Life Lessons I Am Learning From Golf

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I have been a fan of sports since my high school days, watching my boyfriend play Football and Basketball.  I was always his biggest cheerleader.  I loved the thrill of the game, the roar of the crowds, the junk food, the school dances after the games-all of it!  But I never considered myself athletic enough to try a sport on my own.  I was programmed to automatically think I would not be “good enough”.

Now that I have reached “a certain age”, I find that trying new things keeps me fresh, learning, growing.  Golf is a lifetime sport, so starting a bit late is not a disadvantage.  With that in mind, I decided to try learning to play the game.  What could be so difficult about hitting a ball into a hole in as few strokes as possible?  Sure, I’ve played mini golf, and have been mildly successful at it, so I just knew this would be the sport for me.  With that in mind, I grabbed my best friend, and my shiny new golf clubs and found a pro to teach us the nuances of the game.

I was immediately humbled.  This is a game of strategy, more than a game of competition.  Unless you are playing in a tournament, you are playing against yourself, improving on your last game.  It takes muscle memory from repeated practice.  It has a long history of being a gentlemen’ s game (gentlewomen’s game?), with it’s own set of rules for etiquette, dress and demeanor.  (I actually love these rules).  Nobody takes golf lightly, and I have come to a new respect for the game and the people who play.

Arnold Palmer once said that “Success in golf depends less on strength of body than upon strength of mind and character.”  Now, that is a game that I can really wrap my brain around.  It takes integrity to play a good game of golf.  Here are some of the things I have learned so far, that also apply to success in life:

It is good to be able to laugh at yourself:  It has taken me years to get to a point in life where I can finally laugh at myself.  I now fully enjoy that I am pretty hilarious!  Laughter is freeing.  It increases endorphins.  It just makes you feel darn good.  My instructor gave me kudos for not using cuss words, when I see the results of my efforts.  I find that you will get a lot farther in life with a sense of humor, than always being the one who is angry or in a bad mood.  In life, just as in golf, there will always be room for improvement.  You do not enter either game as a pro.

The most important shot in golf is the next one:  Just like in life, you need to keep moving forward because that is the direction that you are going.  You are probably the only one who will remember that last shot, anyway.

Mistakes are part of the game.  It is how well you recover from them, that is the mark of a great player:  There is an old Zen saying, “Fall down seven times, stand up eight!”  Life is not easy, and we all make bad choices from time to time.  It is in the learning from bad choices that our whole life is shaped.

Hazards happen:  There are many times in life that we will find ourselves knee-deep in sand or water.  We may not even understand how we got there.  It is good to remember the sound golf advice of taking the shot that you can make rather than the one that you think you can make.  Sometimes it takes small, persistent steps to reach our goals.  Missing a step can often get us in the rough.

“It is still your turn!”:  Nobody playing a game of golf wants to hear these words because they mean that your ball is the furthest from the hole.  In life, wouldn’t it be great to be given another turn as the underdog?  Let’s try to be more generous in giving people another chance.

It is all about the follow-through:  If you do anything in life only half way, you will never get to your goal.

Don’t cast your shade on someone else’s putting path:  Each of us has our own life journey, and we must be allowed to walk our path in our own way, learning from our individual choices.  There is enough sun for everyone’s path.  If you are trying to control anyone other than yourself, you are casting shade on their game, and not improving your own.  You are wasting everyone’s time.  Nobody appreciates being controlled.

Show up early, be dressed properly for the game, be warmed up, and be present at the first tee on time:  Integrity is all about being present, prepared and showing respect for yourself and for others.  Don’t expect anyone to wait for you, or you will find yourself alone at the starting line.

We all get the dreaded “yips”:  Nervous energy will defeat even the greatest golfer.  Watch the pros.  They all have a routine that helps them relax before hitting a ball.  Find a way to relax when you need to perform at your best.  Be prepared.  Clear your mind.  Relax your muscles.  Focus.  Your life game will improve if you do these things.

Nobody appreciates someone asking for a Mulligan, or someone who cannot properly record his actual score:  You may be new at the game, but asking for freebies or not being accountable for each stroke that you take in life, will not make you many friends.  Nobody will want to play with you again.

Don’t give advice during the game:  This is a classic reason why significant others should probably not play golf together.  We might be too inclined to tell the other person what they are doing wrong.  In relationship, this never works.  All fingers should point to self, and all comments begin with the word “I” and never with the word “You”.  Meet up at the 19th hole.  It is enough that you enjoy the same game.  Share your experiences, then go home feeling great about each other.

Don’t talk business until at least the third hole:  Life is all about relationships.  If you get down to business before you know enough about a person, you set your relationship up for failure.  Take time to learn more, before you invest.  It may just save you a lot of heartache later.

The 19th Hole is for celebration:  We should all celebrate our life game whenever we can.  It takes effort and skill to play the game well.  When stumbling blocks become stepping stones, it is time to toast ourselves.

Here’s to the game of golf!  I have begun a love affair that will last forever.

“No matter how good you get, you can always get better,

and that’s the exciting part!”

Tiger Woods

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