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Life Lessons From Golf

by Scott Sindelar, Ph.D.

2000 Scott Sindelar, Ph.D.


Arizona is known partly for the hundreds of golf courses gracing her deserts, plateaus, forests and mountain sides. Arizona also provides unique settings for learning new ideas, exploring advances in ones profession, and examining new approaches in business. As a psychologist and professional speaker, I am impressed by the many opportunities that golf in Arizona also provides for learning about others and about oneself.

If we approach the sport with the right attitudes, golfing can bring out the best in us and teach us many important lessons. It can offer us an opportunity to practice our values while enjoying some of the most beautiful vistas in the world. The game of golf and the game of life seem to share many principles and lessons. The following principles are a few I have contemplated while walking to my next shot.


Principle #1

In golf, it is important to have a good grip on the club.

In life, it is important to have a good grip on oneself and on the game of life.


In either game, if we do not have a good grip, then we will have to make many awkward corrections and adjustments to compensate for not starting with the basics. Just as a good grip is a foundation for all that we do in golf, understanding oneself gives us a foundation for all that we do in life. Emotional intelligence gives us a good grip on ourselves.


Principle #2

In golf, it is important to have a proper stance and proper balance.

In life, it is also important to have a proper stance and a proper balance.

We are in balance when we plant our feet equally on the ground. If we put all our weight on one foot (our job, our relationship, our self interest, our fun, or our hobbies) we will be out of balance. When that happens, the game of golf and the game of life become a struggle. When out of balance, we are more likely to fall down, miss the target, or lose our valuables in the rough.

Principle 3#

In golf, it is important to develop a good swing.

In life, it is important to be able to swing with it, to go with the flow.


Timing is crucial and a good swing comes from practicing it, not just letting it happen by itself. Change that feels unpleasant or awkward at first, becomes easier and more natural with practice. In life, as in golf, watching someone who is swinging effortlessly and who is having fun, is a joy to behold. We are at our best when we have planned, prepared and practiced, acting against our initial discomfort.


Principle #4

In golf it is important to follow through. The swing does not stop when we reach the ball. It continues on through so we can look up and see our results.

In life it is also important to follow through.

Our role does not stop when we hang up the phone, send off the letter, or wave good-bye. It is important to keep watching to see the results of our actions so that we know what to keep and what to change.

Following through shows style as well as substance. Following through allows us to enjoy the results of our efforts. Take a moment to appreciate and revel in the work you have done.


Principle #5

In golf, we play with old friends or make new ones.

In life, it is important to have old friends and make new ones.

In golf as in life, it is important to have friends with whom we can share our successes and laugh about our misses. Although we play different holes, at different times, and on different courses, we are all in the game together.


Principle #6


In golf, instant successes, (such as a hole-in-one), are very rare.

In life, instant successes are also very rare.

We improve mainly through practice. In golf and in life, it is important to first identify the target, our goal. We rarely get there in one stroke. We approach the holes and goals in several steps. We make corrections along the way. Unless we give up, no mistakes are permanent. We can always shoot again from a new angle.


Principle #7

In golf, we sometimes lose our ball in the rough.

In life, we sometimes lose our way in the rough, rough times.

There are times when we have to start over with a new ball. Yet, we do not have to go back to the beginning. We may lose a few points, but we can keep going, perhaps a little wiser for the experience. Sometimes we find hidden treasures in the rough: hidden strengths, or hidden opportunities. Eventually, we can rejoin our group and get back on course.


Principle #8

In golf, it is better to focus on what we are doing well, rather than losing our cool over our errors.

In life, it is better to focus on what we are doing well and what is going well, rather than losing our cool.

Focusing on the negative is like playing the game while wearing very dark sunglasses. You cannot see the ball, and you cannot see the goal. It is too easy to lose sight of the goal and view everything as darkness. Dark attitudes color every experience with negativity, impairing our vision and our passion. Removing those dark attitudes brings a clarity of vision. Instead of hiding from the fear or adversity, we grow stronger by confronting our fears.


Principle #9

In golf, as good players, we repair our divots and ball marks.

In life, as good citizens, we make amends for our mistakes.

In both, we try to leave the world a little better than we found it. We can do that by repairing not only our errors, but also those errors that others have made. By repairing more than our share we can set in motion positive waves that ripple outward, touching many others with our kindness.

In golf as in life, we get to start over with each swing. Both games are more pleasant when we stop keeping score, and work on helping each other become better players.


NOTE: See our Executive Seminars combining Golfing at world-class resorts and exclusive seminars and training programs.  Go to: Golf Seminars

2000 Scott Sindelar, Ph.D.

All rights reserved. May be freely distributed only with complete acknowledgement of copyright, authorship, email address and telephone number.

Institute for Advanced Business Psychology

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Scottsdale AZ 85254

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Dr. Scott Sindelar is a business psychologist, executive coach, writer and consultant. His mission is to bring the Power of Psychology to companies and organizations to achieve higher productivity, emotional intelligence, and performance.



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