or, in fact, anywhere but within the walls of a church or a mosque or a synagogue. That may go a long way to explaining the state of our world, but that’s another story for another day.

While the Sunday intersection of friendship, hospitality and inspiration provide a much needed transfusion for the hungry soul, I often find that I meet God elsewhere, usually in silence and usually alone. Perhaps those who like camping or fishing or hiking mountain trails find the same sense of solitude I find on a golf course. The best golf courses (although we know that they were designed) always feel natural—as if someone just cut the grass and there they were. They are usually quite beautiful and it is hard not to sense God’s hand of creation in rolling fields of grass, the warming sun, the fluffy cumulus across the blue sky and the bushes and trees where I spend an unfortunate amount of time. I don’t think that’s worshipping; I think that’s opening my heart and making room to sense God’s goodness and generosity.

That sense of God’s presence in all we do is difficult to find on crowded expressways, in busy offices and daily toil in a noisy world. I find it, unfortunately only sometimes, on a golf course.

I found it one day several years ago after falling asleep the previous evening while reading the mythical golf tale, The Legend of Bagger Vance. Bagger, the mysterious caddy who might be an angel, magically appears to nurture a nervous young man in a match against the greatest golfers of the age. At one point he says that play is activity most pleasing to God because it is authentic. In the same way, I suppose, that puppies playing is authentic. With that thought in my mind, I joined my wife and another couple at a Laurentian course the next day and played one of the best rounds of my life. With a smile on my face.

Rev. Jeff Veenstra has pointed out that you can’t escape God even in the belly of a great fish in the deepest ocean. You can’t escape Him on a golf course, that’s for sure. Of course,
I had to go to church to learn that.


About Keith Randall

Keith Randall is a freelance writer and a member of the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul, Montreal.