(Photo: Van Redin)
Who ever said golf wasn’t spiritual?
Using the much-beloved ball game as a metaphor for life, family, work, and faith, the new film “Seven Days in Utopia,” based on David L. Cook’s novel Golf’s Sacred Journey, gives audiences a whole new look at golf, on and off the course.
The movie, which stars critically acclaimed actor Robert Duvall, follows the story of a young golfer named Luke Chisolm (Lucas Black) set on making the pro tour.
When his first big shot turns out to be a very public disaster, Luke, hoping to escape the pressure and limelight, drives off from the tournament only to find himself stranded in a small town in Texas.
It’s there in Utopia – population of less than 400 – where he meets an eccentric rancher and former PGA Professional by the name of Johnny Crawford (Duvall) who teaches him not only about a better swing, but a better way of life.
The inspiring film, like the novel, hopes to offer everyone, not just golfers, insight and a different perspective that changes the way we think, play, and act.
Cook, a top sports psychologist for several U.S. Olympians, NBA stars, and more than 100 PGA players, based the novel and the movie script on thousands of athletes he had counseled over the years and the great mentors and teachers from whom he had learned from.
“I have brought my twenty plus years of peak performance coaching together and compressed them into a story of two fictitious characters; a rancher with a passion for teaching truth and a young professional at the end of his rope,” Cook penned.
“They represent each of us in the various stages of growth. For in life we must be willing to coach and be coached, either one alone will leave us empty.”
The film, adapted from the novel, is directed by Matthew Dean Russell and produced by Mark Mathis, Jason Berman, and Rob Levine.
Dean has said of the film, “I want to tell stories that change the way people think ... that allow people to feel and know God is real through the actions and examples unfolding on the screen.”
Though the film is about golf, Cook told CBN News that it’s more about finding true success through Jesus Christ.
“It’s about an invasion of God that changes a man or a woman’s life. That’s what it’s really about. And at the end of the movie, it shows what life looks like in the performance setting when you have the real answer. You play with peace. You play with confidence. You play in a different way and in fact, you play better.”
Black, who stars as the main character in the movie, told the Orlando Sentinel, “A lot of us get caught up in what we’re trying to achieve – on the golf course and in life. We get so narrow in our focus, so shallow, that we miss the big picture. That’s what the book said to me and I hope what the movie says.”
Helping men all over the world see the bigger picture, the novel-turned-film has become a vital outreach program for Christian leaders.
Cook, who has his own ministry and retreat center in Utopia, Texas, called Links of Utopia, continues to help transform the lives of men and their families by calling out, encouraging and equipping men through several resources including retreats and events and online fellowship communities.
Inspired by the novel, men’s groups and Bible studies have also formed, with a guide and study book specifically created to cater toward these groups. Leading men from the Golf Book to The Holy Book, the guides help teach men how to apply important biblical principles to their everyday lives.
Most recently, a ministry site was launched in August on the same day that pastors nationwide attended free screenings of the coming-of-age movie, in support of the inspiring film.
Pastors and ministry leaders could download free ministry clips, banners, and sermon guides for their congregations.
Filmmakers hoped that the combination of early screenings and free ministry resources, written by Dr. Craig Detweiler, Ph.D., from Pepperdine University, would motivate pastors to rally behind the G-rated film filled with themes of self-reflection, the importance of faith, forgiveness, and recovery.
Pastor Fred Christian, of The Last Church in Seattle, Wash., shared, “I really enjoyed this film. It has great acting and a thought provoking message about faith and priorities. A rare G-rated film that Christian adults can enjoy without having to leave their values at the altar.”
Vice President of Good News and clergy member of the Wisconsin Annual Conference Tom Lambrecht also praised the movie, appreciating the non-preachy “subtle symbolism,” which pointed audiences to how to leave a damaged past behind and find a new resurrection to life in Jesus Christ.
“Seven Days in Utopia” releases September 2, and also stars cameo appearances from PGA Tour players KJ Choi, Rich Beem, Stewart Cink, and Rickie Fowler. The film also stars Academy Award-winner Melissa Leo and Deborah Ann Woll.
Resources for pastors and ministry leaders can be found here.