How to explain it? Ahab had his whale and I have my golf. Attempting to put into words the why of this game, to probe into the energy that fuels this frivolous quest is a lesser cousin to the mystery of why we pursue the divine. Why go to Canterbury or Mecca? Why bathe in the Ganges or burn incense before an alter? Why do we seek grace? This line of questioning has occupied philosophers, scholars, artists and priests since forever. It has also occupied housekeepers, cooks, farmers, miners, smiths and shepherds. And the shepherds bring us to golf.
The exact date and time when the game was first played – that moment when the first sphere-like object was hit by a club-like stick into a hole in the ground – is lost to us. But one can imagine the sphere-like object was a roundish rock, and the stick a shepherd’s staff. If one’s occupation was watching sheep (or goats or cows for that matter) one might pass the time hitting rocks into holes. And it’s easy to imagine saying to one of the other shepherds “You know that big elm tree over by Sully’s? Well, I hit a rock from there to the rabbit hole on the other side of the stream with 5 strokes of my staff.” And a couple of days later, your colleague comes around and says, “I got my rock from the elm into the rabbit hole in 4.” And with that, we’re off and running.
Everything that comes after – the titanium clubheads, graphite shafts, stay-dry gripes, hand milled irons, lob wedges, Skycaddie range finders, three piece low compression balls with a patented dimple pattern, bunker rakes, little pencils, colorful scorecards, wooden tees, magnetic ball markers that clip to your visor, electric golf carts tricked out like real automobiles, monogrammed headcovers with pom poms, Kangol caps, plus-fours knickers, Proquip Tour Flex 350 rain pants, Ecco BIOM G2 yak leather shoes with SLIM-Lok spikes, mini-golf windmills, driving ranges, practice greens, Dave Leadbetter instructional videos, destination courses with 5 star accommodations and around the clock room service, claret jugs, green jackets, clubhouse grill rooms and birdie bottles – is mere embellishment.
The Gospel of Luke…
…tells us the shepherds were living in the fields, watching over their flock one night when they looked up and say an angel of the Lord. The Evangelist doesn’t mention what the shepherds looked up from when the angel appeared and announced his glad tidings. Perhaps they looked up from hitting roundish rocks with their staffs into rabbit holes.