It has been widely accepted that golf can serve as a tremendous way to learn valuable life skills. The course of life hands out successes and challenges which correlate to those experienced on the golf course.
It was my father, Gary, who took the time to teach me this wonderful game. When I look back on my childhood I have tremendous memories on the golf course with my Dad - memories that I will cherish all my life - but now that I’m older, they are the lessons my father taught me through golf that I am equally grateful for. They are lessons which have helped shape my character, and they are lessons that I will seek to teach my own children as I enjoy building memories with them on the golf course.
Below are a list of ten lessons that I have learned from my Dad. They are in no particular order, and I’m sure there are some that he wouldn’t realize he taught me. Some of them I learned from seeing the man of integrity he was on the golf course, and the lessons were qualified by the fact that such character always carried through to his everyday life.
As you read, I am confident that you will recognize lessons which you yourself have learned through the game, and possibly some new ones worth reflecting upon.
10. Don’t compromise - Many feel that in order to be your best you not only have to be confident, you must be cocky. Dad always taught me that you don’t have to compromise your values and beliefs in order to be successful. It is possible to be confident, but at the same time respectful. Doing so will earn the respect of your peers, and will carry you further than any respect you may possibly earn from being good at something due to your cockiness.
9. Be nice, but don’t be soft - While my father taught me to respect others, he also taught me the importance of ensuring that the respect never made me soft against an opponent. I still remember the firm scolding he gave me when I told him I played a match against a competitor whose parents were following us around the course. I deserved the scolding when I confessed that I was feeling badly when I was beating him in front of his family. Dad helped me realize that no matter who you are competing against, and no matter what the circumstance of the competition, respect your opponent, but seek to beat them in the process. Failing to do so is failing to respect yourself.
8. If you’re going to do it, do it well - My father made sure to stress the importance that golf was a game to be enjoyed, but he also taught me that if I was going to pursue the game in any manner, then it should be done with an intense desire to be the best that I could be. It’s the same in life - anything worth doing, is worth doing well. Adopting this mentality builds character, and helps pave the way to success.
7. Don’t act like a fool - I was a quick-tempered, eleven-year-old learning the game when I decided to blame my five iron for the poor shot I had just made. With the club standing erect out of the ground due to the penetrating strike I had just unleashed on the earth I was standing on, my father looked me in the eye and in a stern voice he told me, “You aren’t nearly good enough to act that way”. Often times in life we are slow to think, quick to speak, and quick to become angry. As a result we look foolish. I have learned that it is much more wise to be “quick to think, slow to speak, and slow to become angry”.
6. Be joyful - I don’t think my father has every played a round of golf that he didn’t enjoy. Dwell on that for a moment. We are talking about one of the most frustrating games ever to exist, and yet, my Dad has always found a way to enjoy himself. It is through his model that I have come to a greater understanding of the value of choosing to find reasons to be joyful in all circumstances. Every circumstance is better when you choose joy.
5. Be thankful - Finding joy in each circumstance is made easier when you identify what you can be thankful for in those circumstances. Dad always made me realize how fortunate we were to have the means to be able to play the game of golf. “We have a lot to be thankful for,” he would remind me. “We are really blessed.” It can be so easy to focus on what we don’t have, when the reality is we already have so much. This attitude is one which has not only served to help me develop a healthier outlook on life, but it has also assisted in getting myself in a positive frame of mind when competing on the golf course.
4. Speak love, but more importantly, show love - Any time we ever played a round together, Dad was always encouraging me, always supporting me, always making sure I knew that, for him, the best part of any round was the fact that we were spending time together. His words and actions have always made it very clear to me that I have a Dad that loves me, and this has taught me a very valuable lesson: Anyone can say “I love you”, but that love is confirmed when it is displayed through action. It is important to tell your loved ones how much they are loved, but it is equally important to show them through your deeds.
3. Try your best, accept what happens - Golf is a game with many ups and downs. As much as we may try, we cannot control the outcome of every shot or round we play. The only thing we can control is our preparation and overall effort. So it is with life. Dad taught me that in every circumstance in life, to “try your best as if everything depends on you, but then live accepting the fact that it really doesn’t”. We can only control our attitudes - ensuring that we look for the positives in every circumstance. Life is hard and full of failures, and so it is wise to adopt such a mindset.
2. Etiquette matters - If you don’t follow the proper etiquette on the course, you won’t be respected as a golfer. In life, the way you choose to act will have either positive or negative consequences. While you should never worry about pleasing everybody, developing a positive reputation should matter to you, and that begins by recognizing that it is your actions which develop your reputation. My father has used golf etiquette to teach me to give thought to where I am and what I am doing, so that I can seek to predict the outcome of the actions I choose.
1. Be selfless - Listen to how my father “celebrated” his 50th birthday. He woke up in a small, cramped, West Virginia hotel room, in a bed which likely did not suit his 6 foot 5 inch frame. He then walked 18 holes as a spectator at a collegiate tournament round I was playing in. The round was long, approximately 5 ½ hours, and I did not manage to perform in a memorable way. As soon as the round was over, we hopped on a bus to begin the 7 hour trip back to my college, with the only stop being to grab a quick fast-food “birthday” meal (no cake or candles were included). When we arrived back on campus, he was welcomed to a dorm room, only to fall asleep on a mattress that felt like garbage bags, and this time he definitely didn’t even come close to fitting. This is how my father celebrated his 50th birthday, and I believe him when he reminds me of how thankful he was to be able to spend his half-century celebration in such a manner. Dad seeks to put others before himself, and in doing so has taught me that it is truly better to give than to receive. We get so much more out of putting others before ourselves and serving them rather than seeking to be served.
About the Author
This article was written by Jonathan Carr (@jonathanwcarr) as part of our weekly 'Top 10' series. As a scratch golfer himself, Jonathan has a keen eye for what it takes to be successful on and off the golf course. His passion for golf is surpassed only by his passion for his faith and his family.
Read some of Jonathan's other articles here.