Holy Moses! Golf and the Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments have taken a beating in court along with endless confrontation by Civil Liberties organizations and schools.  They can be inscribed on national buildings but heavens, don’t quote them anywhere.  How a country founded on religious freedoms and principles and which has ‘In God We Trust’ stamped on every dollar bill can eliminate any reference to religion in political circles is indeed a mystery.  Regardless, the Ten do make up a framework for great advice on how to live your life – but did you realize they can also guide your golf game?

As a parish music director in another part of my life and work, I sometimes attend workshops of a spiritual nature.  A priest was presenting a seminar on the Ten Commandments and how they would apply in helping to sustain parish life during tough times.  This intrigued me enough to attend the presentation.  It was a beautiful day and, as usual, I found myself daydreaming about how his words might apply to golf.

Commandment 1:  Maintain Hope.  If you consider your golf game doomed to the devil, it will be.   Remain positive you can improve if you put forth the proper effort.

Commandment 2:  Remain Fearless.  Fear paralyzes us into inactivity.  Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of the unknown, fear of fear.   Any of these, I fear, do not belong in your head.  Eliminating the terror of chili-dips, out-of-bounds, water, skull shots, first-tee jitters etc. would make for much more relaxing golf.  When I first began writing professionally, I tried to make every story perfect for fear I might miss some important point.  I soon realized that waiting for perfection stalled my efforts and an article – any article –  would never get written.

Commandment 3:   Be Flexible.  Know things rarely go as planned.  Remember the old saying that ‘we plan and God laughs’?  Be willing to try something new even if you don’t think it will work.   One hapless – and inflexible – playing partner was a terrible golfer.  He asked for my help yet every swing flaw (there were many) pointed out was met with “Well, yes, I know, but I do THAT because of THIS,”……and proceeded to showcase yet another swing problem.  His swing was a collection of wrongs which could never be right because of his unwillingness to change.

Commandment 4:  Keep A Sense of Humor.  After all, it is only a game.  Go ahead and guffaw about how silly it is.  No one will remember the 9 or 10 you took on the tough par-4 or the three shots you hit out of bounds unless you made an idiot out of yourself by throwing temper tantrums or tossing a club.  Yes, we who must witness such displays,  DO remember them.

Commandment 5:  Be Honest With Yourself.  No improvement can be gained without a true assessment of what you need to work on.  A few years ago, my chipping had been horrible.  Yes, el stinko.  Simply going back to basics was the key in finding out how to fix the problem.  But I had to admit there was a problem first.   Then, it’s time to move on to other parts of the game that are lacking and fix those too, if possible.  It’s no disgrace to be in a state of transition.

Commandment 6:  Act With Integrity.  We Americans belong to the world’s largest contingent of golfers.  Accept the USGA as the keeper of the rules and the guardian of the game.  Practice proper etiquette, obey the rules, and see that others respect and honor the game.  If your group decides you should all play in another manner not in accordance with the rules, like winter rules or a scramble, say so up front and don’t post your scores for handicap purposes.

Commandment 7:  Have an Open Mind.   Don’t ignore new ideas, development in swing techniques, and technological advances.  It wasn’t too long ago that purists sniffed at metal woods and alternative shafts……and that the Reverse C swing otherwise known as ‘the back killer’ was the form everyone tried to emulate, a la Johnny Miller.  Remember gutta percha and featheries were once the rage as well……not to mention whalebone corsets and long skirts for distaff golfers.  And barring them from playing golf on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Commandment 8:  Hold On to Good Ideas.   Ideas that worked decades ago are not necessarily outdated.  Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus and Babe Zaharias shot some awfully good scores so they must have known something.  For example, good old fashioned practice on the rock pile was as important then as it is now.  All the technology in the world cannot shortcut proper work habits.

Commandment 9:  Learn, Teach, Share.   There is so much new information on the Internet, in the library, used book stores, club sitting rooms and lounge areas, and from observing other golfers.  If you learn a great tip, share it, don’t hoard it.  People still have to master it in order to use it against you – that’s the hard part.  If someone doesn’t want any advice, you must respect their wishes too.

Commandment 10:  Cooperate With Your Fellow Golfers.  Help out the young people taking up the game.  How else can they learn?  Support the charity outings you’re invited to – there’ll come a time when you’ll be asking someone to support yours.  Are you a man who does the old eye roll when a woman steps up to the tee in front of your group?  Embrace it because she is spending money to perpetuate the game YOU love…..plus you can’t assume she’s a poor player.  Besides, it could be me.

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