Golf was part of the reason my mother and father met. Swinging on the golf course, they attracted each other, married, and put clubs in the hands of their four children. My father still praises my mother's figure in terms of her swing: Look how she pushes off her right side with those limber legs!
Golf invites love and care: My father changes my mother's spikes, lifts her bag from the car trunk, and arranges the clubs, making sure she has what she needs, down to a glove that fits and several decent balls, one less worry. She polishes his cleated shoes at night and sets them on the back porch so he won't forget them in the morning; she empties his pockets of tees and grass clippings.
Both of them drive around town with extra his-and-her clubs in their trunks, just in case there is a chance to play - which means dropping everything and swinging, a gesture of commitment shaped by their passion for the sport they love and its place in their lives.
Through golf, my child self saw my parents as real people, in roles away from home. And now, as an adult with kids and a husband of my own in a world more chaotic than I'd like, the golf course is a place where I can slow down for a few hours.
On the fairways, my thoughts rise and fall - and sometimes fall away. As a golfer, I've also fallen apart, but have learned to put myself back together again. Golf teaches me to keep faith. I'm continually amazed at how new meaning and answers emerge with the promise of each shot.
Golf gets me outside. It unrolls a carpet to endless adventure and sharpens those hunting instincts in me. It keeps me moving.
I walk away after putts, great and small, with more knowledge than before. Just as I've come to grow from love and heartbreak, so I've learned from reading greens and lies, mountain breaks and ocean pulls.
Where else can I so obviously recognize limits, learn from mistakes, then repair, regroup, and resume?
I am 12 years old again. I don't ever care to leave that circle of green that holds me, my ball, and the flag stick. My mother putts from a distance. Her ball plops into the cup. My father kneels to retrieve it.
"How about that," my mother says.
"You're getting awfully good," replies my father.
Suddenly, the light from the sun drops below the lacework of trees and catches the dull metal of our putters, igniting them with copper fire.
Tomorrow, when I gaze eye level at the fairway, the course will appear ordered and laid out neatly as a set dinner table, down to the shiny tool at my fingertips. But out of the alchemy of metal, grass, and air, a white ball will rise and spin ever-shifting, elusive tales.
Such unpredictability keeps me trying. Golf reminds me that at each fleeting moment I have a good shot at everything.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society