During the last seven years, I have watched my son and his friends grow up in the world of Junior Golf. This amazing sport has brought out the best in these young men, and has taught them so many valuable life lessons. I am forever impressed, in particular to the following ten qualities that I have observed my son develop as a bi-product of the great game of golf.
1. Humility and Respect
Golf requires that you show courtesy to others and that you communicate with respect. In the Junior Golf tournaments across the country, it is well stated that good sportsmanship must be exhibited at all times and that all play is ended with an exchange of a hand shake.
When the tournament schedule states "Tee time is at 9:00," this means that you are to be on the tee box at 8:55. If you are late to the tee box, you are automatically disqualified, no questions asked. While this can be a tough lesson to learn, it is one that works brilliantly and has instilled in my son the importance of being on time for not only every tournament but every event in life.
Golf is a game of honor, and recognizing that a transgression has occurred and taking responsibility for the transgression is a part of the game. This one act instills integrity and fairness to all concerned.
Golf balls and clubs are very hard and dangerous instruments, and one of the first and foremost rules of golf is safety. My son has been instructed again and again to not take practice swings in the direction of another person, not to swing clubs when someone else is walking by, and never to hit into a group playing in front of him. These rules of safety have filtered into other aspects of his life, including biking, swimming, and safety in the home.
Golf requires an amazing amount of concentration, and quiet is required at all times on the golf course. While this takes practice for young kids, it is a life skill that teaches constraint and respect for others.
The night before and the morning of a tournament, my son sits quietly and mentally and visually plays the course. This skill is teaching him how to "see the end in mind," which is key to goal achievement.
7. Problem Solving
Rain, wind, trees, multiple sand traps, and deep rough can make for a challenging day of tournament play. These are a normal part of golf and can be an amazing opportunity for clever problem solving and personal growth.
Golf is a tough sport. It requires that you not only know the physics of hitting the ball (and what club to use when) but requires intense mental and emotional concentration. Silencing the inner critic after a "bad shot" is crucial to regaining clear focus, which is an advanced skill to learn but one that can take you very far in life.
9. Practice, Persistence, and Listening
In golf, instant success is very rare. My son has become a great golfer through daily practice, persistence, and through being open to listening to his mentors. In life, it is important to know that we rarely reach our goal in one "stroke." By practicing, making corrections along the way, being open to coaching, and being persistent, we can tackle most of life's tough challenges.
One of the most important life lessons my son has learned from golf is to be gracious and respectful to adults. At the end of each tournament, he and his competitors thank and shake the hands of the tournament chairmen and follow this up with a handwritten note of thanks