Golf, as Mark Twain probably did not say, is a good walk spoiled. I wouldn’t know about that. When I played my first-ever round of golf (other than the miniature variety with windmills and snapping alligators), we used a cart.
Frank and I and my mother spent a glorious Sunday afternoon tooling around a small ninehole course in rural Wisconsin. Only one of us — not me — had a score that was less than two times par, and I think as many shots went askew as went straight. When one of us would hit a shot that even vaguely resembled something most people would imagine a golf shot to look like, we would all applaud.
None of that mattered as we enjoyed the sun on our backs, the blue sky and the green grass. At one point Frank looked over into the neighboring field and said, “Is that a real bale of hay? I’ve seen a bale of hay! I have to take a picture!”
It was a roll of hay, left in the field to dry, but no matter. It was the kind of day when Frank could be goofy, just for the fun of it.
He could lay down, study the contour of the green and carefully line up a put — and then send it rolling feet away from the hole, almost off the green on the other side, and laugh. He could take joy in hitting drives further than his mother and grandmother, and I got the satisfaction of hitting one decent tee shot on the last hole.
The group ahead of us played almost as slowly as we did, and the group behind us played even more slowly, so there was no pressure to speed up or give up after a certain number of shots. Although at some points, we did give up counting shots.
Clearly, this was not high-level competitive sports. Nor was it a chance to hobnob with the economic elite and do some business networking. It was more a chance to go out and play.
When it was over, I had a new appreciation for why people enjoy golf, and why it can be so frustrating at the same time. Who knew hitting a stationary object could be so difficult? But with a good attitude and good company — the kind that laughs with you, not at you — a little exercise in humility need not be unpleasant.
Scripture consistently speaks of the need for rest, for time away from the routines of the workday. Jesus went away with his disciples; recent popes have always taken time away from the Vatican in the summer.
I’m not saying that my afternoon playing golf was like a spiritual retreat, but it was a chance to breathe in fresh air, to reconnect with my mother and with my son and to see them deepen their bond with each other and even to get a little bit of exercise.
And now I need to get out to the driving range to see if I can improve my tee shot for next time.
Martin is assistant editor of the Catholic New World. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.