Green Cathedral Dreams Robert Sudha Hamilton
17 18 mins 3 yrs

Let me begin by saying that all those who play the great game of golf are blessed by the experience inside the green cathedral. There is nothing quite like cracking a big drive down the fairway off the tee. Watching that ball rise in the air and hurtle vast distances to land safely is a sweet affair indeed. Rolling in a putt from an unlikely place on the green is another deeply satisfying element of the game of golf. To the uninitiated striking a stationary small white sphere from its grassy lie with a club often seems no remarkable feat. However, ask them to reproduce that achievement and what follows can involve much cursing and frustrating failure. Golf is not an easy game to master and therein lies its fascination for millions around the globe. Golf: The green cathedral is an interesting realm to explore this rich and rewarding human pastime.

Golfing Inside the Green Cathedral

Walking the fairways inside this green cathedral, breathing fresh air, and feeling alive is the foundation of playing the game of golf.

On top of this comes a host of highs and lows, hits and misses, and accrued scores. Life on the links pits us against nature, whilst simultaneously being in its lively embrace. In my view, golf gives us a clearly defined mission with a set of rules to play by firmly in place. Modern life outside of the course can often lack this certainty. Having a finite number of clubs (14) with which to meet the challenges of the game confers such certainty. Eighteen holes, each with tee and green, sets the stage. Lines marking boundaries and hazards define the area of play. Bunkers governed by strict rules. These are all demarcations by which to golf by.

woamn with t-shity & cap of golf book green cathedral dreams
Green Cathedral Dreams

Golf is an Elemental Challenge

Wild and manicured beauty emanates from golf courses. Some have majestic trees whilst others are bare and wind-blown.

Some courses are bordered by water in a variety of forms. Nature is an essential component of golf course architecture. The green cathedral is large and can involve a labyrinth of tree lined fairways and pathways. There is often an undefined element of magic in the air. I close my eyes and imagine a lone golfer with 14 clubs in his or her quiver. This individual seeks a round with the fewest number of shots played. The light filters through green foliage and casts shadows across the ground. Birdsong and the buzz of insects provide an enchanted ambience. Goals are at the forefront of mind. Process is practised via a pre-shot routine, especially over delicate chips and putts. Breaths are taken consciously in a bid to remain relaxed in the face of possible adversity. A golfer’s journey is long in terms of the temporal athletic contest. This is a marathon and not a sprint toward a crown of olive leaves.

Golf: The green cathedral features clubs and balls.
Photo by Cristina Anne Costello on Unsplash

Par is the recognised standard number of shots required to play each hole and the course in aggregate. ‘Par’ derives from the same Latin source as ‘parity’ and means something similar (par for the course). Golf history tells us that the term par was taken from the stock market and applied to the ground score in golf in the 1890s. Golf was largely played by the wealthy at its outset, but thankfully has now spread to a wider audience. ‘Bogey’ is another term, which now refers to one over par. Its provenance is Scottish like the game itself.

A ‘birdie’ meaning one under par originated from American slang around the turn of the twentieth century. A ‘bird’ referred to anything excellent at that time.

An ‘eagle’, of course, continued the avian theme and upped the ante with the majestic eagle and its association with America. An eagle is a score of two under par on a single hole. An albatross or double eagle denotes a score of three under par on one hole. The average golfer is, it must be said, more familiar with double and triple bogies than with any forms of rare avian life.

All successful subcultures have their own jargon, which is delightfully shared by its members.

Golfers love to swap clichés whilst on the course, as a rich part of the golfing experience.

