There are so many reasons that I love the game of golf. Through a lifetime of trying to play at my very best and teach others this tremendous game, I have found that it runs such a close parallel to many facets of life. 

During my battle with cancer and putting up with the many side effects that came along with chemo and radiation, I learned to adapt to adversity and accept the changes in me quickly. I learned to do so through the game of golf.

Recently, some of you might have sent children off to college or have some who recently graduated and set out on lives of their own. As to be expected, most parents might have some fear and anxiety about this and worry if they’ve prepared their children well enough for what they might face in life. 

  • Did you teach them to be responsible enough to wake up early, on their own, and be well prepared for class or work? 
  • Did you teach them or set the example to handle their priorities in order?
  • Did you teach them to know the difference between right and wrong? 
  • Did you teach them good manners and social skills? 
  • Did you teach them to set goals? 
  • Did you teach them how to tend to their personal things, look after their belongings and not infringe on others’ things? 
  • Did you teach them that, in life, they might not get every job, honor or award they had hoped for, but that shouldn’t stop them from trying hard and having a strong work ethic?

How does the above relate to a round of golf?

Before a round of golf, players should arrive at the golf course early enough to do a thorough warm up. It may have been a trying day at the office or at home, but get in the zone by stretching, warming up on the practice tee, hitting a few chip shots to acquire feel and hitting a few putts to learn the speed of the green for the day. Be prepared.

As golfers reach any shot on the golf course, they evaluate the distance, wind, elevation, lie of the ball, obstacles, the distance the ball is expected to fly; and then, roll, how deep in the green is the flagstick, etc. It’s important to handle priorities.

A golf ball has rolled just slightly outside of the white line that signifies the boundary of the golf course. The playing partners are all on the other side of the fairway. As that golfer, do you have the character to tell them that the golf ball is out of bounds? You will have to return to where you hit your last shot to play another with the penalty of stroke and distance. Or do you just play the ball and hope nobody noticed? Character and integrity are what golf and living an honest life are all about.

Etiquette is another huge factor in this sport. Along with character and integrity, it is why golf is referred to as a gentleman’s game. Stay still and quiet while others in the group are playing. Stand in the proper position while others prepare to make their shots. Be prepared to play when it is your turn, so you don’t hold up your group and groups behind you. Allow faster players and groups to play through on the course.

Not much could be as important as setting goals in your quest for improving. For example, you might consider setting a goal of working on putting over the next week or two with a mission to have fewer than 30 putts in your next round of golf – or hitting 10 out of the 14 fairways. It doesn’t matter what it is, but set a goal.

There is nothing worse than playing with people who are not prepared and don’t seem to have it all together. ‘Hey, can I borrow a tee?’ ‘I don’t have a ball marker.’ ‘I’ll be back. I left my sand wedge on the green three holes back.’ ‘I’ve run out of golf balls’ (yes, sadly, I’ve seen this happen – even in college golf competition). To be honest, I’ve run back to the tee for my own range finder before; however, being as prepared as possible is key to caring for personal belongings.

Nobody really enjoys playing golf with ‘Sad Sack’ (I’m wondering how many readers remember that comic book?). Golf rarely will hand out great bounces, so enjoy the times that it does. If you hit an errant shot and you get a bad bounce that puts you in a worse position, accept it. How we handle adversity is usually indicative of how we enjoy life and the game of golf. No one is going to go through life without a tragedy or two (or three). 

In golf, as hard as we may try, we still might get kicked in the teeth. Our attitudes in life and golf are usually going to determine how we bounce back, prepare for the next day or the next shot and how we go about it. A good attitude is not easily acquired, but by keeping life in perspective, people can improve their attitudes. This makes for a much more enjoyable life – and a much more enjoyable round of golf.

~ Dave Jennings is the men’s golf coach at Central Alabama Community College.