There are few pastimes that teach you the traditional attributes of true sportsmanship, the art of winning and losing, trust, honesty, integrity, humility more than our great game of golf.
Anyone fortunate enough to have grown up around the game will have been exposed to many of these important life lessons from a young age, quite often learning them without even realising.
Bridging the gap of age and society, golf teaches us how to engage with strangers from all walks of life, brought together by the game, spending hours in the company of someone you have just met. The first tee nerves, the preparation for the big game, concentrating on that all-important strong ‘handshake’, the introductions and, of course, then remembering what your opponent said their name was amongst all of the stress. You then set off on a unique journey together. Regardless of whether you are with a stranger or a friend, as golfers we know that there is a bumpy road ahead, a road that must be tackled with honesty and integrity.
Unlike most sports, trust is placed on individuals to play without the direct supervision of qualified referees. Players are left to interpret the hefty set of rules, identify the correct decision themselves and, while some will bend them, the majority will play by the book and anyone intentionally breaking the rules, vilified venomously.
We see all too regularly Premier League footballers and NBA basketball stars sprawling around on the ground like they have been shot by a sniper in the stands, trying to hoodwink the referees into giving a free kick, free throw, or worse, result in one of the opposing team being sent off. Cricket is notorious for the on-wicket banter or ‘sledging’ between batsmen and fielders. Rugby scrums are fraught with punches, nips and grabs under the radar of the referee.
While these are all accepted parts and characteristics of each respective game, with golf, it is refreshing to have a sport that sees players fully respectful of their opponents, responsible for their own scores, even on occasion calling penalty on themselves.
Golf never stops teaching you lessons whether you have played for years or took to the game later in life, you will continue to discover things about yourself (and your playing partners) you never knew existed.
A round of golf will disclose almost everything you need to know about your playing partners’ persona, not only the general conversation as you go but also through how they conduct themselves, their pace of play and even how they swing the club will often be a pretty accurate reflection of their character. The emotional rollercoaster the game can take you on is a real test of one’s personality which will, on occasion, turn the mildest mannered individual into an angry and hot-headed human being after missing a simple tap
Fact is, it will be their sportsmanship and honesty that has the power to either make or break the journey ahead. It is not surprising that great friendships are formed and sometimes broken on the golf course, not to mention countless business deals sealed whilst out on the course.
As a result, honesty and respect for the people and the environment around you are key values. Being your very own referee, as a golfer you should be true to yourself at all times and cherish the great game of golf.