Growing up, tennis was my sport of choice. I played through high school and college, a touch of semi-pro (a very slight touch and very little pro) followed by adult tournaments. However, as I have “matured,” I have switched to golf. Somehow, walking on grass seemed to be much more compassionate on the body than running on cement. Many people who watch golf (well, I guess if you are watching golf to begin with then you are a fan, so let me rephrase that) . . . many people who see golf on television don’t even view it as a sport, since it seems to have very little physical activity involved in it. In fact, some researchers claim that in a four to five hour round of golf, a person is actually swinging the club for only about 2 minutes. Therein lies the problem. Too much time to think.
Though tennis is hugely mental as well, once the ball is in play I often have to react more than think; therefore, I find it easier to hit a moving ball with a moving racket when I’m moving than just standing there trying to hit a little white ball that is just sitting there daring me to strike it. Plus, just lining up for my first drive sometimes finds me thinking about alignment, grip, posture, backswing before I even hit the ball, and then I get to start the whole cycle over again as I walk to my next shot. That whole repetitive process eventually constitutes 18 holes or 72 shots (for the good guys . . . just keep adding “opportunities” for the rest of us). That is a lot of time for thinking.
I realize that many (if not all) sports will provide good spiritual analogies, but I think golf is an excellent sport simply because so much of the game is between the ears. Our minds cause us all sorts of problems. We would like to think we are more than what we our minds think about but the bible is very clear about both the implications of our thoughts and their power.
Proverbs 23:7 states “As he thinks in his heart, so is he.” What we think about and how we view ourselves and others reflects who we are, as much as we would like to say it is not.
Furthermore, in golf and in life, we hang on to the past . . . that last errant drive, flubbed chip, missed putt, or in life that last failure, hurtful word, or missed opportunity, but Paul, in Philippians 3:13, tells us that we should be “forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.”
Finally, we often, both in golf and in life, paralyze ourselves from either performing well or taking action at all, and once again, Paul has some words of advice as he admonishes us in Philippians 4:6-7 to “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;” and if we do then “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
I enjoy golf, and especially love to reflect on my round on the days that I played well. But I must admit, the greater learning experiences come on the days when I have to face my weaknesses: my anxiousness or fear, my dwelling on the past, or my thoughts, and hopefully, follow one more bit of advice from Paul: “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” I wish you both happy golfing and victorious living.