A Simple Game

Jeff - Oakland, California
Entered on January 28, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30

My view on life can be found within the confines of a simple game. It lies within the rules, spoken and unspoken. It is inherent within a player’s philosophy that the events of the past and future are inconsequential, but that the thoughts and actions of the present are invaluable. And finally, it is found in the pursuit of an ideal that will never be reached, though the path to that ideal is the true joy. My philosophy on life can be found within the game of golf.

First and foremost, golf has an expectation of honesty. The rulebook relies completely on a golfer’s willingness to penalize oneself when appropriate, even if this penalty means a loss of the $5 or $5000 dollars riding on the eventuality of a completed scorecard. This trust represents an honor and dignity not found in other sports. In the 1952 U.S Open, the legendary Bobby Jones was competing for one of the most coveted titles in golf. As he stepped up to address his ball, it moved ever so slightly. Jones was the only one to witness the infraction, however, after the round he assessed himself a 1-stroke penalty for the secret previously held only between himself and his golf ball. This code of honor is one that fathers and mothers teach their sons and daughters as they are learning to play golf, and leads me to recall the words of my own father, “Cherish trust. It is difficult to build up and easy to break down.”

Golf is about staying in the present. A walking round can last 5 hours and the stroll between shots becomes a perfect time to ruminate over previous mistakes, bad breaks, and inevitable lapses in concentration. However, golfers from the amateur ranks up to the PGA tour elite rely on the dogma, “Stay in the present.” What happened in the past cannot be changed. What will happen in the future cannot be predicted. Today, this second, is what matters. This may seem easy enough, however, anyone participating in the human experience knows that it is a near impossibility. I have learned that being content with one’s golf round, and life, is largely about what one chooses to think about.

Golf is about companionship. I’ve been lucky enough to play hundreds of rounds of golf, many with my closest family members and friends. It is a unique experience to spend half of a day on a walk with a friend. It builds and strengthens relationships and it can unite two strangers around a common goal. It is rare in the society that we live in for two individuals to be to enjoy each other’s company without the blare of a television, the sight of billboards, or the drone of car engines. However, time spent between people is at the core of the human existence and lays the foundation for the trust, love, and joy that only comes when two individuals enjoy the simple comfort of each other’s company. Golf provides that space, a space that everyone needs in one way or another.

Finally, golf is about beauty. The natural theater of a golf course is unmatched, whether it is the drama of Pebble Beach or the peacefulness of one’s local course. The design of a golf course requires a respect and admiration for the natural environment and a recognition of the potential stage. Shots can be shaped in a way that pay compliment to the scenery, that seem to fall naturally within the details of the surroundings. Any golfer that has played that near perfect round knows that a well-played game of golf is a flattering remark about the landscape. This experience seems only to enhance the beauty of the surrounding natural environment.

It has been said that golf is a good walk spoiled. In many of my most difficult times, I have thought of life in the same manner. However, within both lie the pursuit of happiness and the innate hopefulness of the human condition. This is what I love about golf and about life. And this I believe.