It’s not frivolous to invoke religion and golf in the same sentence, I think. For one thing, it’s often celebrated on the same day, sometimes as a direct substitute for church worship, with a sort of regularity that only ‘act of god’- type weather can interrupt. It’s probably an archetype for devotion.
Another aspect is the fanatical, obsessive constancy of attention paid to every little detail of myriad subtleties – equipment, routines, preparation and just plain ritual – surrounding the practice of the mysterious art of moving that little white ball along its path. Theology’s got nothing on the mysteries of ball-striking.
Like religion, golf has rules – physics, psychology, (course) management and measurement being just the most obvious. The arbiters of these rules, however, are far from unanimous in their prescriptions as to what is the “right” way on any issue. You only need to read 2 or 3 consecutive issues of Golf Digest to find how violently the various gurus disagree about the correct way to do things, often espousing ridiculously contradictory advice.
Often, it comes down to this: Tom Watson, one of golf’s all-time greats, recently published his version of the right way to swing a golf club – set-up, grip, takeaway, etc, etc. Now, when it comes to the reason his method is the “correct” way to do it, it comes down to: “I was taught to do it that way”.
Getting back to the religious angle, Catholicism and Christianity in general have some pretty hard and fast rules, the merit of which is often open to debate, but not the interpretation of what a rule means.
That’s why golf is ultimately mostly like the Muslim faith. If there’s an interpretation required about how something’s to be done, it’s up to this imam or that to “explain” the rule book. That puts “the rules” all over the map. (Besides that, I think Mohammed would have loved golf if it was available in his time.)