Roybob’s Church of Golf

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

Roybob’s Church of Golf

Religions provide places of worship or “churches,” and Golf is no exception. Golf offers “churches” in the form of houses of fellowship and courses to play. I make contributions or donations to my own place of worship, Golden Eagle Golf and Country Club, and to other places of worship that I happen to visit. As churches, these places of worship should be exempt from taxation by the federal government, and I should be able to deduct my financial offerings which help these places of worship carry out their noble mission.

In 1965, the Supreme Court of the United States heard a case designated United States v. Seeger, 380 U.S. 163. The case involved three separate incidents in which men, one of whom was Daniel Andrew Seeger, had been convicted for failing to accept their induction into the armed forces. The men sought the status of conscientious objectors under 6 (j) of the Universal Military Training and Service Act (UMTSA), which would have exempted them for combat. The men, however, did not “belong to an orthodox religious sect,” and, it appeared, therefore, were not entitled to conscientious objectors’ status. The UMTSA exempted from combatant service only those who conscientiously opposed participation in war “by reason of their ‘religious training and belief,’ i.e., belief in an individual’s relation to a Supreme Being involving duties beyond a human relationship but not essentially political, sociological, or philosophical views or a merely personal moral code.” In other words, according to the UMTSA, only those who believed in a “Supreme Being” could be entitled to the status of conscientious objector.

Mr. Justice Clark, writing the majority opinion of the Court, held that “religious training and belief” was intended to include

all sincere religious beliefs which are based upon a power or being, or upon a faith, to which all else is subordinate or upon which all else is ultimately dependent. The test might be stated in these words: A sincere and meaningful belief which occupies in the life of its possessor a place parallel to that filled by the God of those admittedly qualifying for the exemption comes within the statutory definition.

In the view of the Supreme Court, then, religious belief was not limited to the traditional Judeo-Christian belief in God, and the three men were entitled to the conscientious objectors’ status even though they did not necessarily adhere to a traditional religion.

In support of the Court’s conception of religion Mr. Justice Clark cited the views of such eminent philosophers/theologians as Paul Johannes Tillich and John A. T. Robinson. Mr. Justice Clark cites with approval Tillich’s affirmation of a God above the God of traditional religious belief, “the power of being, which works through those who have no name for it, not even the name God.” Elsewhere, Tillich writes, “Religion, in the largest and most basic sense of the word, is ultimate concern.” Or again, “Religion is the state of being grasped by an ultimate concern, a concern which qualifies all other concerns as preliminary and which itself contains the answer to the question of the meaning of our life.” If some item is of ultimate concern for someone, then he/she is religious. In fact, Tillich argues, “You cannot reject religion with ultimate seriousness, because ultimate seriousness, or the state of being ultimately concerned, is itself religion.” In Tillich’s own philosophical theology true ultimate concern turns out to be concern for that which is ultimately real or a concern for the structure of reality, being-itself, the ground of being, or the power of being.

John A. T. Robison was the Bishop of Woolwich, England (1959-1969), and in 1963, Robinson wrote a very influence book called Honest to God. Mr. Justice Clark cites with approval Robinson’s words,

“The Bible speaks of a God `up there.’ No doubt its picture of a three-decker universe, of `the heaven above, the earth beneath and the waters under the earth,’ was once taken quite literally. . . .” At 11.

“[Later] in place of a God who is literally or physically `up there’ we have accepted, as part of our mental furniture, a God who is spiritually or metaphysically `out there.’ . . . But now it seems there is no room for him, not merely in the inn, but in the entire universe: for there are no vacant places left. In reality, of course, our new view of the universe has made not the slightest difference. . . .” At 13-14.

“But the idea of a God spiritually or metaphysically `out there’ dies very much harder. Indeed, most people would be seriously disturbed by the thought that it should need to die at all. For it is their God, and they have nothing to put in its place. . . . Every one of us lives with some mental picture of a God `out there,’ a God who `exists’ above and beyond the world he made, a God `to’ whom we pray and to whom we `go’ when we die.” At 14.

“But the signs are that we are reaching the point at which the whole conception of a God `out there,’ which has served us so well since the collapse of the three-decker universe, is itself becoming more of a hindrance than a help.” At 15-16 (380 U.S. 163, 182).

