Play It As It Lies Book Review

Play It As It Lies: Golf and the Spiritual Life by Mike Linder

There is a trend, among the “golf is life” books to equate what happens on a golf course with a sort of Eastern mysticism. I suppose that it all got started with the seminal “Golf In The Kingdom,” and has found its way into many other golf titles.

But I’ve always wondered what the ancient Scots would have thougth about this, for the inventors of the game also had a reputation as staunch Christians. I have been sure that there were elements of the game that appealed to their Presbyterian hearts, particuarly the elements of failure and redemption.

In Play It As it Lies, Mike Linder, a Catholic Priest, offers a Christian ethos of the golf game.  It’s a refreshingly different take on the “golf mirrors life” genre, and one that I, as a Presbyterian Deacon, really appreciated.

Linder, who is an enthusiasic, but not particularly skilled golfer (like your friendly neighborhood Golf Blogger), writes both of the spiritual lessons that he has learned from golf, and of the golfing lessons he has learned from the spiritual life. It has a nice circular feel.

A few passages from the book will give you some of the flavor. In the first, Linder writes of the conflict he has on the course between what his gut tells him to do, and what his intellect tells him to do—as in teeing off with a driver when a more conservative approach really is called for:

One of golf’s great gifts to people is that it’s important to reconcile what we feel and what we think … As difficult as it is to balance what we know and what we feel on the course, its considerably easier than it is in other areas of our lives.

And on the larger implications of playing fast and loose with the rules:

Every time I improve a lie, I’m really letting myself off the hook. It seems a harmless way to avoid facing the consequences of my actions, but the more I do it on the course, the more likely I am to justify similar actions everywhere else, as well.

One of my favorite passages is on Fred Couples and his apparent lack of “fire”:

I like to think that what other people call Fred’s lack of motivation is actually an indication of an extraordinary spiritual gift. More than any other player out there, Couples is aware that once the ball has left the clubface, it is quite literally out ofhis hands. What’s done is done, and no amount of coaxing, crying, commanding or cajoling will have any effect on a ball in flight.

And finally, Linder commenting that our fascination with long drives hurts our game because we tend to ignore the putter and wedges.

All human relationships demand a balance much like that between full shots and the short game

I really enjoyed this book. It’s not earth shattering, but it has made me think more fully about my golf game and its place in my life.


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