Growing With The Game

July 14, 2016

Few “leisure” activities are as volatile and polarizing as the game of golf. It can turn from joyous to embarrassing and infuriating in the blink of an eye, even for the most patient and loyal participants. Recently, though, it’s been a lopsided affair, with a series of events hindering the game’s prospects for future growth.

Golf is returning to the Olympics this summer for the first time since 1904 — but its biggest names have dropped out one after one, with the latest defiantly saying that he won’t even watch, instead choosing to focus on other events – “the stuff that matters.”

In the same breath, there was a petulant refusal to help “grow the game” as it continues to face significant decline.

Far more damaging than any one player’s attitude, however, has been the game’s collective, old-fashioned snobbery as it resists change and subjectively enforces its rules by the letter of the law. Just last month, golf’s governing body threatened to ruin the U.S. Open – its own signature event – by assessing a preposterous penalty stroke to the eventual champion in a move that spurred social media uproar among players:

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Yet despite all the recent harm, few “leisure” activities continue to do more good in teaching one a thing or two about him- or herself than golf. It’s not always “fun,” but the lessons learned extend far beyond the game:

  • Focus. Single-task focus, that is, 4.5 hours at a time – enough to test even the most steady of attention spans. You’ll learn the importance of tuning out distractions and breaking down big, daunting tasks into the smallest component parts, like each and every shot. It’s a process.
  • The power of self-talk. It’s remarkable how much talking yourself into a shot can make a difference, good or bad. The mind is a powerful tool, and positive thinking rules. See the ball, be the ball.
  • The power of response. Sometimes positive thinking is not quite enough. Challenges arise, misfortune strikes, and you’re left with a choice: dwell on the last or move on to the next.
  • Creativity. There’s no one right way to play the game. It takes imagination. As a great golf mind once said, “the ball is your paint, the club is your brush and the course is your canvas.”
  • Honesty. There’s no such thing as a “gimme,” and sometimes you miss when no one’s around to see it. It’s still a miss, it’s still a stroke, and it still counts.
  • Exercising caution. And then, sometimes, throwing it to the wind. You’ve got to know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em.

Today, while golf’s oldest and most esteemed tournament gets underway at The Open, the game will be fixed on bettering itself and its players for tomorrow.

Get out and play, you’ll be better off for it.