You’ve likely heard someone repeat the old axiom “Golf teaches life lessons.” But what are those lessons? We often say the cliché’ without expanding on the teaching that will happen. We know that golf reveals character, but folks talking about life lessons say the game builds character, also. So, isn’t it better to learn our lessons early in order to make use of them rather than just see them revealed on the back nine of our lives?
The answer is yes, and golf is great for kids to learn life lessons while playing the game. Here are a handful of lessons from golf that you might want to see your child exhibit.
Perhaps the initial lessons new golfers encounter stem from the game’s rules. The rules are a big part of the game, and the fact that we are urged to police ourselves every round promotes a unique and worthwhile life lesson. No other sport requires self-governance and extensive knowledge of the rules—that’s the ref or umpire’s job, right? But look at how Patrick Reed’s recent breach of the rules has affected his standing in the game. Ignorance or defiance of the rules has consequences. Teaching young golfers the rules and asking them to call a penalty on themselves for infractions will go further in making them accountable for their actions in life than any grounding or timeout will ever do.
Each golf hole is a new puzzle to solve. Multiple factors must be considered—distance, direction, obstacles, hazards, turf and weather conditions—to arrive at the best course of action. One of the great gifts of golf over other sports is the requirement to create your shots as opposed to just reacting to the action around us. The opportunity to think through each shot, collect data, consider options, make a plan and execute it are such valuable and transferable skills. To grip and rip it may be fun (until the ball slices into the ravine) but investigating the thinking side of the game promotes skills we all hope our kids acquire.
The age-old discussion of team and individual sports is a legitimate discussion. Team sports offer obvious life lessons (teamwork, camaraderie, etc.) but the self-reliance to be gleaned from a round of golf when it is your child against the course is invaluable. Only the golfer can plan the shot, take back the club, live with the results and then respond to them in his or her game. When a golfer tees it up, there is nowhere to look for help and no one else to blame for failure. These lessons are learned every time out and with every swing of the club, and your child will soon show themselves who they are when they either continue to play or decide to walk away from the challenge.
Golf is not played in a vacuum, however. The etiquette the game teaches is a skill that will continue to pay dividends throughout life. Who doesn’t feel good when in the heat of a great sporting event, one competitor picks a fallen opponent up off the mat? In the same way, every round of golf is contested with recognition of the competitor as both foe and friend. There are honors for order of play, concessions out of respect for an opponent’s skill, and quiet sportsmanship that offer an opponent an environment in which to do their best rather than underhanded tricks and tactics to cheat the way to victory. You could argue that the latter works in the real world later in life, but it goes nowhere in building long-lasting business or personal relationships.
Focus, Patience and Persistence
Playing the game well requires focus, patience and persistence, and golf teaches these skills while your child may not even realize it. If these traits were listed accurately on the resume of a prospective new employee, the employer would be wise to grab that person up. No one plays the game well if they can’t focus on the task of hitting the ball, have the patience to fight through adversity and persist until they succeed. You can play golf but you can’t win it, and if you hang in long enough to achieve some successes along the way, those are wins. Every job your child will ever undertake is set up in a similar manner. Tee it up, and then, win, lose or draw, they tee it up again. That is character worth revealing.