Mark Twain once said golf was “a good walk spoiled.” I had a chance to put that to the test this week when I played nine holes at Columbus Park with Fred Most, Glen Gale, and Vern Henrikson. I should admit right up front that I won the match handily in the sense that I had a much higher score than anyone else. Fred plays beautiful tee-to-green golf-long iron shots, hardly ever in the rough, a wonderful short game, and precision putting. Glen is a fine golfer who was all over the course this morning and Vern has been known to hit a few long drives and sink a few clutch putts every now and then. This was my first round of golf in two years. Stan Utigard gave me my first set of clubs not long after I came to Calvary. I think he loaned them to me but then he told me he didn’t need them back. Len Hoppe gave me my first driver and I kept it for years. I learned to play by watching Paul Lavenau hit drivers off the fairway and by playing Bingo, Bango, Bongo with Dan Hoeksema. Several years ago, I more or less gave up the game because of a terminal inability to break 110 for 18 holes. I think I hit 114 once on a very good day. Golf can be brutal in the sense that it’s not really you against anyone else because you soon learn that even the good golfers struggle from time to time and no matter how bad you are, there’s someone else who is better and someone else who is worse and they’re both more frustrated than you are. It’s also the kind of game that you need to start early in life, preferably when you are three years old, like Tiger Woods. I started when I was 37 and played four times a year. Dick Baer used to tell me to buy one of those golf videos but now he just smiles when we talk about my game.
Golf is like life in that, when you play by the rules, you have to “play it where it lies.” Sometimes you’re on the fairway and sometimes you’re behind a tree like I was this morning. But depending on who you’re playing with, if you hit a bad shot, as someone who shall remain nameless did this week but it wasn’t me, you can hit a “mulligan,” which means you get to hit the ball again and the first shot doesn’t count. Sometimes you need a second chance to do better, which is what grace is all about.
The very best thing about golf is that you never know what will happen next. A double bogey doesn’t faze a real golfer. He knows that a miracle is always only one shot away.