It has been almost 10 years since I took up the game of golf. I can say I’m no closer to finding the secret of the game, and I’m still just as obsessed. Before I picked up the game, the idea of watching golf on TV was about the same as getting a root canal. Now, I find myself riveted to the TV as I watch every shot. Golf has given me focus.
As I reflect on my years on the golf course and driving range, I understand there are lessons from golf that can be applied to life. The first lesson in golf that applies to life is that even though we know what to do and how to do it, it is still very easy to screw it up. Golf and life are both a collection of relatively simple decisions that can result in incredible contentment or unimagined sorrow. Both life and golf require a person to be flexible with any outcome – and if a person has prepared for the contingency – they can usually find a way out of any hazard. Golf and life require incredible patience to get it right, with a certain amount of luck.
Golf and life also require a person to take responsibility for their actions. No one is preventing you from doing your best – only you. Golf and life also share the fact that there are thousands of sources of information to tell you how to do it most effectively and efficiently. Golf and life both require the participant to keep their own score – you can lie to others – but you cannot lie to yourself. Others will notice if you cheat – and judge you for it. This is true in life and golf.
In life and golf, we see players and people making the same mistakes over and over. Some golfers, and people, not only keep making the same mistakes over and over, but they actually practice making those mistakes. You see this with people digging deeper into debt, or golfers never practicing how to get out of the sand. They just go to the range and hit driver over and over, or spend using plastic, because that’s fun – and the alternative is not.
Both in golf and life, it’s hard to step back and consider what is going on. Most bad golf games – and bad life decisions – usually result from going from one bad decision to another thinking they are making things better. In truth, they are actually making things worse. A rule in golf that applies to life is that we only improve in golf when we surround ourselves with players that are better than we are and learn from their game. The best way to stay stagnant in golf is to play with the same skill level players all the time. The same is true in life, to improve we must seek out those that have something to teach us.
Picking golf partners is a lot like picking life partners. That person should have something to teach you – and should complement your game. We all know the person who keeps picking the wrong kind of partner for a relationship. Every time it ends in the same disaster, yet they go back to do it again, over and over. All golfers have someone who is a disaster to their game, like kryptonite to Superman, but we still play with them because they believe its them, and not the schlep rock who ruins their game.
Golf and life share another common trait; it’s easier to see the mistakes that other people are making than it is to see the ones that you are making. As in life and in golf, the people with the most advice to give are usually the ones who should be quiet, both on and off the course. I’d be rich if I had a nickel for the number of times a 36-handicapper (that is a bad golfer for those reading this and who don’t play golf) has offered me an on-course tip. The same is true when I see someone who is drowning in debt and offering me financial advice. In the end, the fact remains, in both golf and life, mistakes are made on a regular basis. From the top pros on the tour to the lowliest hacker on the links, no one escapes; from the smartest person we know, to the dumbest, no one is immune.
Finally, what I took away from golf is: practice to get better, do your best, be honest, take your medicine when you make mistakes, have fun, and don’t take yourself too seriously. That’s good life advice as well.