Life Lessons From the Golf Green

Guest-blogger Kim Shippey has worked as a broadcast journalist in many countries. He is now a full-time writer and editor with the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly print and online publication.

At this time of year, American baseball players are coming back to the plate; in Europe, cricketers and tennis pros are loosening their shoulders; and top golfers from many countries are assembling for the first Major of the season, the US Masters, to be played from April 11 to 14 among the azaleas and songbirds that abound on the fairways of the National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia.

Golf, of course, teaches many life-lessons, and has spawned hundreds of jokes, includingPuttingforsuccess the one about the little white ball that has a whim to hit a tree or take a swim.
As a reporter on several sports, who always worked weekends, I was never free enough to learn to play golf–a game I suspect I would have loved.

But I was privileged to work on many sports programs with the man who for 20 years was BBC Television’s senior golf commentator, Henry Longhurst. He wrote 12 books on golf in a prose style that his colleagues insisted was “as effortless as falling out of bed.” Also, his “on air” quips were legendary. “They say ‘practice makes perfect,’” he once observed. “Of course, it doesn’t. For the vast majority of golfers it merely consolidates imperfection.”

Longhurst loved the Masters, as does a good friend of mine who knows the Augusta course quite well. My friend played on the European and US golf circuits, and tells me that Augusta is as tough a challenge as you’ll find anywhere. Its new length, often difficult pin positions, and incredibly fast greens, require extraordinary precision and accuracy.

“As always in golf,” my friend says, “you need concentration, grit, and determination, along with calmness and a quiet mind. Win those battles, and the rewards spill over into many other aspects of everyday life, including physical and mental well-being.

“I’ve found that losing the wrong sense of self — haste and arrogance, instead of patience and humility — is crucial. By correctly identifying yourself as capable of exceeding your normal capacity, you find yourself drawing upon divine resources you didn’t know you had, which are within all of us.

“Many’s the time,” he says, “when I’ve prayed my way through a round of golf, especially in sweltering hot weather or in the face of threatening storms. I’ve overcome exhaustion, illness, and other forms of physical discomfort. Whether scoring well or not, I’ve found myself feeling so much better for having acknowledged the presence of a higher power.”

I know enough about golf to appreciate how true my friend’s observations are; and how reassuring it is to realize that that “higher power,” whom many of us call God, holds us in the palm of His hand (see Isaiah 51:16) with what golfers might call “just the right grip.”

I know that the game of golf is strongly associated with harmonious activity, concentration, control, fresh air, and exercise. But I have also learned from firsthand experience that God’s grip on our lives offers all that and more. It gives us confidence that we can be healthy, joyful, and at peace with ourselves and others–on and off the fairways.

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