Life is like a golf swing

The game of golf, when first witnessed, looks pretty simple. The ball is stationary, you are stationary, and all you have to do is smack the ball with the club head. How hard can that be?

If you have played the game, you know it is frustratingly difficult, especially to consistently repeat a swing that makes solid contact and sends the ball to your target. Jack Nicklaus, one of the game’s greats, once said, “Reaching perfection in your golf swing is impossible. I consider a good round if I hit one pure shot.” He added: “Golf is not, and never has been, a fair game.”

Life seems that it should be pretty easy. Go to school, get a job, live life. Not that complicated. And then life happens.

In life, we have a deep need to feel in control. We love predictable, but life loves spontaneous. In golf, we yearn for the same, but as Nicklaus stated, “If there is one thing I have learned during my years as a professional, it is that the only thing constant about golf is its inconstancy.” Life wins the battle of being unpredictable over our desire for control and consistency.

In golf, no matter what you shoot, you need to go out the next day and begin all over again. Same thing in life – get out bed, prepare for the day and deliver the goods. And as in life, golf is full of bad breaks from good shots, and good breaks from bad shots. The better we get at adapting to the flow of life, the better the quality of our life.

The quality of your life isn’t defined by those experiences, but rather by your attitude and response to those experiences. The same holds true in golf. It is a game of embracing failure, analysing, learning and moving on. Spend too much time mulling over something that didn’t go the way you wanted it to and your round is toast.

In life, being stuck in the past with feelings of guilt, blame, resentment is an utter waste of time. You can’t change the past. But the past is good for something, and that is learning. So use yesterday for learning, and today for action to achieve tomorrow’s vision.

Your vision is where you create your future. Another quote from Nicklaus: “Sometimes the biggest problem is in your head. You’ve got to believe you can play a shot instead of wondering where your next bad shot is coming from. I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp, in-focus picture of it in my head.”

When most people start playing golf, they think, “Swing hard and hope I make contact.” If they stick with the game, they will discover one of the great ironies of the game – to hit the ball a long distance requires solid contact with the club face. This rarely happens when you swing hard.

In life, rarely is much accomplished from merely swinging hard. Sheer force does create action, but it’s often negated by a lack of strategy. Like golf, learn to pull back a little, focus and work on specific objectives.

In golf, the difference between a great shot and a lost ball can be merely a few feet. Similarly, life is a thin thread that can snap at any moment. Practice, in both games, is where success is found. You must try, fail, adjust and try again.

In our coaching practice, we work with family businesses, and statistics show that over 50 percent of family business transitions don’t happen on the owner’s terms, but are due to one of the 5 Ds – death, disability, divorce, distress and disagreement. We help our clients minimize risk and maximize the value of their companies so that they can survive one or more of these five Ds.

The odds are one or more of these five Ds, along with myriad other calamities, are going to snap your thread one day. It’s the unpredictability of life. Surviving a snapped thread takes strength and courage that comes from being in the game – winning, failing and learning, a strong faith, and a pile of good friends and family that you can lean on as you recover and find your swing again.

Life can be complicated. But if you can accept and embrace its unpredictable nature, you can learn techniques, skills and new habits to deal with its slices and hooks. As human beings, we are hard-wired to solve problems. Life will throw plenty your way. Learn to enjoy the journey.

Tom Garrity is managing partner at Compass Point Consulting LLC in Hanover Township, Northampton County. He can be reached at

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