The thing I have always loved about the game of golf is that its principles extend way beyond the course or the country club.
America took the game and made it “exclusive” by creating the country club atmosphere, the polo brand, and high priced courseside houses, but I think the game has always been about learning life’s lessons. There is nothing exclusive about that at all. We all can learn something from the game.
It’s the only contest where you get to police yourself. Nobody to argue with, in or out, it’s your call. People say you play golf the way you live your life and I think that’s pretty accurate.
For me, I play golf with a love for the competition but have to fight the urge to cut corners and stay focused on each individual shot. When I get caught up in the bigger picture, like my score, I struggle and normally implode. I can be easily distracted and make mistakes if I start to play too quickly.
My behavior in life is very similar.
So when I had surgery on my shoulder and I thought my golf career was over, I suddenly felt like I had lost something that had been a part of me since I was 11 years old.
I taught myself how to play the game by sneaking onto the Andover Country Club course at dusk on summer nights when nobody was out playing it. My friend Mike and I would get 3 or 4 holes in and then we’d putt until we couldn’t see our hands in front of our faces.
As the summer grew on, we would get braver and braver as to how early we’d go out to play. By the end of the season, we would be nuts enough to sneak between groups and play nearly a full 9 holes. Needless to say, we got chased off the course more than once.
Golf has taught me another life lesson just recently however, as I’m back to playing the game again. 18 months removed from surgery, I simply cannot swing the club as hard as I used to be able to and it’s difficult to accept that fact. I was the guy who could step up to the tee and drive the ball 300 yards straight down the middle.
I thought about this new lesson as I drove from the course this morning after shooting a 41 on a Par 35 for nine holes.
Driving the ball is a guy’s ego in full affect, a dick-measuring contest that we don’t really talk about much but it’s the reason why Drivers are $300 and a putter is $100. I’m a decent golfer but the one thing I could do was hit the ball a long ways. It was fun to see the reaction of people when I hit a drive. I’m not that big of a guy but I could really get into a golf ball.
Surgery has robbed me of the ability to swing hard and go after the ball with the force I used to uncork. I was angry for a while until I learned to accept my limitations and play within myself. I have to hit a 4 iron from 190 yards now.
Smooth swing. Slow back, controlled on impact. Proper finish.
The result – I’m probably a better golfer now than I was before the surgery and I’m not as wild off the tee as I was before. I’m not swinging “for the fences” if you will and instead just trying to put the ball where it needs to be put.
The lesson – learn what you can do well and do it to the best of your ability. Don’t worry about the showmanship and ego side of things, as all they will do is get you hurt. Be smart about yourself and know what you are capable of doing.
It’s not the beginning that matters, it’s the end result. Golf, once again, teaching tools that can help you in life.