A golf course is an amazing representation of God’s beautiful creation because it is crafted with an emphasis on the natural terrain. Playing golf allows us to take a step back from our productivity-driven society and simply be. There is no agenda or multitasking involved. There are no distractions from the outside world. There’s no to-do lists or inboxes that are constantly being flooded with an influx of urgent messages. It may take hours or nearly a whole day to complete a full round of golf, but it is one of the unique times that we may completely unplug from the outside world and be one with nature. It is truly a spiritual experience and a sacred place to connect with God. Walking down the green, plush fairway allows for internal conversation. In fact, a round of golf yields between 15,000 to 20,000 steps, a healthy walk with ample time for deep reflection. The golf course is the one place where we are able to put aside all of our stresses and worries for a few hours and enjoy the little things the world has to offer. To fully be in the present moment is refreshing to the body and the soul.
South Dakota has no shortage of golf courses. In fact, there are over 200 scattered throughout the vast plains like wind blown leaves in autumn. Whether it be an undulated, pristine track or a small-town 9 hole course with no range and a couple of groundskeepers, you can find them just about everywhere you wander. These golf courses are a substantial part of the modern landscape, and a place of gathering for people from all walks of life. The golf course gives us an opportunity to connect with the land in a way that often isn’t possible in today’s society, and to share this spiritual experience with other beings is a rare occurrence.
The sport of golf enriches the spiritual life by teaching us how to deal with failure. As Dr. Bob Rotella wrote, “Golf is not a game of perfect” (1995). It is all too easy to chunk, shank, or whiff a ball, but it is the response that matters. Golf is referred to by many as the most humbling sport, as it allows us to build character and resilience both on the course and in life. It teaches us the virtue of patience, and gives us extensive time to connect with ourselves and the beautiful world around us.
In most sports, the field, court, rink, or pool is a constant; you can always count on it being the same no matter where you go. The golf course, however, is constantly changing. Each single blade of grass effects which way the putt will break. Each grain of sand determines how the bunkers will play. One day you may get the greatest kicks and the ball will roll up right beneath the flagstick, and the next you hit a perfect drive in the middle of the fairway and walk up to find it buried deep in a colossal divot of dried up soil. The natural world is always evolving from day to day, so you never know what kind of luck will come your way. That is what I love about the game, though. It’s imperfections and uncertainties help build character and appreciate the world for all that it is. It is the unknowns that make the game of golf so unique because it is a reflection of the unpredictable nature of life.
Playing golf is a full sensory experience. When you close your eyes, your ears are filled with with a chorus of chirping birds and frogs harmonizing as if performing a concert. A fresh, whistling breeze softly kisses your skin. Your nostrils are overwhelmed with the sweet smell of freshly mown grass. Your feet connect with the slope of the terrain, as if you and the landscape are one. There is no other sport that encourages such a profound affiliation with the natural world.
Even though the course is ultimately crafted by humans, it is designed and built with respect to the natural terrain that God gifted us to enjoy. In many big cities and populated areas, the golf course is the only natural sanctuary to escape to and enjoy God’s creation. Now more than ever, it’s a break from the hustle and bustle of our fast-paced society. The act of playing golf isn’t solely about the game, but the interactive participation with the natural world. Unlike industrialized cities and towns, on the golf course, one may see beautiful creatures they have never seen before such as various types of birds, deer, and even alligators and crocodiles in more tropical environments. A golf course is a place to take in the creativity of our amazing natural world and be grateful for all that inhabit it. It isn’t only a green haven for humans, but a home for all kinds of creatures as well. It is theirs just as much as it is ours as humans, which makes it a unique destination.
By Hannah Hankinson. I am on the Augustana Women’s golf team and a Junior Nursing Major from Edina, Minnesota.