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“Sudden success in golf is like the sudden acquisition of wealth. It is apt to unsettle and deteriorate the character.” – P. G. Wodehouse

Golf has been good for me. Along with being a relaxing walk in the countryside, this ancient game has given me things I never picked up in school.

The most obvious was how there’s only one set of rules, and they apply to everyone. Rich and poor, men and women, left handed and right, everyone plays from the same book. If only that philosophy carried off the green and into the world.

Golf teaches us to:

Get in the Game. Our locker room was always clean and tidy, thanks to my friend, Soul. One cold, wet Saturday, he commented on my dedication. Playing only on warm sunny days would rob me of the lessons I’d learn in the rain, Soul said. He taught me how the non-sunny lessons in my life always count double.

There are ancient eyes behind every tree.

Practice. Ismail, a Muslim from Morocco teaching Scotch-Irish Christians the ancient game helped reinforce this idea. We would stand on the range as I hit balls. We might talk about golf or our families or about how we both worshipped the same God. Then Ismail would say, “One more time.” That’s when I learned how nothing is easy until It becomes second nature. Practice was my best teacher.

Take Perfect Aim. This lesson came on holy ground at golf’s birthplace. The Old Course in Saint Andrews requires a caddy (at least for non-members) and they’re needed for good reason. Most of the shots are blind unless you were raised on these links. Machar would point to a distant tower or puffy cloud, saying, “Thar she be lad, take perfect aim lest ye go amiss.” Yes Machar, I’m still aiming for the target.

Just give it a whack. This came from the same old Scot. I was taking too long in the tee box, stalling by checking my grip and adjusting my stance. “Just give it a whack!” was his wisdom. Ready, aim, fire – and be ye quick about it. This lesson stuck. Give it a whack, then deal with the next shot – next.

Eventually in this game, like in life, we will all celebrate, but for some it may take a few more whacks. On a different course, with a different caddy, I learned how the first try won’t always finish the job.

The location was Muirfield. They’ve been playing golf there since 1744. Those guys were making tee-times 30 years before we went to our tea party in Boston.

The hole was long, yet this time I could see my target. I asked my caddy if he thought I could get there with my 6-iron.

“Eventually,” was the old Scot’s simple one word reply. I switched to a longer club but did I learn my lesson?

Success can happen, but rarely instantly, and more often eventually.

In what was a different time and place, I was a golfer. My lessons didn’t come from scoldings, ad nauseam reciting, red marked-up papers, or tall corner stools. Instead, they came from experienced guides and long hours of practice in beautiful settings near and abroad. Golf may be just a game but it can lead to self-development and that will always be the best kind.

What choices do you make in how you learn? Do you like correction, or is self-development better for you?

How can watching others be a good teacher?

How do you explain golf’s popularity over the years? Will the game remain popular, or decline? Do you think golf’s best days are ahead or behind? Why?

As always, the conversation starts here.

“In the ordinary choices of every day we begin to change the direction of our lives.” – Eknath Easwaran

Epilogue

Now, let’s take a break to enjoy the trailer from one of my all-time favorite movies. Ron Shelton’s cult classic, Tin Cup, contains all the lessons needed for a lifetime.

Do you know the film?