I’ve been a golf agnostic my entire life. I have my reasons, the main one being that anything that is flog spelled backward cannot be fun.    
    I don’t have anything against those who have embraced the golf religion. But neither do I approve of the way that particular sect gobbles up resources, including vast swathes of land that could be put to higher uses such as growing corn or alfalfa.    
    I have long prided myself on being an open-minded person. You can therefore imagine how much it stung when, as I decried the golf dogma and all of its wanton wastefulness, it was demanded of me, “How can you say that when you’ve never tried golf? You know what they say: ‘You shouldn’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his cleats.’”    
    That smarted. And it hurt all the more because it came from our youngest son. In a cruel twist of fate, he had become part of a duffer cult – they called it the golf team – when he was in high school. So much for the separation of church and state. I decided to do the open-minded thing and give golf a try. My guide on this spiritual journey was Gus, a trusted old friend who also happened to be a golf guru.    
    My first lesson in the theology of golf was given to me in the golf course’s parking lot.     
    “We should bring an umbrella,” Gus said as I hoisted his bags of clubs from the trunk of his car.    
    I pointed out that the sky was clear and there was no rain in the forecast.
    “That isn’t how the golf gods work,” Gus explained patiently. “If they see us packing an umbrella, they’ll leave us alone. But without an umbrella, rain is all but guaranteed.”
    I chalked this up to another of those absurd beliefs of that wacky golf ideology. We stuck a folded umbrella into one of the golf bags and moseyed to the course.    
    Gus balanced a small sphere on an oversized toothpick he had stuck into the ground and began to perform his bizarre golf-related rituals. They involved a fanatical devotion to the correct arrangement of his hands on the club and endless deliberations regarding foot placement. There also seemed to be a requirement for getting oneself oriented in the right direction.    
    Gus hauled back, took a mighty swing and the ball disappeared. It soon rematerialized more than 100 yards away, bouncing on a strip of obsessively groomed grass. I looked at my old pal with a new sense of admiration. I had no idea he possessed such mystical powers.    
    “Not bad,” Gus said nonchalantly. “It looks like the golf gods are in a good mood today.”
    Then it was my turn. My instinct was to gasp the driver like a baseball bat, toss the golf ball into the air and whack it. Gus said this would be blasphemous and would probably result in a bad lie. So, I did my best to imitate Gus. I hauled back and took a mighty swing at the tiny orb with Big Bertha.    
    I quickly discovered there are some weird gravitational fields at the golf course. My ball whizzed off the tee, then took an abrupt right turn. The ball became hopelessly lost when it landed in the jungle of tall reeds that grew alongside a nearby creek.    
    Gus suggested I try again. My second effort was better, if better could be defined as even deeper into those stupid reeds. 
    Gus said we should simply go to the drop zone, which was located safely on the other side of the creek. Why hadn’t he mentioned that in the first place and saved me all the aggravation?    
    That was how the entire outing went. Gus would calmly vanish golf balls in his poised, Jedi master-like manner. Meanwhile, I frantically hacked at ball after ball, many of which were sucked off the course by the creek’s powerful gravitational field.
    Gus cheerfully tried to instruct me, giving such mystifying advice as keep your head down and let the club do the work. None of his well-intentioned tutoring did anything to reduce my triple-digit score for the nine holes. I desperately wished it would rain and end my misery.       
    Centuries from now, an archaeologist might excavate the creek bed. He might surmise that some primitive culture had worshipped the golf gods there, offering up small spherical sacrifices with the names of major deities – Titleist, for example – embossed upon them.    
    And he would be right. But he will never know about the incantations that were shouted as those sacrifices were made. 
    Jerry is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, South Dakota. He and his wife, Julie, have two grown sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry currently works full time for the Dairy Star as a staff writer/ad salesman. Feel free to E-mail him at: jerry.n@dairystar.com.