Golf and Character
Golf is a test of character. I don’t know if this is the #1 reason why I like to play the game or not, but for sure it is
very high on the list. The game is so darn difficult and people’s egos, in general, are very fragile, the need to
fudge, cheat, re-do, improve lies, throw clubs, and/or quit the game all together is prevalent on almost every swing.
But to get to know someone really well, play golf with them. Over time, you will see their true character. Heck, you
might even get to know yourself more deeply the more you play golf.
An example of this character revelation aspect of the game was presented to me yesterday. I was golfing with
some friends who are really strict followers of the rules of the game and very serious golfers. During the round
they were chatting about a golfer at their club, we will call him Jake. It turns out Jake cheats at the game. He has
been warned about his cheating by many members of the club, but to no avail. However, in a recent tournament he
was caught red-handed fluffing a lie in the rough and was turned in, yet again, to the club. The Board called him in
for a meeting to decide whether or not he was going to be kicked out of the club. Evidently during the meeting it
came out that a few years ago Jake was disbarred and banned from practicing law for a variety of unethical
business practices he was engaging in at the time. Think about that, members of Jake’s club observed him
cheating at a silly and, essentially, meaningless game. Then later it comes out he was not only unethical in golf,
but in business and life as well. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
Another aspect of the game that can be of benefit to the golfer is personal character development. I can use
myself as a great example of this. I used to be a pretty good athlete, all-league baseball player, part of high school
state championship teams, nationally ranked martial artists and state champion, to name a few athletic arenas in
which I excelled. But I came to find golf after some health issues took away my previous athletic outlets. So not
only did I take up a game (golf) that is next to impossible to play, but I also had some physical issues to contend
with as well. Nevertheless, I persevered and over the course of 3 years I finally reached a single digit handicap.
My play recently has become pretty consistent and scores of mid-to-low 80’s are recorded like clockwork, until my
last two rounds; 93 and 97. The 93 really wasn’t too bad. I hit the ball really well, but caught a few bad breaks.
But the 97 was really, really, really bad golf.
It started out okay. On the par 5 first hole, I hit my driver right down the pipe. But then a sliced 4 iron landed me in
the woods. The ensuing 9 iron punch out landed me in a greenside bunker. The bunker shot got me on the
green, but a 30 foot uphill putt awaited me. The putt was SWEET, but lipped out. Bogey to start the round, not too
bad. On the par 4 second, my drive found the rough. I tried to go 3 iron to the green, but I topped the ball into a
fairway bunker. My fairway bunker shot hit the lip and advanced only 15 yards. My following shot landed on the
back of the green and my 40 foot downhill putt went completely off the green; UGH!! I ended up with a triple
bogey!! No worries, on the next hole my driver went right down the middle, my 3 iron found the green and left me a
20 foot putt. 4 putts later and TWO lip-outs, I turned a birdie opportunity into a double bogey. WOW!! In fact, in
the first 4 holes I lipped out 6 putts and 4 of those were inside 3 feet. I was offered by my playing partners to pick
up many of those putts, but I declined. I wanted to hit those darn things. I knew I could, but for some reason it
wasn’t working out. But I kept trying and eventually started hitting them. I know, I know, bragging about sinking 3
foot putts really doesn’t make sense. But it is what it is…that was my great accomplishment of the day.
But here is the kicker. As the day wore on, our match was tight and in the last 3 holes I had to hit 5 foot putts on 2
of those 3 holes to win the match. And I did it! Perseverance in the long and short term paid dividends. My
perseverance relative to playing the game has resulted in a single digit handicap, while my perseverance on this
particular day won my team the match. Perseverance certainly is a characteristics we can all benefit from and golf
will certainly build that portion of your character, if you play the game the right way.
I could go on and on about all the aspects of character development and character revelation the game of golf
provides. But if you’ve played the game, you already know them: Honesty, Integrity, Sportsmanship, Respect,
Confidence, Responsibility, Perseverance, Courtesy, and Judgment. But I suppose it never hurts to close with a
quote from CB MacDonald…
“To attain self-knowledge there is no place more likely to give one an insight into his own character and enable him
to find himself than on the golf links, and there one should go if he desires to acquire that knowledge of himself”
But of course I wouldn’t limit the games insight to self-knowledge, I’d add that it will reveal the character of your
playing partners as well.