Golf and the Power of the World

Roybob’s Book on Golf: The Hucks, A Golfer’s Divine Comedy, and a Religious Philosophy of Golf

The Golf Gods: Towards a Religious Philosophy of Golf

Golf and the Power of the World

Black Elk (c. 1863-1950) was a Holy Man, a wichasha wakon, of the Oglala Sioux tribe of Native Americans. Black Elk, at the age of twelve, lived through the Battle of Little Big Horn or Custer’s Last Stand in 1876, and he lived through the Massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890. To indicate that Black Elk’s time was difficult for Native Americans is a vast understatement.

Black Elk’s life story was recorded by John G. Neihardt in 1932 in a book entitled Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux, the Premier Edition. Black Elk recounts how he came to live between Wounded Knee Creek and Grass Creek. He says,

Others came too, and we made these little gray houses of logs that you see, and they are square. It is a bad way to live, for there can be no power in a square.

You have noticed that everything an Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round. In the old days when we were a strong and happy people, all our power came to us from the sacred hoop of the nation, and so long as the hoop was unbroken, the people flourished. The flowering tree was the living center of the hoop, and the circle of the four quarters nourished it. The east gave peace and light, the south gave warmth, the west gave rain, and the north with its cold and mighty wind gave strength and endurance. This knowledge came to us from the outer world with our religion. Everything the Power of the World does is done in a circle. The sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The moon does the same, and both are round. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves. Our tepees were round like the nests of birds, and these were always set in a circle, the nation’s hoop, a nest of many nests, where the Great Spirit meant for us to hatch our children.

But the Wasichus [the so-called “White men”] have put us in these square boxes. Our power is gone and we are dying, for the power is not in us any more. You can look at our boys and see how it is with us. When we were living by the power of the circle in the way we should, boys were men at twelve or thirteen years of age. But now it takes them very much longer to mature.

The power of Golf lies in its connection to the sacred powers of the world, those forces of nature that provide for golfers the delight of play, and the sacred powers of the world, as Black Elk notes, move in circles. Golfers play a “round” of Golf; no one would want to play a “square” of Golf. The holes are circular, the greens are circular, the traps are circular, and the courses journey out and back around to the clubhouse. The balls are round, and the swing moves in circular fashion. Everything in golf is focused on a relatively tiny round hole dug into Mother Earth. Golfer’s play eighteen holes of golf, not eighteen tees, fairways or greens.

Golf is a modern religion that involves the recognition and reclamation of nature’s sacred powers. Golfers acknowledge those powers that lie beyond their control, that are responsible for their being, and that summon them unto experiences of perfection. Golf reflects the human desire to be attuned to the forces of nature, the energies of Reality-itself.

Roybob’s Book on Golf: The Hucks, A Golfer’s Divine Comedy, and a Religious Philosophy of Golf

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Wrongway Joe March 25, 2011 at 8:39 am

Hey Roy, I never noticed it before … but beer cans are circles too!


Reverend Roybob March 25, 2011 at 8:56 am

Yet another modern religion Joe! No one orders “a square” of drinks for everyone.


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