23 Things Golf Taught Me About Life and Leadership

Everyone who plays or follows sports has their view of which is the best. Of course, such notions are relative — there is no definitive or objective answer. That said, I think golf is the most applicable game to life. To illustrate, I am using today’s post to share what I have learned from golf over the last ten years. 

Before sharing the list, let me elaborate a little on why I have focused on the past ten years. As I have shared in other posts, I came close to walking away from the game of golf in my twenties. The love I had for the game came mainly from the fruits of it, which was the success I experienced as a high school golfer. When the success went away, and my scores increased, I began questioning why I even played the game in the first place. 

Here’s what I learned. 

  1. A performance based on results does not lead to peace of mind.
  2. Expectations are deadly. Just hit the next shot! 
  3. Doing enough will never be enough in golf or life. 
  4. More practice does not guarantee lower scores, but less practice guarantees higher scores. 
  5. Hurry leads to bad decisions, poor play, and less joy.
  6. The embarrassing shot you just hit was hardly noticed by the other golfers who are fixated on their next shot!   
  7. Your score is only one indicator (and often a poor one) of how well you played on a given day. 
  8. Beauty is only seen when you look for it, and it is everywhere on a golf course.  
  9. Golf is a game of recovery, not perfection.
  10. The game is best played, not analyzed.
  11. A conservative strategy, coupled with an aggressive swing, often produces the best results. 
  12. One swing thought is almost always one too many. 
  13. Learn the names of your playing partners, and cheer them on. Your battle is with the course and your soul, not with them. 
  14. What you think about, see, and believe about yourself affects your score more than your technique. 
  15. Great golf is almost always boring: keep the ball in play, hit toward the middle of the green (not at the pin), and two-putt. Repeat. 
  16. During a great round, you must contend with the inner belief that you deserve to keep playing well. More rounds have been sabotaged by insecurity than “choking.” 
  17. There might be nothing more satisfying in life than spraying a ball into the trees, humbly chipping it out to the fairway, and getting up and down from 100 yards to save par. 
  18. There might be nothing more tempting in life than trying to thread the ball through 20 trees and onto the green. I have made more double bogeys doing this than I care to admit, but the handful of birdies I have made have been awesome! 
  19. Putting is 101% mental and belief. My putting turned around when I started believing this.
  20. Negative self-talk does not end on the 18th hole. Learn to do away with it before you begin the round. 
  21. A certain amount of luck is needed to make a hole in one. But there is a certain amount of skill required to hit it close. 
  22. Golf was never meant to be played riding in a cart. Walking helps one see the landscape, hear their thoughts, and feel the life of the course. I learn this lesson repeatedly as most of my rounds are in a cart. 
  23. And regardless of what you shot today, there is always tomorrow. At least for now. 

There is no game like the game of golf. I say this as it has helped me learn more about myself than any other sport I have participated in. To the achiever, it is the most insidious game ever created. To the humble, however, it is a gift. A gift that teaches one that their self-worth will never be found in any game, pursuit, or result. 

And this last lesson might be golf’s greatest. Golf taught me that the only way I would find peace with it, as crazy as this might sound for some, was to look elsewhere. For me, it was discovering that Jesus really loved me — the broken, imperfect me, with secrets I would not want to print here and insecurities I could list for days on end — that freed me from the need to be good at golf, great at work, and the world’s best (even though I am one of the most flawed) husband/dad. 

Every time I am tempted to think I am turning into “someone” or that I am important, I am reminded to go tee up. 

A few shots in, and I am quickly humbled once again. 

Golf, it turns out, opens your soul to a lot more than just golf.