A golf ball propelled onto the green by a well struck shot is said to be “on the dance floor”.  A shot struck beyond the green has “airmailed’’ the green. An “ace” is a rare hole in one and this is an exclusive club within the game of golf for those golfers who have achieved this feat. Golfers wanting a ball to cease its journey across the green cry out “bite”. A putt successfully rolled into the hole is “drained”. Alternatively, that putt could “lip out” and fail to remain in the hole. A “duff” is a mishit shot, usually a chip or pitch. A ‘chip’ is a short low shot played around the green most often. A ‘pitch’ is a high shot played with a wedge from around 120 metres in. A ‘wedge’ is a club designed to play pitch shots due to its highly lofted clubface and shorter shaft length. A “poached egg” is a concave lie within a sand bunker. A golfer playing well is “on fire”. Scrambling golfers must “get up and down” from just off the green to par the hole.

Elemental weather on the golf course

Golf demands both mental and physical applications, as it is a test of strategy and skill. The designer of the golf course utilises a number of visual perception tricks to challenge unwary golfers. Contours and inclines can take golf balls into unexpected locations and away from the sought-after target. Standing on the tee and scouting down the fairway can be frustrated by doglegs left or right. There are strategically placed hazards designed to catch misdirected shots. Our hopeful player is suddenly confronted by a sandy lie with a lip to overcome or a watery demise. Golfers must regroup and adjust their expectations from birdie to par or bogey.

The green cathedral is not always home to aspiring spires that reach to golfing heaven.

The Golf Book: green cathedral dreams on GolfDom
Photo by Edwin Compton on Unsplash

Good golf requires continual gear shifts from the fluid power of the big drive off the tee to delicate chips and putts. There are recovery shots to be played over and around trees, water, and hillocks. Bunker shots to be played from sand around greens, where the knack is not to make contact with the ball but with a cushion of sand. Pitch shots played high into well protected greens. Low shots struck into the wind and under branches. Balls worked from right to left and from left to right. Putts rolled steeply downhill and putts struck firmly uphill. Breaking putts and straight putts. Think about those 14 clubs to choose from and each of them with a repertoire of shots. Decision making is a big part of the game of golf and indecision is like a black hole awaiting that next duff. A foozled chip leaves one feeling like a fool waving to the world on an exposed rock.

“Hitting it fat” sees a large divot taken prior to making contact with the ball.

There are so many things that can go wrong with your swing out on the golf course it is a wonder that we don’t end our days blubbering in some asylum.

The slice is the most common golf shot observed out on the links.

Golfers with driver in hand will likely slice the golf ball right of their intended target. The longest shaft in the bag, measuring around 44 to 48 inches, means that the driver or one wood (clubheads are no longer made of wood but the name has stuck) is the most difficult club to properly wield. You will see more homegrown swings failing to meet the demands of the shape and dimensions of the driver than in any other aspect of the game of golf. Bastardised movements, to put it crudely, delivering steep cuts across the line and resulting in weak fades and wicked slices. Despite this ugly feature of many golfers’ games their love of golf is undiminished. Golfers live in hope of striking their ball sweetly and seeing it soar effortlessly great distances down the fairway. Curing the slice is a perennial rich source of income for golf professionals everywhere. Drivers and fairway woods have seen huge evolutions in design technology and materials used in their construction. Originally, made from wood and steel they have become uber light clubs created out of titanium and graphite. The distances that these clubs can launch a golf ball, when correctly struck, have doubled in the last couple of decades. They are challenging golf courses and their pars due to players being able to hit the ball so far.

The Golf Book: Green Cathedral Dreams.
Fairway ahead open those shoulders

The golf club manufacturers produce new drivers every year and generate large parts of their income via this cycle of new technologies driving sales. The elite players, the touring PGA professionals, are closely watched by an adoring audience and their achievements widely celebrated. These players regularly eagle par 5s with drives reaching 350 yards and requiring just a short iron to the green. There is a growing gulf between what golf is like for the average punter and the game played by those we see on TV. Placing one of these $900 drivers in the hands of the average high handicapper sees slices travelling about 170 metres into the trees on the right of the fairway. Learning to wield the driver is a prerequisite to unlocking its incredible launch properties.

