Golf has been a huge part of my life since I was five. When I first started golfing, it was just a pastime I enjoyed with my father. Slowly though, I got better and better. Soon enough, I was competing in tournaments and even got lucky enough to play on my Canada provincial team for two years. After almost 14 years into the game, I’ve picked up more life lessons than any other endeavor I’ve tried.
From patience to social skills and to performing under pressure, the skills that golf has taught me are priceless. Here is everything about life that I’ve learned from golf.
1. Anger Fades, but Actions Don’t
Possibly the life lesson from golf that I’ve used the most is that anger and frustration fade, but actions don’t.
I used to get extremely frustrated in tournaments whenever I had a bad hole. Even if it were just a stupid bogey or a missed putt, I would latch onto that and start acting out my anger. I would walk differently, talk differently, and frankly, the amount of swear words I uttered on the course would make a sailor blush.
This is all fine and good, but it really affected my golf game. If you looked at my scorecards, you would see one bad hole… followed by another three or four bad holes. With time I learned that anger and frustration fade after about a minute or two. With this information, I just keep my cool for one or two minutes, and I can resume my game.
It sounds easy, but when you’re actually frustrated in the moment, it’s hard not to act out. Golf has taught me the importance of controlling myself and controlling my anger. I’m happy to say that in most rounds of tournament golf these days, a bad hole is usually followed by a few good holes, not equally bad ones.
2. Emotional Control = Outcome Control
The person who can control their emotions has the best chance at controlling their result.
Similar to the previous lesson, this one revolves around intrapersonal control. Looking back and analyzing, I realize that the tournaments where I do the worst are the ones where I’m the most emotional.
Having and showing emotions are OK (they are inherently human traits), but they have no place on a golf course. The best rounds of golf I’ve played have been when I cared enough to pay attention and did my routines but didn’t care enough to get emotional.
I try to carry the same attitude for the rest of my life and have found improved results across all the activities I engage in.
3. Deliberate Consistency + Time = Results
This lesson is one of the most important ones that golf has taught me. Basically, I have learned that deliberate consistency over an extended time period will guarantee you results (almost every time) with anything in life.
My growth with golf has followed that exact same pattern.
I’m about 5’ 8″ and weigh around 160 lbs. Neither of my parents golfed before I was born, and I didn’t have too much coaching when I started out. In other words, I’m not an exceptionally talented person, nor did I have a crazy good learning environment. However, from when I was eight years old to when I was 16, my dad would drive us 40 minutes away to a golf dome to practice golf every day.
Every single day, I would stand on those golf mats and pound golf balls away into the side of the dome 60 yards away. Nothing special, just deliberate, consistent practice. Yet my growth in golf has been exponential. Year over year, I performed better and better, and I know that it’s due (at least partially) to the consistency and hard work I’ve put in.
This mindset has helped me to stick to many other things in life where I know that the long-term outcome will be worth the short-term sacrifice. As Bill Gates famously said, “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in 10 years.”
4. People Love to Talk, So Let Them
You don’t get very far in the golfing world without learning a few social skills.
Golf is intrinsically a social sport. You spend 5 hours at a time on the field with one to three other people and get to witness all their highs and lows. So if you don’t have good social skills, you’re not going to be very well-liked.
I have learned over the years that people love to talk about themselves. If you let them, you will fall into their good graces. And don’t just throw on an act. Be genuinely curious about them.
This skill of active listening has helped me in So many other endeavors. It’s helped with talking to my parents, my girlfriend, and even my boss at work. People always wonder, “How do I get someone to like me?” It’s really not that hard. Just let them talk about themselves!
5. Pressure Practice = Pressure Performance
When I was younger, I would always shoot in the mid-70s in my casual rounds. Then, when it came time for tournaments, I would shoot 87 or even 90. Even though 87 is OK for some, scores like these would shock me.
“Why am I so good when I practice but so bad when I play?” I asked myself.
The answer: I didn’t practice as I played. When I was playing practice rounds, I would goof off and not take it seriously. Then, when the pressure was on in tournaments, my body didn’t know how to react.
Over the years, I’ve learned to practice just as intensely as my actual tournaments. A few things can help with this:
- Put something on the line (chores, gloating, money)
- Give yourself a situation to act out (if I make this putt I win my club championship)
- Have some friendly competition
Nowadays, I play just as well in tournaments as in my practice rounds (sometimes better!) This attitude of training for real situations under the same pressure as real situations has also applied to other areas of my life. Be it a speech, a meal, or even a lesson, I try to practice for it just like how I’d actually perform.
My Future and Golf
As of now, I will be competing on Harvard’s golf team from 2021-2025. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity and am super excited to continue my competitive golf journey for a few more years.
I hope that golf will remain a big part of my life for the time to come and that I can continue to glean life lessons from this amazing game.