Golf and Philosophy: Lessons from the Links

Golf and Philosophy: Lessons from the Links

Golf and Philosophy: Lessons from the Links

Golf and Philosophy: Lessons from the Links

Synopsis

In a game where players are expected to call their own penalties and scoring the least points leads to victory, decorum takes precedence over showmanship and philosophical questions become par for the course. Few other sports are as suited for ethical and metaphysical examination as golf. It is a game defined by dichotomies -- relaxing, yet frustrating, social, yet solitary -- and between these extremes there is room for much philosophical inquiry.In Golf and Philosophy: Lessons from the Links, a clubhouse full of skilled contributors tee off on a range of philosophical topics within the framework of the fairway. The book's chapters are arranged in the style of an eighteen-hole golf course, with the front nine exploring ethical matters of rationality and social civility in a world of moral hazards and roughs. The back nine pries even deeper, slicing into matters of the metaphysical, including chapters on mysticism, idealism, identity, and meaning.Taken together, the collection examines the intellectual nature of this beloved pastime, considering the many nuances of a sport that requires high levels of concentration, patience, and consistency, as well as upstanding moral character. Golf and Philosophy celebrates the joys and complexities of the game, demonstrating that golf has much to teach both its spectators and participants about modern life.

Excerpt

A frequent comment about the eternal issues of philosophy is that everything is a footnote to the ancient philosophers Plato and Aristotle. Subsequent philosophers are simply clarifying and expanding their comprehensive consideration of the ultimate questions of humanity. So why write a book about golf and philosophy? Plato and Aristotle never played golf, so what is there to discuss? The short answer is that if Plato and Aristotle were alive today they probably would be avid golfers. For at least a few hours a day, they’d change their togas and sandals for knickers and spiked sandals. Lovers of wisdom and the good life are lovers of golf.

In fact, given the chance, what most people really want to do is play golf. When stars retire from basketball, baseball, tennis, football, and other sports, they usually hit the pastures of the world’s golf courses. Presidents, physicians, celebrities, CEOs, and philosophers commonly choose golf as their main recreational activity. Yet golf is not simply a sport of the rich, powerful, famous, and tenured. Thousands of public golf courses and driving ranges across the globe allow more than 61 million people to play golf. From Tokyo to Seoul to Sydney to Cape Town to Stockholm to Dubai, golf has emerged from the grazing fields of St. Andrews. The expansion of golf has been the greatest in the United States. The United States contains more than half of all golfers, hosts the most prestigious professional tour, and in the Ryder Cup and the President’s Cup takes on much of the rest of the world. With the help of television, the world has watched great American icons like Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus popularize golf for the world’s masses, and has seen Tiger Woods reenergize and diversify the sport.

Once people take up this intricate and addictive game, it often consumes them for a lifetime. People don’t just play golf; they watch it, they contemplate it, and, most important, they live it: they join golf clubs, vacation at . . .

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