9 Life Lessons from the Golf Course – Part 3

Posted: August 2, 2011 in Growth, Hobbies
Tags: , ,

(See parts one and two here.) The previous six lessons have played out; now let’s tee off on the seventh on our way back to the clubhouse.

Sometimes things just go wrong (but it won’t keep going wrong)

I’m not a golf pro, and I don’t watch golf on television where the analysis is constant and often very technical. So sometimes a shot will head in a completely unexpected direction. I’ll watch my ball travel out of bounds and stand there gawking, baffled as to why it happened.

When you know what you did wrong, it’s a simple matter to begin to correct it. But where do you start if you’re clueless about your mistake? It’s important not to let that kind of thing derail us. I’ve found that if the problem is that subtle, it’s often just a fluke. It probably won’t happen again. Just drop another ball and swing away. This is even more important in life off the golf course.

Sometimes things keep going wrong

In part one, I talked about the “death spiral implosion” that can occur when one bad shot follows another. If you combine this phenomenon with not knowing what went wrong, it can be enough to make you want to quit altogether.

My approach for times I don’t have a specific “fix” to apply to a recurring problem is to become unconventional. In the movie “Bull Durham”, Susan Sarandon’s character has to get the pitcher’s mind off his streak of wild pitches. She makes the pitcher (played by Tim Robins’s) don a garter belt under his uniform, and he becomes so distracted that he stops worrying about wild pitches and begins firing the ball right down the middle.

While I don’t recommend stowing garters in your golf bag, any unconventional play can work. Bet your caddie that you can hit the next shot 50 yards using just your putter. Keep a sleeve of pink golf balls in your bag and tell the guys, “I’ll use these, since I can’t seem to get past the ladies’ tees anyway.” Tee up the next shot barefoot. Once the tension of your “losing streak” is broken, your “A” game might just return.

Good times are better with a friend

If you’ve ever tried to play a round of golf by yourself, you’ll know there are a several things that make this a very different experience. Your mind wanders; you tend to rush to the finish (and each shot, as well); the temptation to take mulligans and do-overs becomes intense; and it’s somehow just not enough that you’re outdoors enjoying beautiful weather in a beautiful setting.

In fact, solo golfers are so rare that their presence is disconcerting – even alarming – to other players. Inevitably every twosome or threesome they see will invite the soloist to join their group. It’s as if they consider it offensive to be alone there, or some evidence of sociopathic behavior. Or maybe it’s just that the groups understand what’s being missed, and compassion is the thing that moves them towards an invite.

Humans are social creatures, and almost everything that brings humans happiness has a social element to it. It’s just more fun sharing the fun with a friend, and the friend in turn makes the experience more remarkable and enjoyable.

The 19th hole: Conclusions

Like life, the game of golf has elements of work, play, integrity, meditation, problem-solving, philosophy and friendship. Some days you struggle, some days you’re golden, some days you get rained on. If you pay attention, you can get a lot out of it. And usually there’s a beer or two involved.

If I can derive so much philosophical insight from just one round of golf, how much better would the world be if everyone spent some time on the course every week?

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