Golf's culture teaches valuable life lessons

  • The golf course at Cateechee in Hartwell.
    The golf course at Cateechee in Hartwell.

By Jeff Gotham

Leadbetter Academy at Cateechee

If you look up the word Culture in a dictionary, you will find a variety of definitions. The definition I prefer is, “The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices which characterizes an institution, organization, or group.” When you teach or coach golf for a living, it brings along things important to the game that are in addition to teaching how to swing a club.

The rules of golf have been re-written many times. Advancements in equipment and course designs have been the primary reasons. However, they have been written in the same spirit each time. Play by the rules and should you make a mistake, apply the appropriate rule to get you back on course. In other words, we don’t need a referee to call a penalty on us. We should have the honor to call out our own mistakes. Golf teaches honor.

With technology almost literally being in the palm of everyone’s hand, social skills have become an important part of coaching. This is extremely true in the area of juniors. Eyes are looking down so often we sometimes forget to look at the person to whom we are speaking. Sometimes we hardly get to finish a thought or a sentence before being interrupted or cut-off completely. Two people typing at the same time is an exchange of information, but not necessarily a conversation. One of the joys of coaching is talking to the juniors about their day. Actually, my role is to be more of listener. A great interviewer was once asked about what made him so good at his job. His response was “I never learned anything while I was talking.” Golf teaches social skills. 

Sometimes it’s just not our day, at home, work, or on the course. It is interesting, sometimes, to hear juniors repeat some of the “colorful” words they have heard away from our coaching environment. After I ask if they know what their word of choice meant, it’s usually followed with a “No.” I ask them to “flush it” out of their system so we can focus on the better parts of golf and life. Golf teaches life skills.  

From time to time, I will travel down the road of other things golf teaches. For now, if we can coach honor, politeness, and language discernment while making a few putts, we’ll be doing just fine.