As a golf instructor I have the privilege of working with students of all ages and abilities. Often, my students who are on the back nine of life tell me of how they played better golf when they were younger and are frustrated at how their games have changed. They quote the famous saying “Youth is wasted on the young.” Sometimes we just need to step back and take a different view of the situation to appreciate one of the true blessings of the game of golf: that it is full of paradoxes.
Many people have a very linear view of golf, thinking that a low score is all that matters. We honor the tour players who week after week post scores below par. If we examine what it takes to make those scores we find that many of the reasons we enjoy playing golf fly right out of the window. How many of us honestly can say that we are willing to practice 40 hours a week, limit ourselves to a restrictive diet, faithfully work out, and are willing to train our minds to consciously follow an automatic pre-shot and post shot routine on every shot, including practice shots?
Golf however, is a non-linear game offering rewards on many levels. It is not just the score. It is the landscape, wildlife, friendships, friendly competition and the constant ability to challenge ourselves to be our best self every day. Our score may change from day to day, but as a senior golfer we now have the wisdom to know that just as a score changes so do we and so does the golf course. Everything is relative and we can appreciate the effort more than the simple number posted on the card.
Yet for some reason many hold on to the belief that the Everest of our golf career is in our youth as we aspire to hit a career long drive or shoot our lowest score. Ironically many of the low scoring players miss the most valuable experiences the great game of golf has to offer. Just watch someone who is trying to impress others and watch what happens when a putt is missed, the hazard comes into play or a round is posted above their handicap. How many times have we witnessed a talented young player lose the lead in a golf tournament, not because of their physical ability but because they lacked the wisdom and the patience that is possessed by many seasoned golfers?
In a player’s search for perfection, they miss the spirit of the game. Sure you might have hit your drive longer twenty years ago, but did you appreciate the round? Did you savor the great shots or focus on the not so good ones? How many hours were spent going over the “what if’s” in your mind over and over again instead of being grateful just to be able to play? More than likely you rushed out of your house to the golf course, got in your round and before you knew it you were flying down the road off to the next item on your to do list. When you reflected on your round it was more about how you were going to conquer the course the next time instead of trying to immerse yourself and fully experience the game.
From where I stand I see the Senior Golfer and the Little Linkster are the most inspiring golfers; the Little Linkster for their awe as each new golf shot captivates their full attention and the senior golfer for their wisdom. Neither is at the peak of their mechanical swing but there is no substitute for wisdom and wonder. Seniors who combine wisdom with wonder can capture the most rewarding of all golf experiences.
The wise golfer understands it is not a bad shot that ruins the round, rather how we respond to it that influences the next shot and all shots thereafter. Imagine how much more enjoyable your golf game is when you understand that. Now when your golf ball lands in a not so perfect place, instead of losing your temper, you challenge yourself to find a creative solution for your next shot. We know that there is a possibility for this shot to be one of the most memorable of all. Wisdom does not tell us to ever throw in the towel and give up, rather wisdom is a reminder that anything is possible if we just make the effort. Wisdom allows us to appreciate a controlled drive safely in the fairway as opposed to trying to bust one loose to impress our friends and ending up in the woods. Wisdom allows us the understanding that our skill set of appreciation, control, pace and patience are great assets not only in the game of golf but also in the game of life.
The senior golfers I know understand that a round of golf, like life, has ups and downs. They know how to overcome adversity to push through to success. Overcoming the hurdles in life of loss and illness are a struggle, playing a game is for fun. Perspective keeps emotions in check to play your best golf. What better mindset can a golfer have? So the next time you feel the urge to reflect on those lost yards of youth, take a deep breath and grin with the wisdom you possess to enjoy the beautiful landscape, your friends and the appreciation of playing the great game of golf.