The Golfer and the King

Claude Mariottini
Emeritus Professor
of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

Joel Osteen, in his book Your Best Life Now (New York: Warner Faith, 2004), p. 11-12, tells the following story:

Years ago, a famous golfer was invited by the king of Saudi Arabia to play in a golf tournament. He accepted the invitation, and the king flew his private jet over to the United States to pick up the pro. They played golf for several days, and enjoyed a good time. As the golfer was getting on the plane to return to the United States, the king stopped him and said, “I want to give you a gift for coming all this way and making this time so special. Anything you want. What could I get you?”

Ever the gentleman, the golfer replied, “Oh, please; don’t get me anything. You’ve been a gracious host. I’ve had a wonderful time. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

The king was adamant. He said, “No, I insist on giving you something so you will always remember your journey to our country.”

When the golfer realized that the king was resolute, he said, “Okay, fine. I collect golf clubs. Why don’t you give me a golf club?”

He boarded the plane, and on his flight back home, he couldn’t help wondering what kind of golf club the king might give him. He imagined that it might be a solid gold putter with his name engraved on it. Or maybe it would be a sand wedge studded with diamonds and jewels. After all, this would be a gift from the oil-rich king of Saudi Arabia.

When the golfer got home, he watched the mail and the delivery services every day, to see if his golf club had come yet. Finally, several weeks later, he received a certified letter from the king of Saudi Arabia. The U.S. professional thought that rather strange. Where’s my golf club? he wondered. He opened the envelope, and to his surprise, inside he discovered a deed to a five-hundred-acre golf course in America.

Sometimes kings think differently than you and I think. And friend, we serve the King of kings. We serve the Most High God, and His dream for your life is so much bigger and better than you can even imagine. It’s time to enlarge your vision!

I have never heard this story and wonder whether the story is true. Joel Osteen preaches a gospel of prosperity. In his book, he says that God wants to show Christians his special favor. God’s special favor is manifested in his blessings: God wants to increase what we have; he wants to give us more. The story above is an example of what God can do.

But what if the story is not true? What if this pro never received the deed for a golf course and the King of Saudi Arabia never gave such a gift?

After I read this story, I stopped reading the book. I want to find out whether the story is true, for if the story is false, then why bother reading the rest of the book.

I am asking your help. Do you know whether this story is true? Do you know who this golfer was? If you have any idea about the veracity of this story, please let me know.


This story seems to be an urban legend. Read an update to this story by clicking here.

Claude Mariottini
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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13 Responses to The Golfer and the King

  1. Doug McHone says:

    I looked it up on Snopes, and while that website doesn’t distinctly reject the story, it gives the reader plenty of reason to doubt its veracity. Urban legents that omit verifiable facts, such as names of either the golfer or the king, are more likely than not dubious


  2. James Pate says:

    I’m not sure if that particular story is true, but Joel does tell stories on the basis of the experiences of himself, his family, and those he loves. I think testimonies are important.


  3. Doug,

    Thank you this information. I checked Snopes and it seems that a similar story has been circulating since 1949. I guess that a good story can be used as a good illustration but I believe that Osteen should had told his readers that the story was only an illustration.Again, thank you for your help.

    Claude Mariottini


  4. James,

    Thank you for your comment. Doug, who also made a comment on this post, checked Snopes and he concluded that this story is an urban legend. Read my update on this story.

    Claude Mariottini


  5. Rafael says:

    Once again, Joel Osteen’s utter failure to uphold Christian truth in an age of apostasy only further supports what is all too clear about his teaching: it is spiritually bankrupt.Here is a link to articles our ministry has created on Osteen’s heretical compromise that is anointed as “Christianity” today.


  6. Rafael says:

    Once again, Joel Osteen’s utter failure to uphold Christian truth in an age of apostasy only further supports what is all too clear about his teaching: it is spiritually bankrupt.Here is a link to articles our ministry has created on Osteen’s heretical compromise that is anointed as “Christianity” today.


  7. Rafael,

    Thank you for your comment. I apologize for the delay in answering your comment; I have been out of the office for the holidays.It is sad that many people are willing to accept the message of the prosperity gospel without looking at the implication of what it teaches. Most people who accept the message these preachers preach are people who know little about the true message of the Bible.Thank you for the link about your ministry.

    Claude Mariottini


  8. Jon says:

    I read the book and it’s a GREAT one. I don’t think Joel claimed it to be true, so, it is for illustration purposes only.


  9. Jon,

    Thank you for visiting my blog. I am glad that you enjoyed Joel’s book. Did you know that Joel’s father graduated from Northern Baptist Seminary many years ago?Maybe our school may have had a little influence (and let me say, very little indeed) contribution to Joel’s success.

    Claude Mariottini


  10. Anonymous says:

    This is a story, a comparison of God's greatness. The point is missed when it's stated that Joel Osteen is "spiritually bankrupt". Romans 14:1 says,Accecpt him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. After all as the Bible teaches, no one knows a man's heart except himself and God. As Christians, we ourselves should be studying the bible, so that we can know the "truth". I like this story. I have told this story and left out details (but now that I found it on the web, I will get it right). Inspite of this, the message was understood. It has ministered, encouraged, reminded, and has taught THAT God's way of thinking is not our way. This story is an example of how we limit what He has to offer us and I am not talking just about earthly things. He is our Father, He loves, He has adopted us, He wants & offers us nothing but the best, His best.


    Janie S.


  11. Janie,

    There is no doubt that it is a beautiful story. However, if in a sermon we say that the story is true, then we are deceiving our people.There are many ways to illustrate God's goodness. If this story is told as a parable or as an anecdote, it is fine to use it, but we cannot leave the impression in the minds of people that the story is true, because it is not.Thank you for visiting my blog.

    Claude Mariottini


  12. Anonymous says:

    Dr. Mariottini,

    I apologize for not knowing that it was presented as a true story. When I did share this story, I presented it as fictional story. Again, I apologize.I discovered your site because of this "story" so hey, something good has come out of this situation and I look forward to learning more about your ministry.

    In His Mighty Hands,



  13. Pingback: Think Bigger | daybydaydestiny

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