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Life Lessons from Golf

by: Catherine Harbin

I recently had the incredible opportunity of watching my oldest grandson, Zach, play in his first ever amateur golf tournament. The tournament was in Phoenix, Arizona, and the field was loaded with mainly current college golfers as well as men at every age level. On the first day of the three day tournament one of the players in his group was a 39 year old from California, and his 70 year old dad who there to support him. He was “chasing his dream” of maybe making it someday on the Senior Circuit. He has a long way to go, but good for him that he is even giving it a shot! They had a great time on the day my grandson played with him.

Here are some of the takeaways I had as a spectator and how the game of golf relates to life:

Boundaries - Golf courses have boundaries. If a ball is hit outside of the boundary, then you either have to take a risk and hit where it lands (if you can find it), or take a penalty stroke. Either choice you make can cost you a stroke, and the decision you make IN THE MOMENT can change the outcome. For me boundaries have been a struggle, and one of my goals this year is to learn better boundaries, but more importantly, speak up and listen to myself and not others.

Risky Choices - When you hit a risky shot, it is how you recover from it that really makes a difference. On the third day, there was a college player that was at -3 for the day. He had 4 holes left. On a par 4, he decided to go for the green which was a risky choice. I was watching with his mom. She said, “what a terrible decision.” His first shot was in the sand and from there he ended with a double bogey. He threw his golf club and never recovered from the decision he made. Was it a bad choice, or did he allow that ONE choice HE MADE to end the rest of what was a great round of golf for him? As in life, we take risk. You may risk and you may fail, but do you learn from it or are you afraid to risk again? Do you let that risk define you or make you stronger?

Mental Toughness - On the second day of play, my grandson had a really bad hole. He 4 putted after missing a putt for birdie. I knew the next few holes would be crucial in the rest of his game that day. He parred the next two and birdied the third one, and you could tell in his body language that his mental attitude had kept him in the game. I was quite emotional as I watched him and thinking about how golf is a metaphor for life. How do I recover from the consequences of my actions? Do I put it behind me and move forward with a stronger mental toughness, or do I let it linger and carry it with me?

Patience - Golf is a game of patience! The average round of golf is 4 hours and 17 minutes. For three straight days, we started at 9 am and finished around 3 pm with no breaks. Golf tournaments don’t break for lunch :) My daughter and I walked 20,000 steps each day and approximately 8 miles a day. The golfers were allowed to use golf carts but my grandson elected to walk. All you can do is wait, and in those many moments of waiting, the beauty of my surroundings and the silence around me was very serene and peaceful. Instead of being impatient (knowing there was nothing I could do about it), I just sat in the silence and the surrounding beauty and appreciated being in the present moment.

Courtesy - When a golf ball goes astray (and especially out of bounds), all the other golfers try to help find the lost ball. They wait their turn to hit, and the furthest from the hole generally goes first. They wait until everyone is finished before they leave the hole. Common courtesy might not be so common anymore, and I will stop and think the next time a simple act of courtesy is in front of me.

What a once in a lifetime experience for me to see this amazing grandson of mine follow his dream and get to be on this journey with him. How grateful I am to not only watch him but to also learn life lessons and what a great way to start 2022!

Zach sinking a birdie putt (pictured below)

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