Today the Golf Gods smiled upon me.
After weeks of soul-blasting, rage-inducing, brain-searing futility on the golf course, I finally made some shots and got a decent score. I also had the luckiest bounce I think I have ever had on the golf course. On number 8 East, a par 3 over water, I hung my drive out to the right and hit a tree. None of us saw it come down, and when we walked up to the spot we noticed a ball on the green. Sure enough, the ball had careened off the tree, bounced about 30 feet to the left, and ended up about six feet from the cup. After a break like that I had to make the putt, and I did for a birdie.
Having received a break like that, I fervently thanked the Golf Gods. It got me to thinking: exactly who are the Golf Gods?
I think the Golf Gods are not like the Christian God of the New Testament. They don’t care if we love one another or help the poor. They aren’t distant, remote, and high-minded, or seemingly uninterested in the tawdry activities of mankind. To the contrary, they are eager to intervene in the lives of humans who happen to be playing golf. The Gold Gods are like Loki, the Norse god of evil, mischief, and fire pictured at right, smirking and full of pranks and desire to make mere mortals look foolish and, well, mortal.
Clearly, the Golf Gods are like much older gods: Greek gods, Norse gods, Vedic gods, or the God of the Old Testament. They are willing to smite, to punish, to rain fire and destruction on transgressors on the golf course. Like Kali, pictured at left, they will chop your head off, stick their tongue out, and wave their bloody sword in triumph when you miss a short putt that would have allowed you to break 90. They are fickle, whimsical, and capricious, keen to experiment with puny golfers to see how much misfortune those golfers can bear. Hit a good drive? Walk up to your ball to find it in a thoughtlessly unrepaired divot. Hit a perfect putt and watch the ball spin around the hole and out. And then, just when you have reached your limit and can’t bear any more, they reward you with some extraordinary good fortune or a stretch where you just can’t miss.
Why do the Golf Gods so clearly exist and interfere in the game of golf? Because they know the golf course is one place where people do believe in divine intervention and hope that supplication is rewarded, where good golfers know they must be willing to accept their punishment after hitting a crappy shot, and where hubris is inevitably disastrous. Besides, being able to arbitrarily make balls bounce dead left into a creek or to leave balls improbably imbedded in the face of a bunker, and then watch the reaction of the hapless golfer, would be entertaining.