The Mystery of Golf | Arnold Haultain | Inspirational Podcasts

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Today reading has been edited and adapted from the book “The Mystery of Golf” by Arnold Haultain, published in 1912.

Golf is a peculiar game — a very peculiar game. To the onlooker, no doubt, it seems to be one of the silliest and stupidest of games. To the player, golf seems to contain within itself the quintessential attribute of all games; so much so, indeed, that the golfer thinks that the player who would (or could) wholly explain the inner and hidden nature of golf, would explain the inner and hidden nature of all games.

Golf seems to bring players into contact with the very in-most parts of themselves. In football and hockey you come into intimate — and often forcible enough — contact with the outer person; chess is a clash of intellects; but in golf character is laid bare. This is why so many friendships — and some enmities — are formed on the links.

In spite of the ceremony with which the game is played: the elaborate etiquette, the enforced silence during the address, the rigid observance of rules, few if any games so strip an individual of the conventional and the artificial. In a single round you can sum up a person, can say whether they are truthful, courageous, honest, upright, generous, sincere, slow to anger — or the reverse.

Of these arcana of golf the uninitiated onlooker knows nothing. Yet if ever that onlooker is initiated into these mysteries, they change their mind and see in the links a school for the disciplinary exercise of a cynical or stoical self-command rivalling that of the ancient Greeks.

Golf is a test of character in more ways than one: the cheat cannot play golf with others for long: in the end, no one will play with them. It is also a test of tactfulness. Many a person has to learn how to lend a deaf ear politely to a loquacious friend, or to curb their own tongue when playing with a taciturn one. And probably every player (on some occasion or other) has had to keep their own temper sweet while the atmosphere about them was foul with a surly silence or rent by vituperative abuse.

You may lose at bridge; you may be defeated in chess; you may recall lost chances in football; you may remember stupid things you did in tennis; you may regret undue haste in trying sink a simple layup. But the mental depression caused by these is temporary and evanescent. Why do clumsy mistakes in golf affect the player’s psyche so strongly?

Say what the scoffers may, to take your eye off your ball, cuts right down to the very deeps of the human soul. It does: there is no controverting that. Perhaps this is why golf is worth writing about.

Golf is one of the best schools for mind and manners. The person who would attain self-knowledge should frequent the links. If one seriously attempts the task, one will (quote) “find oneself” in golf. Few things better reveal a person to themselves than zealous and persistent efforts to decrease their handicap.

That profound and ancient maxim “know thyself,” a maxim so ancient and profound that it was said to have descended from heaven, might be inscribed on the portal of every Golf Club. Even it might be said that Tennyson’s trinity of excellences (self-knowledge, self-reverence, and self- control) are nowhere so worthily sought, or so efficacious when found, as on the links.

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