Bobby Jones' grandson on golf as a moral test
Bob Jones IV in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2010.
April 8th, 2011
11:14 AM ET

Bobby Jones' grandson on golf as a moral test

By Michelle Hiskey, Special to CNN

Golf has been likened to a mystic, spiritual quest, especially after the 1972 publication of "Golf in the Kingdom," by Michael Murphy of the Esalen Institute, and movies like "The Legend of Bagger Vance."

But the namesake grandson of golfing legend Bobby Jones takes issue with that interpretation. Robert Tyre Jones IV, an Anglican Catholic priest, views the game more as a moral proving ground.

I interviewed Bob Jones IV for a profile timed to this week's Masters in Augusta. I wanted to know: What's it like to forge an identity when saddled with such a famous name. Blessing or curse?

Bob Jones IV has made his own impressive journey. In addition to being a priest, he's a psychologist. And he had this to say about the nexus of golf and religion:

I do think there's something to it. Golf is a game that has a spiritual core to it, but not the same one you would see in "Bagger Vance" and "Golf in the Kingdom." Bear in mind, I am a very linear thinker. I find golf's spiritual side rests in the fact that it calls the player to have a tremendous level of integrity at the smallest, smallest level of their life.

If you are standing in the woods and cause the ball to move and no one is there to see you, will you call a penalty even if it costs you the U.S. Open? Which is what happened (in 1925) to my grandfather.

Perhaps the best golfer in history, Bobby Jones was in the rough, not the woods, at the 1925 U.S. Open when he reported that his ball moved as he addressed it.

Without that one-shot penalty, he would have won outright.

Instead, Jones finished in a tie with Willie Macfarlane, and lost in a playoff. He scoffed at praise for his sportsmanship. "You might as well praise me for not breaking into banks," Jones said. "There is only one way to play this game."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Sports

soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Reality

    Golf is Good. God probably not considering all the pain and suffering in the world.

    April 10, 2011 at 11:40 pm |
  2. Blessed Geek

    Golf is immoral. It encourages the removal of forests and vegetation, which promotes erosion of soil and demotes the regenerative capacity of the planet. There is nothing moral about golf,

    April 10, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
    • Christian Adeline

      Any and every kind of luxury by mankind destroys the planet.

      April 10, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
  3. keyster

    If you've never seriously played the game you will never understand.
    It's tests the depths of character in any man.
    Bobby Jones set the tone for the game it's become.
    Sportsmanship among gentlemen, sharing the experience of elation and frustration, but mostly frustration.

    April 9, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
  4. Matou

    My former employers have nearly lost their whole company because they would rather play golf than take an interest in their business. Lazy procrastinators and liars. Golf providers an escape and an excuse for them all.

    April 9, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
  5. Paul

    I think golf is the most boring game ever invented by man. It's shocking to me that anyone under the age of 50 would invest time and money in an activity which is mostly strolling from place to place. Oh well, everybody to his taste.

    April 9, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • As

      Yea why would anyone want to make millions of dollars playing golf each year. If a golfer finished 5th every tournament each year will make millions so. That's why they play Dumb@$$ for the chance for money and they love the game. I bet million dollars you like things that other people find boring. How about you quit posting troll.

      April 11, 2011 at 9:54 am |
  6. DoodleSheep

    Religion is a sickness. Golf is a waste of time and land. Combining the two is the sign of a severely deluded mind.

    April 9, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  7. LaughterEruptsInvoluntarily

    "I find golf's spiritual side rests in the fact that it calls the player to have a tremendous level of integrity at the smallest, smallest level of their life."

    "There are those who say that Jones was a racist – the Masters, after all, did not invite a black man until after his death. There are others who say that he was a man of his time and place, a man who grew up in the American South just after the turn of the century. And there are still others who will say that Jones was ahead of his time, a good man who was always, as Rapoport says, "fair and honorable to the many black people he knew."

    Yeah - sooooooooooo moral. If that is morality give me immorality. Next thing I know, someone will say Reagan was a great man; when anyone reasonable knows that is pure malarkey!

    April 8, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • But he's a legend!

      Bobby Jones had integrity at the smallest, smallest level of his life. It was the big things where his integrity lacked.

      April 8, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
  8. confused

    What the heck is an Anglican Catholic priest?

    April 8, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  9. Typinator

    Too bad Tiger isn't riding on that moral band wagon. I guess golf doesn't work the same way for everyone.

    April 8, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
  10. Artist

    Well there is a few minutes I will never get back.

    April 8, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
  11. .


    April 8, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  12. jim B.

    I think that there is certainly a place on the CNN website for a feature on the grandson of Bob Jones during Master's week. Jones' accomplishments on the golf course have never been equaled and most likely never will. For those of us who were born long after Bob was able to actively play the game it is difficult to realize what a truly remarkable individual he was. In addition to being the greatest golfer of all time he was also famed for his integrity. And, aside from having a considerable temper on the course during his youth he was always unfailingly courteous and the epitome of a true gentleman. There is an excellent biography of Bob by Mark Frost called "The Grand Slam" that I recommend to one and all golfer and non golfer alike. Although as a golfer I can only wish I could play like Bob, I do my best to live up to his standards in how I play and also in how I conduct myself off the course. Bob is the only sports figure that I consider to be one of my heroes and I am sure that if you learn about him he will be one of yours too.

    April 8, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
  13. CBGB

    How is this a story, much less a story on a national news site?

    April 8, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
    • Adeline

      CBGB, Right. There are so many Christians being persecuted in the Muslim land and in China right now and CNN is doing this.

      April 8, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • Reality

      Hmmm, do you think it might have something to do with the Masters Golf Tournament now in full-swing at the Augusta National Golf Course which was founded by Bobby Jones? Golf and God are synonymous to many guys and gals.

      April 8, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • The Real Adeline

      Hey, new Adeline, that has been my name here for a long time. Get your own name.

      April 8, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • TGAS

      Another copy cat, "why is this a news story"? post

      April 8, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • Christian Adeline

      Reality, I think you guys are bored.

      April 9, 2011 at 7:33 am |
  14. Reality

    Bobby Jones died from a condition called "syringomyelia", a cyst in the spine. His family later started a non-profit group called "The American Syringomyelia Alliance Project". http://www.asap.org. The group funds research on syringomyelia which can be genetic. They also have an on-line support group. Donations are always welcomed.

    April 8, 2011 at 11:38 am |
About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.