In place of the God “up there” and the God “out there” Robinson proposed that we equate God with Love. Robinson built upon Tillich’s assertion that the real God is the “ground of all being,” and he argued that the true “Ground of man’s being” is “Love.” To experience Love is to experience God.

For the Court, then, the test of whether or not a belief is religious rests upon a determination as to whether the belief constitutes “a sincere and meaningful belief which occupies in the life of its possessor a place parallel to that filled by the God of those admittedly qualified for the exemption.” The Court recognized that religion need not even involve belief in God. In his concurring opinion Mr. Justice Douglas addressed the difficulties of speaking of Buddhism and Hinduism as theistic religions, and he agrees “with the Court that any person opposed to war on the basis of a sincere belief, which in his life fills the same place as a belief in God fills in the life of an orthodox religionist, is entitled to exemption under the statute.”

Golf, as the worship of aesthetic perfection that dominates one’s soul, as a system of belief and practice that can even be construed as theistic, is a religion. The “God” of Golf, in Tillich’s terms, is being-itself, the ground of being, of the structure of reality. In other terms, the “God” of Golf is Energy-itself, Becomingness-itself, the “Processive” Nature of Reality which aims towards beauty and which lures golfers onward to the next shot: the next drive, the next iron, the next bunker shot, the next chip, the next putt. Golfers strive to actualize the aesthetic perfection towards which Energy-itself aims them or lures them. The gods of Golf are those forces of nature or events over which players have little or no control: the weather, which way the ball will bounce, the conditions of the course, distractions. The gods of Golf are those factors which can be very determinative of a player’s round, which are, to some degree, born out of a player’s freedom, but which, to a large degree, are beyond a player’s control. Golf can be a religion. Golf can involve “a sincere and meaningful belief which occupies in the life of its possessor a place parallel to that filled by the God” of other more traditionally religious people.

Religions often offer their devotees places of worship: temples, masjids (mosques), synagogues, or “churches.” A church, according to Publication 1828 of the Internal Revenue Service, may be defined “in its generic sense as a place of worship….” The religion of Golf offers its devotees a church, a place where they may worship, that typically includes a clubhouse of fellowship and a course.

The First Amendment of the Unites States Constitution declares that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” Following the Constitution, churches stand beyond the taxing jurisdiction of civil government. Churches are automatically tax exempt. Churches, according to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Code 508(c)(1)(A), need not even apply for tax-exempt status. Further, contributions to churches are automatically tax deductable. IRS Publication 526 indicates that churches need not apply to become qualified organizations to receive deductible contributions.

I patiently await the establishment of a church of Golf in my little area of the world, and I look forward to being able to deduct my contributions to that church from my taxable income. The Church of Golf should be entitled to the same exemptions as The Church of Scientology or any other religion. The Kingdom of Golf is at hand!

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 }

Matthew Hughes July 24, 2011 at 7:04 pm

I started the First Church of Golf in June 2005. Technically I own the intellectual property rights to the concept and I have evidence of my efforts at my dormant squid site which you will see comes up as the second hit when The First Church of Golf is put in the search window.
Take care,
Dr. Matthew Hughes
First Church of Golf


Roy M. Barineau, Ph. D. July 25, 2011 at 8:36 pm

Hi Dr. Hughes,
I’m not sure what you are trying to tell me. Are you simply providing me with information, or are you contending that I have infringed upon your intellectual property rights by using “The First Church of Golf” as a title of my article? By the way, the phrase appears only in the title of the article.
Roy Barineau, Ph.D.

Reply of Dr. Hughes to Dr. Barineau
Roy: I like your title. I admire your effort to promote the spiritual aspects of the game. I was just trying to let you know that eventually I am going to be aggressively pursuing the development of a real First Church of Golf. I have a whole set of initiation rites that I have collected from various sources (Darrin Gee, Fred Shoemaker, Jayne Storey, Roseanna Leaton), and some day I am hoping to create a super spiritual guru workshop that tours the Hawaiian Islands. Anyway, sorry for any misunderstanding, and I would be happy to send you the syllabus for the kind of experiences for a prospective member of the First Church of Golf.
Dr. Hughes

Reply of Dr. Barineau to Dr. Hughes
Thanks for the clarification. You project sounds interesting. Keep me posted. Do you mind if I post our correspondence as a comment at my website?

Reply of Dr. Hughes to Dr. Barineau
Please post it. Eventually I will find enough backers to make my Golf Spiritual Journey happen.


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