Golf on a Land of Faith

Father O'Mulligan

Thank you, Scruffy, for that fine introduction and your faith in me. I suppose it seems a wee bit curious for the pals to have a priest playing the game of golf. The truth of the matter is that many golf courses are built on land that was once, or is part of, a seminary.

For example, Shepherd's Hollow Golf Club is located in Clarkston, Michigan, on property leased from the Society of Jesus, the Roman Catholic Jesuit priests. Noted golf course architect Arthur Hills was required to route the course around the cemetery in which numerous Jesuits are buried, and also was called upon to build the course around a residence for retired priests that is also located on the property.

The Jesuits once operated a seminary on this 350-acre contemplative site, near the intersection of Interstate 75 and the Dixie Highway. The course was named in recognition of the property’s former and current residents. Shepherd’s Hollow feels very much like a sanctuary; it is very serene. To read more about this unique course, visit Shepherd's Hollow.

Another interesting course is St. Johns Golf Club, one of the first layouts to be built in the Metropolitan Detroit area, which was originally built as the 9-hole Mission Inn Golf Course and part of the seminary for Catholic priests. The golf course features three separate nines, named after the apostles Mark, Luke and Matthew. St. Johns is a scenic course, with lots of interesting hazards to keep you on your toes. It is a real value and a recommended golfing experience, although it will not fulfill your required Sunday obligation. For more information, go to St. John's.

The site of an entirely different relationship that existed with golf and priests can be viewed at the 12th hole on the Waterville House and Golf Links in Waterville, County Kerry, Ireland. This hole is named the Mass Hole because priests used to say Mass in a large hollow immediately below the green during a time in Irish history when Catholicism was outlawed. You won’t find priests today, but you may just pray that your ball reaches the plateau green on the 200 yard, par 3 hole. Review the rest of this course at Waterville Golf.

Faith and Freedom on the Golf Course

When it comes to my game of golf, it is true that my faith far outreaches my skills. And it is equally true that on many an occasion, I have seen my playing companions looking up to heaven, scratching their heads and trying to make sense of my “faithful shots”. Faith comes in many forms, you know, and is defined as believing, having confidence, trusting, and accepting without question. Now that’s exactly what I have; faith in my swing. Ya see, I believe I can take the club back and return it to make impact with the ball; I am confident that I can repeat that motion and I trust and accept without question the outcome. Because I have faith in my swing, I have no fear of failure. Learn to have faith in yourself, and you will have the freedom to enjoy your game. Freedom is a good thing, now isn’t it? Faith and freedom go together like birdies and pars and they just make life a little easier, don’t ya think?

As a priest not only am I a teacher, I am a student as well. I study scriptures and observe people to find ways of communicating what I learn, in hopes of nurturing the development and understanding of faith in our society. I have found golf to be a good study for the interaction and behavior of man. It is a familiar quote that says, “Spending a day on the golf course with someone will tell you everything you need to know about their character.” In doing so, I have discovered there are many parallels in life and the game of golf. I will have some examples to share on your next visit with me.

Don’t Let the Rules Bug You

But for now, I need to address this issue with Knothead and Hoss. To make my point and illustrate it to Knothead, I posed this question to Hoss. “You are playing a round of golf by yourself and you have a putt on the 18th green, which, if you sink it, will give you a record round. You start the putt rolling straight for the cup with the proper speed and perfect line, and just before your ball reaches the hole, a little beetle runs in front of it, deflecting it, and causes the ball to roll left and just hang on the lip. Would you take the putt or the stroke?” He looked at me through his little shades and said, “Father 'O’, I would kill that blessed beetle, take my stroke and head for the 19th Hole!”

I then turned to Knothead and said, “My son, golf is the only sport where you police yourself. You must do what your heart tells you and I have faith that you will do what is right! Oh, by the way,” I added “in case you’re interested, I hear confessions at 4:00 on Saturday evenings.”

I also have faith that you will make all the right choices and be back to visit me again at this site.

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