People Library

Praying towards Makkah at the mecca of golf

People were there from all over the world, from all races and religions, men and women, older people and young people.

My name is Matt. I’m originally from Scotland but now live in Great Horton, Bradford with my two young sons. For the past two years I’ve been a member of the Bradford For Everyone team at Bradford Council.  

We know from research, and from working with organisations such as Active Bradford, that sport in general is a great way for people to integrate with others, whilst also keeping fit, healthy and active. We can learn lessons from sport to implement in wider society, such as following rules and working as a team. Visually we can see our intercultural diversity advantage in sporting teams consisting of members from all backgrounds working to achieve a shared goal.

Although golf is not normally seen as a team sport, it is at its most exhilarating when at team events such as the Ryder Cup. 

Individually, golf – like religion – has much to teach us about life and how to conduct ourselves as we take part; such as shared values and manners, discipline, hard work and also how to have fun.   When playing golf, no two shots are the same, the lie of the ball is always different and factors out of our control affect the shot such as the wind, weather and temperature change.  Most of all, golf is a mental game and each shot always relies on both your physical preparation and more importantly your state of mind. The philosophy of a good golfer is always to stay in the moment, to put a recent bad shot in the past and concentrate on the present. This journey round the golf course is as individual for every player as our journey through life. 

People from all backgrounds enjoy playing golf. I have learned that from growing up in St Andrews where we used to play the Old Course and be paired with people from all over the world. I have also been there on the course watching a tournament or playing at the same time as people such as Bill Clinton, Hugh Grant and Michael Jordan, not to mention nearly every professional golfer in the last 30 years.  The course is a great leveller and no matter who you are there is etiquette to follow around a course that can humble you at any moment, just as in life. 

Living and working in Bradford most of my golfing buddies happen to be Muslim, which can be an interesting combination. My friend Rifaaqat regularly swaps his jubba for plus-fours and the only mat carried round a course is not one to play from in winter, but one to pray on during summer.

We enjoy playing every week on courses around Bradford District, and once on the course, it is only about you and the game. At the end we add up our scores and see who got the best score before the standard winner photo and a bit of banter towards the losers. Everyone enjoys the time spent, not only playing but socialising, getting out in the fresh air and getting some exercise, which is good for all our physical and mental wellbeing.

Recently we planned a trip to my hometown of St Andrews, in Scotland, to play two rounds of golf.  St Andrews is not only my home, but the famous ‘Home of Golf’ and the Old Course – a course which for many is the mecca of golf.  I was not able to organise a round on the Old Course, but managed to get a round for us on the Eden Course which runs alongside and also on St Michael’s just outside of St Andrews (thank you to my friend Jim and the club for welcoming us).

We had a great time staying in a lovely hotel in Dundee which meant we were able to visit Carnoustie, a course named by Tiger Woods as one of the hardest three in the world, to watch others play.  We spent an enjoyable weekend together soaking up the golfing atmosphere.

Before we played the Eden Course in St Andrews we went to visit the Old Course Hotel and had a coffee overlooking the famous ‘Road Hole’ before we went for a few practice shots. The hotel was very accommodating and took photos of our group inside and outside the hotel. After our coffee the staff invited us to use the vacant board room as a place to pray. This was a nice moment, to watch my Muslim friends announce the call to prayer and perform their early afternoon salaat facing Makkah from the ‘mecca’ of golf.

Our game on the Eden was very enjoyable especially with a friendly rivalry on the course. Just before we tee-ed off we met famous Scottish football manager David Moyes who was playing the adjacent New Course.  The round was tough because of the early windy weather conditions as well as the rough terrain. Once we got used to this, we began to play better and the game became competitive. The deciding shot came down to the last one on the last hole. The put was sunk by Saleem who won the round for his team with Shahzada. Cheers were heard across the Old Course.

The following day we played on St Michael’s which is a different course, more in-land and what we are used to playing these days back in Bradford. Before setting off, congregational (Zohar) prayers were read on the grass carpet of the first tee outside the clubhouse. The course has a lot of character, especially the holes alongside the train tracks.  Luckily the team which lost at St Andrews managed to win at St Michael’s and the weekend was tied at even. The only competition left was banter.

Before heading back to Bradford we took some pictures at the Swilken Burn bridge on the Old Course at St Andrews. A place many famous people have posed for photographs.  People were there from all over the world, from all races and religions, men and women, older people and young people. Everyone there on their individual journeys of life, yet sharing this passion together as one.