Golf Lessons

(First published in Bnai Yeshurun’s “Kehilatenu”)

I don’t play golf. I once played a full eighteen holes with my late father-in-law, which was certainly a great bonding experience but left me wondering why otherwise sane adults were chasing a little white ball across the countryside – and in the brutal summer heat of Florida, no less. That question has never been answered to my satisfaction. I also realized my handicap was driving and putting. (I felt more comfortable tossing the ball in the air and swinging at it baseball style, and also made better contact.)

Nonetheless, my respect for golf, and golfers and at least one particular golf club have grown immensely, leading me to believe that there is much we can learn from golf about life, sanctity of place and respect for others.

One of our swinging members (that’s golf) was a guest recently at a fancy club and showed me their rules, and golfers take their rules VERY seriously. For example, all club members are immediately apprised of the cell phone policy, which reads, in part: “Cell phones…shall be placed on “vibrate” or “silent” setting while on Club property.” (Note that Club is capitalized.) Obviously, it is considered uncouth to have one’s phone ringing on Club property; such could, Heaven forefend, interfere with a drive or a putt, with the unfortunate consequence of costing someone a stroke at a crucial point in the round. Can’t have that happen!

It is not only the ringing of the phone that disturbs fellow players and has been banned from the Club; it is also talking. You want to talk? Such is allowed in “Parking lots; Pool area (excluding dining and tennis viewing areas); Clubhouse restrooms; Locker rooms excluding common sitting and dining areas)…”  You get the point. This club (sorry, Club) takes its decorum very seriously.

There are places on the grounds where you can discretely text. “However, members are expected to ensure that such use does not infringe upon other members and guests. Such infringement would include distractions from dining, recreational activities, or affecting the golf pace of play.”

This is a Club that knows its purpose in the world, treats its hallowed grounds with dignity and its members with respect.

If the restrictive cell phone use wasn’t enough, the dress code strikes one at first as quite starchy:

When visiting the Club, members and guests will be expected to dress, at all times, in a refined and appropriate manner… Attire and personal appearance shall be in good taste and mindful of the Club’s traditional atmosphere. Excessively revealing clothing which might be offensive to other members or guests is not permitted. The Club strives for a refined and elegant appearance at all times.

Since what is construed as “refined and appropriate” dress cannot be left to the whims of individual members, certainly not these days, the guidelines are quite detailed. For men: “Business attire is always appropriate including Sports jackets, slacks, collared dress and golf shirts. Shirts must be collared and tucked in at all times.” And then this: “Jackets and ties are optional.” (Well, you can’t win them all. It’s not a shul, after all.) Denim jeans, tee shirts with printed slogans, shorts, and the like are verboten.

For women, denim jeans are banned, along with open midriffs, short hemlines (defined as “no more than three inches above the knee”), tank tops and similar garb.

This is one serious place, and yet they charge thousands of dollars for membership and fees and I am sure they have a waiting list to join. So what is it about golf that people will abide so many rules, even concoct them on their own, not just to play the game but also to police the territory on which their game is being played? Why does a Golf Club demand a “traditional atmosphere” and can such a designation ever pertain to something that is not a Golf Club, or would that be considered too intrusive, too cumbersome, and too objectionable to many people?

Perhaps it is the place, set apart from daily mundane use and therefore worthy of special treatment. Those who enter its grounds should feel different, as if it is a place that affords them a special connection with a different, higher reality. Perhaps it is the game itself, a game that requires great concentration even though (or maybe because) its performance is so repetitive, and occurs usually in the company of other people, friends and family. When the group defines the environment, especially regarding proper deportment, there is a sense of elevation in bring there and an increased sensitivity to those who have joined as well.

Why, if I didn’t already have such a place in my life, I might be inclined to take up golf as well, and spend time at the Club for a few minutes of escape and deeper connection. But I would trade the quest for a hole-in-one for the pursuit of the Holy One, any day of the week.

Happy Chanuka to all!

(NOTE: Through our shul, I am leading a tour of Eastern Europe – Latvia, Lithuania and Belarus – from May 13-20, 2019. The main cities we will visit include Riga, Dvinsk, Boisk, Vilna, Kovno, Radin and Volozhin. We have very few spots left. Anyone interested should contact me at as soon as possible.)

One response to “Golf Lessons

  1. Kav HaYashar, chapter 96:

    Any candle lit for a mitzvah has sanctity beyond measure.

    If we had the spirit of Divine Inspiration,
    [then] we would recite the blessing for
    the lights and understand the future
    through the mitzvah of candle lighting.

    Kav HaYashar, chapter 96:

    Every mitzvah candle brings down
    holiness from [Heaven] Above and causes
    the kindling of candles Above.

    Kav HaYashar, chapter 96:

    Chanukah candles represent the
    Heavenly candles and [Divine] Attributes
    that are aroused and inflamed to work
    justice against the wicked.

    CHRONOLOGY: Kav HaYashar
    was written by Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Kaidanover
    [alternate spelling: Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Keidenower]
    and first published in 1705 CE in Frankfurt, Germany.
    He died in year 1712 CE. (Jewish year 5472 Adar 15).

    When will Jews STOP BUYING the
    anti-Jewish The New York Times?

    On 2018 December 2, The New York Times
    published the article: “The Hypocrisy of Hanukkah”
    by Michael David Lukas, which describes Hanukkah as:

    “an eight-night celebration of religious fundamentalism and violence.”

    SOURCE: The New York Times and Hanukkah
    by Jerold Auerbach, 2018 December 4

    Rabbi Steven Pruzansky said:

    “In the genocidal war being waged against the Jewish people,
    the New York Times is an accomplice.”

    SOURCE: A New Low,
    a blog article by Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, 2015/10/29

    Rabbi Steven Pruzansky of Congregation
    Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck, New Jersey said:

    “…the [ancient] Greeks, against whom the
    Maccabees fought and prevailed, were avid
    supporters of and indulgers in homosexuality.

    It was just one of the immoral practices
    of the Hellenists that the faithful Jews
    found so repugnant, and therefore went
    to war in order to purge the land of it.”

    SOURCE: Another Mistake on Chanuka
    by Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, 2012/12/13