The other afternoon I was able to take a couple of hours and walk the Aspen municipal golf course watching members of Aspen High School’s team play, including our son Peter. As we have been so busy at the Chapel, I was delighted to be able to do something just for fun, yet incredibly important to our son. The folks at the course and the team coaches are all wonderful people.
To be clear, while I love the game, currently I don’t have much time to devote to it. Not only that, but my skill level means I am inconsistent and I have a lot to learn. The good news is that the sport does help me not take myself too seriously.
As I watched the boys play the tournament from a variety of high schools all over Colorado, I was struck by a number of things that seem applicable to all of us, whether or not we play.
For starters, there is not one player that wins every single time. Having a score that puts a person far away from the top spot happens to everyone. To do well at the game, knowing that you win some and lose some facilitates long term success. Certainly the same is true with weightier matters in life.
Golf is a game that is played one shot at a time. When watching the boys play, there was a huge difference between players who got very frustrated over one bad shot and those that appeared to be taking each shot in stride whether great or terrible. As I shared with our son, “The game is about the shot before you. The last shot is gone. The next shot is in the future. The only shot that matters is the one in front of you regardless of what has happened thus far or what is ahead.”
Then of course there is the entire challenge of putting. Greens are fickle. Sometimes they are slow. Others are quite fast. On occasion a green one thought one knew well plays in an entirely different way. Typically when my ball eventually ends up on a green, I quickly putt because I worry I’ve held up people behind me. What I observed in the boys’ tournament, however, was that those who did well, took their time to explore each green, look at it, estimate how fast it happened to be, and checked out slopes and angles to determine ball speed.
A great reminder that while we may think we know something well, sometimes we are wise to take our time as if that something is new and unknown. Slowing down and exploring what is in front of us, even when we have experienced it before, leads to more effective decisions in day to day living, let alone putting.
One of the most positive things about the tournament was how the boys, even from competing teams, treated each other. On course I frequently heard comments such as, “great shot, good out, amazing drive, that will work, and what a putt.” The boys were intentional about building each other up, not tearing one another down. How I wish such encouragement and building others up reflected our culture at large off a golf course.
Winning and losing is simply how it is and when we embrace this truth, success becomes more likely. Focus on what is right in front of you, letting the past go and not pondering an unknown future. Not assuming we know everything, even with regard to situations that are very familiar. Encouraging others and lifting them up. These are just a few key components of golf, but also our lives as we work day to day to follow Jesus more closely.
Whether or not you play golf, it is my hope that each of us will take time to do something just for fun. Not only will we experience joy, but we may very well learn something in the process.