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Golf as a Game of Life

By: Dr. Patrick Williams, EdD, MCC

I play both tennis and golf and enjoy them both. But tennis is real exercise and very fun activity. It is quick and forgiving … you get to hit the ball several times and win some and lose some

But Golf is a game of Life in more ways than one. Golf is a more individual game, although I play it socially with other people for the camaraderie. I have played since I was ten … and I play better now than at any time in my life, shooting often in the high 70s or low eighties … But every now and then I shoot a 93 too!

There are many lessons that golf teaches us about living optimally and vice versa.

Here are lessons for playing your best golf that translate to living your best life.

Set up

All good golf swings start with a set up or preparation for an optimal swing. If you just swing at the ball with no proper set up, you will have no consistency and get very frustrated.

And in life, you need a good set up. A good preparation, and ready position for what you are trying to accomplish.


Presence in golf means to be in the moment, to be focused on the now and not worried about the last shot, the dinner plans, the hazard that is ahead or thinking about anything else than hitting the ball with a good connection to the clubface

Presence in life creates the same kind of outcome as presence in golf, assuming you have certain skills, and are practicing to improve, you need to be focused on the present moment in times of strategic goals.

Back swing, impact point and follow through (past, present, future)

A good rhythmic golf swing (for amateurs especially) requires that you understand the swing begins with the set up, followed by the backswing, setting up the downswing for impact on the ball, and the crucial piece that many amateur golfers forget is the follow through after impact. In other words, the ball strike is in the MIDDLE of the swing…. impacting the ball is the halfway point from the backswing, and then downward swing with a complete follow through. The ball goes farther, toward your target, with less effort if you realize this point.

And just as in life, we have to have a backswing (our past and our set up, the downswing toward impact, and the follow through to completion of our task or goal).


Flow in golf is when things are going smoothly and you are almost unconscious in play and hence doing well, by not trying so hard. This is also true in life…. discover a flow state whenever you can for tasks or goals you deem important.

Aim (Purpose) - Have plans but adjust to challenges.

You must aim the swing to your intended target in golf. Even though it does not always go where you aim, you learn to make adjustments, or just to enjoy the serendipity of an unexpected outcome … just like in life? Many people fire first in their actions, without really aiming or preparing in the first place. The idea is Ready, Aim, Fire … not Ready, Fire, Aim.

Humor, lightness of being

It definitely takes a sense of humor and lightness of being to play golf…If you get mad, or frustrated, you get worse. It is a challenging game and one that if you swing harder, the result is usually worse. Counterintuitive as that may be, similarly to life’s challenges, start with an aim to your target. But know that unexpected results will occur, both wanted and unwanted. But lighten up…its just a game.

Hit it where it lies (Don’t lie about where you hit it).

Most amateurs move the ball in golf to improve how or where the ball lies…. and if you are not in a tournament then do it and either take a penalty or just play for fun…But if you are playing with the rules of golf, hit it where it lies and play within the rules. This is like ethics in life and business. You can predict a lot about a golfer who cheats or lies and how he may behave in life off the course. Penalties are just mistakes…. HONESTY in the face of mistakes…. now that is a way to live and play.

Some tidbits: Life, rather like Golf is full of hidden traps, obstructions, and holes to fall into.

Life, rather like Golf, is about maintaining parity (par) with your fellow golfer. However, while being below par in the game of Golf is regarded as a good thing it is not so good to be below par in the game of Life.

Life, rather like Golf, is littered with handicaps. However, while having a handicap in Golf allows you the opportunity to retain parity (par) with your fellow man (golfer) the same cannot be said of Life, where a handicap can lead to all sorts of misfortune and challenges.

Enjoy the journey; A truth that fits both golf and life. Mark Twain said that golf was a good walk spoiled. I disagree. Even if I am not playing my best, I enjoy the beauty and nature on a golf course. As in life, enjoy the moments of your experience. It’s good to be alive!

This week, even if you don’t play golf, see how the analogies presented in this essay may apply to how you play your life.

Dr. Patrick Williams is the Founder and Director of Training of The Institute for Life Coach Training and brings with him a wide variety of training in psychology and professional experiences, as well as training as a Coach. His personal approach is eclectic, drawn from his graduate education, life experiences and other professional training.