Golfing with God
A Novel of Heaven and Earth

by Roland Merullo (Micronesia 1979–80)
Algonquin Books
October 2005
288 pages

    Reviewed by Don Beil (Somalia 1964–66)

    IT’S NOT OFTEN that an author has the opportunity to write dialog for God, let alone God’s dialog about golf. It’s not that God’s name and golf don’t often go together; anyone who’s ever played — or who has lip-read golfers on TV — can attest to that. And certainly, God, like golf, often go together when they are “found” as one grows older.
         It’s the wonderful unexpected notion of Golfing with God: A Novel of Heaven and Earth, by Roland Merullo, that God needs help with His/Her golf game. (Merullo is careful to tell us quite early that “. . . sometimes He’s a He, and other times He’s a She, and many times God takes a form that cannot be described as either.”) With over 8,000 — 8,187 to be exact — golf courses in heaven, and with infinite time to practice you’d think that God would not need a golf coach. But that’s exactly the role “Jack” is assigned when he arrives in heaven.
         A pro at golf, but not life, Jack has had his problems on earth while still alive — both the metaphorical earth, as well as the earth beneath his feet when on the golf course. A great teacher, but unsuccessful as a pro on the circuit, Jack uses and faces golf as a metaphor for life as he tries to help God improve His (and Her) game.
         This is a premise that has the potential to be too cute, and now and then it does cross the cuteness line (“‘Beauty, Mom,’ Jesus said” after Mary hit) but not enough to be troublesome.
         You don’t need to know the difference between a slice and a hook — one golf shot goes off to one side and the other off to the other side – in order to enjoy the book. You already know enough about Buddha, Moses, and others to fantasize with the author about how they might approach the game. And the opportunity to learn what people in heaven do about eating and jobs, about time and the difference between night and day, about missions to earth, about “the single greatest difference between heavenly and earthly life,” and on a grander scale about the meaning of life, provide a great deal of entertaining reading.

    Don Beil (Somalia 1964–66), has worked at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, Rochester Institute of Technology, for the last 30 years, primarily as a teacher of computing. The author of multiple books on computing — not golf — he has recently been spending less time computing and more time playing the game.