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Auburn Hills Golf Course, Wichita, Kansas

Far from Par

By Patrice Stephenson 3/3/03

Fourteen-thousand, five-hundred-five Sandwedge Circle, is the address for the new Heartland Friends Meeting House. I find that quite significant. How many Friends Meetings do you know of that look out to a golf course? The idea of occasionally looking out to our north to the fairway, makes me want to draw obvious analogies. For those of you who are not familiar with the game of golf, I’ll explain. For those of you who are fully aware of the terms of a golf game, scan on down to the last four or five paragraphs.

The fairway is “the mowed part of a golf course between tee and green,” (Webster’s Concise Family Dictionary.) Now the golfer begins at the tee box (a flat area of ground), placing his ball on the tee and sets his stance in order to swing his driver (the club that is designed to give the most distance), make contact with the ball and project it toward the target on the green, a hole marked by a flag. If he aims properly, grips the club precisely, swings on line, makes direct contact with the ball right in the sweet spot of his club face, and follows through, his ball is likely to land in the fairway on its way to the green. It’s a good idea to take a few lessons from a good instructor in order to form good habits and better the possibility.

A good drive is a privilege, because there are so many things that can go wrong. There are inside forces like lack of concentration, inexperience, poor technique, imbalanced stance or swing, psychological factors… and those are just to name a few. Outside forces can also affect the results of a golfer’s efforts. There are things like wind direction and velocity, club choice and ball construction, (density, size and shape of dimples, logo), that will affect the fly of the ball. A golfer’s bag can carry any combination of irons ranging from 1 to 9 and then there are drivers, gap wedges, pitching wedges, sand wedges, and putters. The drivers have more weight and longer shafts in order to drive the ball a long distance. The irons and wedges have varying degrees of angles on the club faces for contact, providing various lifts and distances. The putters are designed for accurate aim for rolling balls across the ground surface of the smoothly cut green. Things like ground moisture (which will slow down a roll), ground hardness (which will allow bounce and/or roll), uneven grass cover, leaves, rocks, sticks, trees or branches, sprinkler heads, cart paths, measurement stakes, birds, squirrels, man-made debris and any number of other things that can cause the ball to make an unplanned ricochet and affect the final lie of the ball once its flight is complete.

Most golf courses are designed with a proper number of hazards just to make the game more interesting and challenging. They will lay fairways over creeks, ponds, rivers, lakes, ravines, rattlesnake traps, cactus patches, grassy marshes, muddy gulches, and varying sizes and shapes of sand traps, otherwise known as bunkers.

Once the golfer drives the ball and walks out to find it, he again selects a club, sets his hands and his stance, makes his adjustments for the course and the weather, and whacks it in what he hopes is the right direction. This continues until the ball reaches the green, at which time he pulls out his putter and rolls the ball softly into the hole. That was one hole. Over the course of about 4 hours, he can play 18 holes. In the course of a year he can play any number of holes, depending on his persistence, courage, and willingness to be defeated in order to improve his game.

Every game has a par, thus the term “par for the course.” Holes are rated par 3, 4 or 5. That’s how many times one is supposed to hit the ball from the tee box into the hole. Pshaw! Few players are actually par players. The more strokes (hits on the ball), one normally takes than is par, the higher the player’s handicap (number of strokes that one can subtract from the final score in order to compete with those who are better at the game. One has to play often and report the scores in order to establish a handicap. Many of us have unreported and unrecognized handicaps.) The object is to get the dad-burn ball in the hole in the fewest strokes. (That’s contrary to my theory that I get more practice and bang for my bucks if I swing more strokes.)

How is this different from our lives?! If we think of ourselves as golfers, we can say that our intentions are good. We have at hand tasks, jobs and responsibilities (balls). It only takes one good hit (accomplishment), in order to draw us back into the game and make us think we can master it, so we are encouraged to keep trying. We learn how best to accomplish these tasks, through instruction, experience and practice. Some of us do not record our scores or report our handicaps. Successful results come through persistence, patience, courage and willingness to be defeated, coupled with a willingness to try again, and if we can muster Divine Intervention coupled with some luck, we’re hooked!

If we develop our game in order to stay in the fairway, the path is much easier. The route is more direct, the path is smoother, it’s easier to find and hit the ball toward the target. If, however, our ball happens to veer off into the rough or into one of the hazards, we either have to search for it or drop another.

Life has many hazards and handicapping conditions. However, look what has happened! Heartland Friends has settled on Sandwedge Circle. It is so appropriate. Ironic even, as the sand wedge is the club with the most acute degree of club face angle, offering the greatest loft for lifting balls from dry, arid bunkers onto smoothly manicured greens. It’s a refreshing and delightful image if we think of taking our misdirected balls (efforts), to Sandwedge Circle in order to subject them to the lift that will raise them out of the hazards.

Meeting for Worship offers us a renewed opportunity to center down on our target and find the most direct path for projections. We like to think of this time as time for mustering up the possibility for Divine Intervention. This should encourage us to consider our lives far from “par for the course.”