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Purpose: Why Do You Play Golf?
When I first heard Bob Toski talk about goIf as a "non-violentgame played violently from within," I smiled because it hit homewith me. I've always been amazed how seriously some people take thegame and, in the process, make themselves and others miserable onthe golf course. They get frustrated and angry with themselves andsometimes even end up throwing clubs, ranting and raving, andgenerally ruining everyone's time. They create violence within. Theynever seem to be playing well enough.
While I am determined to improve my playing and set goals likewinning the Senior Championship at my club, I am even more committedto appreciating and enjoying the moment-to-moment experience of thisgreat game of golf. How I score on any given hole or any particularday is only one part of the total experience. And yet, when youobserve some people on the golf course, you would think that whatthey score is the only part of the game that is important to them.
Patty Berg, one of the greatest golfers of all time and a lifelongheroine of mine, told a wonderful story at the 1990 Women in GolfSummit in Orlando, Florida, that makes a joke of some people'sultimate obsession with their score. According to her, a golfer hithis drive into a fairway bunker. He chose a 5-iron to try to get theball out of the trap and advance it toward the green. When he hitthe shot, he pulled it and the ball struck a tree. The ballricocheted off the tree and hit the man in the head, killing himinstantly. He went directly to heaven where he, met Saint Peter atthe gate. "How did you get here?" was the immediate question."Intwo!" answered the golfer.
A group of people who always seem to overemphasize the importance oftheir score are those I refer to loosely as "cheaters." Those of youwho are new to golf probably can't understand why anybody wouldcheat at a game. And yet golf, more than any sport I know, can bringout the "worse' in people. I know some people who can't count,others who are always improving their lie (especially in the rough),more than a fair share whose handicaps are not believable, andstill. others who interpret rules to fit their own needs.
Why do people who feel a need to cheat, rant and rave, or makethemselves and others miserable play golf? I suspect because theythink golf is only about how they score and they haven't ever askedthemselves, "Why do I play golf?" This is a question you need toanswer for yourself whether you are a beginner or a lowhandicapper if you hope to enjoy golf more and achieve the resultsyou desire.
A few years ago, when Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and I wrote The Powerof Ethical Management, we developed what we called the "Five P's[Principles] of Ethical Power."' I'm convinced that these principlesare also the ingredients for personal power and genuine, lastingfulfillment in life. Highly successful, satisfied individualspractice these Five Principles of Personal Power with greatconsistency. I have found them very helpful in thinking about why Iplay golf and where golf fits into my life.
The First Principle Purpose
The five principles start with purpose. This is your intention something toward which you are always striving. A goal is not apurpose. Goals are tangible and achievable. For example, you canhave goals to improve your handicap, win your flight at your countryclub, get into a certain flight in your member/guest tournament, orfeel good enough about your golf game to play with your spouse at awell-known resort course.
A goal has a beginning and an end. A purpose is ongoing. Forexample, I have four ongoing purposes for playing golf. First ofall, to have fun; second, to enjoy people; third, to appreciate thebeauty around me; and fourth, to compete against myself and others.
To have fun, I have to hit enough good shots and play enough goodholes to be able to take pleasure in recalling them after the roundat the "nineteenth hole." I recently got an eagle 3 on the par 5seventeenth hole at the Pauma Valley Country Club, my home course inCalifornia. A 9-iron that I hit up the hill over a huge sand trapended up in the cup. While I didn't play particularly well that day,the experience of first being unable to find my ball on the greenand then seeing it wedged against the flag in the hole made myday-indeed my week! It was an exhilarating experience and gave me"bragging rights" after the round. That was fun!
To enjoy people, I need to play with folks who take the gameseriously but themselves lightly. Laughing and kidding on the courseare a must for me. That is, why I seldom play alone and avoid peoplewho cheat, act like spoiled brats, or in any way take themselves tooseriously. I love the saying:
If you believe that's true, as I do, then you can never take golftoo seriously. Just when you lose it you're playing poorly; you findit you par the last three holes. Just when you find it you'replaying better than you ever have before; you lose it you hit oneout-of-bounds. You have to laugh or they'll come and take you awayin a straitjacket. I want to play with people who realize theabsurdity of this part of the game and laugh when others would cryor throw clubs.
To appreciate the beauty around me, I enjoy playing beautiful golfcourses, particularly...