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Golf offers us limitless life lessons if we only pay attention


Today we’re going to talk about the relationship between playing golf and the lessons of life.  But first, let me be perfectly clear:  golf is a game; life is not a game. At least a dozen authors have written books having to do with winning “the game of life.” Life is not a game. Just ask the living Holocaust survivors whether they regard life as a game.

            Back to golf. If we pay attention closely, golf can provide myriad life lessons, while awareness of the complications of successful living can offer lessons which will strengthen your golf game. The possibilities, for both learning opportunities, are truly limitless.  In my personal library of about 800 golf books there are many dealing with golf and life, including “The Golfer’s Guide to the Meaning of Life” by Gary Player, and “Golf and Life” by Jack Nicklaus.  However, let me present my own thoughts regarding this question of lessons of golf and life.

            I think one of the most important aspect of sports, and golf in particular, is the matter of sportsmanship. (As far as the history of the Olympics go, I guess the Russians didn’t get the memo.) How does good sportsmanship in golf pertain to everything else you do?  Golf is a game of honor.  It’s important how you handle yourself and treat and respect our fellow competitors. You might be able to figure your own sportsmanship grade by whether other golfers relish the opportunity to play with you. Behavior counts in just about everything we do. Countless business executives, celebrities and politicians can attribute their failures on bad behavior.  A round of golf offers ample occasions for expressing fine sportsmanship.

            The most challenging difficulties we inevitably face, both in golf and in life, involves dealing with adversity. Personally, I had to handle major adversity after a nearly fatal falling accident 10 years ago.  I kept a positive attitude, and thanks to my wife, family and friends, I did not get down one bit.  Ever since I have maintained my single figure handicap.  During every round of golf we face bad breaks, crazy bounces and occasional “disasters.” The key is never give up!

            One of the principles of life as applied to golf is awareness and adjustment.  A lesson golf requires is an almost continual demand on our awareness of conditions and multiple other factors, along with the skill to adjust to multiple changes.  Shot for shot, hole for hole, good golf depends on being able to sense what is happening and make the necessary corrections. How many times have we failed to understand the wind, or miss-read the slopes and the hills, or gone brain-dead on the speed of the greens? Anyone who has a job they want to keep should internalize the idea of awareness and adjustment.  And a manager, supervisor, CEO or in any position of authority, even including being a parent, is wise to think awareness and adjustment.

            Life, like golf, seems to be a process.  Mostly, if one is not a trust-fund child, it is a matter of effort and work.  In my case, trying to make it as a corporate suit didn’t work out. Being a retail entrepreneur wasn’t satisfactory, so I reinvented myself, starting in 1986. In 1988 I came to NMSU to become a practicing clinical and sport psychologist.  I was fully committed to my new calling and my mission, and it was years of effort and work to see that my private plan was a good one.  Improving your golf game, as a senior may take reinventing yourself as a golfer.  It will take a vision, commitment, effort and work.

            There is no question that a fundamental part of playing personal satisfying golf is emotional stability.  It’s an interplay between thoughts and emotions. Science suggests that emotions (rage, elation, etc.) trump thinking. We all know that good golf relies on good nerves, and nerves rely on emotions. Success in business and life depends on stable emotions.  As a golfer, who has thought about golf, what have you learned about yourself?

Dr. Charlie Blanchard is a licensed psychologist specializing in sports and leadership. Contact him at docblanchard71@gmail.com.

Charlie Blanchard