Teaching golf is officially the domain of PGA professionals but actually happens via a wide variety of mediums. The exchange of swing tips and information naturally occurs between fellow golfers of all levels. Talk of the blind leading the blind is, of course, politically incorrect in this age of the visually impaired and challenged. Golf instruction delivered through magazines and books has been a strong presence almost since the inception of the game itself. Technology has delivered instructional golf videos, especially via YouTube, which are available on large smart TVs, phones, computers, and tablets. Teaching aids utilising GPS and digital camera technologies are coming to the fore now with launch monitors delivering a host of data for those able to make sense of it all. The golf swing is analysed by science and technology to an nth of a degree. The golfer today has greater access to swing aids and help than ever before.

The love of the game is enamoured for many through this layer of angles, arcs, and swing speeds.

The love of golf amid the green cathedral is, often, accompanied by strings of passionate self-abuse loudly expressed by players considering themselves unfortunate. The golfer who having played a very ordinary shot exclaims his disappointment in rich and ribald terms. I am always surprised when this originates with the high handicapper, who plays once a week and never practises. In competitive club golf one is usually part of a four-ball group and shares the four-hour experience with these fellow competitors. Hearing blokes loudly cursing themselves for mishit shots right from the outset of the round is sometimes amusing and ultimately annoying. We all have bad days, of course, and I have cursed myself with the best of them on such days. Regular behaviour like this is not good for anyone’s game, however. “A bad day on the golf course is better than a good day in the office” is another golf cliché and worth remembering in these circumstances. The thing about golf is that it often turns around if you persevere. A bad attitude on the course just makes things worse for longer in my experience.

Bobby Jones
Bobby Jones

Golf is a test of character and your sporting mettle. How you can stand up to scrutiny and the individual demands of a solo game like golf? I think, is a big part of the game’s appeal. Men and women enjoy the challenge of pitting themselves against the course. There is nowhere to hide during a competitive round and you only have yourself to blame when you muck it up and fall short.

The legendary Bobby Jones, in his early days, used to throw clubs and carry on out of frustration, until it was pointed out to him what a bad look poor sportsmanship was and how damaging it can be to your game.

Obviously, these people are passionate competitors and, perhaps, perfectionists, which is why they get so cut up about failure in the moment. Golf demands we move on from emotional highs and lows and get on with playing the game. Golf: the green cathedral silently asks us to just play the game.

Golf: The green cathedral is for everyone.
Photo by Ilse Orsel on Unsplash

Four hours with three other golfers in the pressure cooker of an important competitive round can be revealing. Most of my experience has been playing golf with other men and I can hear echoes in their self-admonishments of how fathers berate their sons. The pain and critical condemnation rise to the surface in the wake of mishit shots. The thinned chip that shoots through the green into trouble. The fat shot that falls woefully short. The hooked drive out of bounds. The massive slice deep into the cabbage. A cornucopia of calamitous golf shots calling down curses upon ourselves in disgust at our own ineptitude. The humbling debasement, which is, also, part of the rich golfing experience.

Aussie golf can be relaxing even for kangaroos in the green cathedral.
Aussie Golf

Things cannot be all good all the time or we would not know the sweet taste of success in the face of overwhelming odds. The 200-metre shot to the green, which somehow gets there. The ball that bounces through the bunker and onto the green. The drive that ricochets from tree branch back into the middle of the fairway. An iron heading for disaster, which deviates at the final moment to find safe harbour somewhere near the green. All these unlikely golf shots are made all the sweeter by healthy regular doses of failure out on the links. Golf can be a humbling force for good within our characters if we appreciate our good fortune to be out there competing anyway. Walking the course surrounded by green grass, trees, fresh air, and bird life. Nature smiling upon us and we finding our tempo within our swing. The golfer lives a good life if she or he can remember to feel blessed by the opportunity to play this great game with acquaintances, friends, and loved ones. Enjoy your time amid golf, the green cathedral of nature playing this compelling game. #golf #GreenCathedral #thementalgame

Get into the green cathedral

©Robert Hamilton