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Golf and Life

Golf & Life
By Dennis Clark, Director of Golf, PGA Master Professional

I have been at this wonderful game for a big part of my life and there are days I still feel as though I have no idea what I’m doing. And other days that I feel like the best player in the world. But most of the time, like everyone else, I’m somewhere in between… I know all too well my imperfections: That same old, ugly backswing that has been my “trademark” for so long is still there. So are the early release and the occasional hitch at the ball. But somehow, through all my many foibles, I keep going and I keep trying to get better. Maybe this, my 61st year of life and 45th year on the course, might just be my year…

I keep going because I love the struggle; I keep going because I love the mystery. I love to try to solve the puzzle that can’t be solved; perfect the game that can’t be perfected. Why? Because on those days and in that very moment when it all comes together, there is nothing like the feeling a golfer gets from a well-hit golf shot. The same thing that some folks see in art, golfers see in the flight of a little, white ball against the big, blue sky. It is the flight to the unknown, abounding with all the innocence of our youth and with all our hopes and dreams riding on every shot. The fascination is still there for me after all these years, and that very fascination remains unsullied millions of shots later. Lose that and I’m afraid my race is run.

But little did I know that in my quest to improve, I was learning something much more valuable. I learned that golf can be a metaphor for life itself. The very core values that have sustained me at various times throughout my life were often revealed on the golf course: respect for others, honesty, integrity, fortitude.

Bobby Jones once said, “Golf is not always fair, but it is equitable." The breaks don’t always go our way but, in the end, they do balance. It took me a good while to realize that the world was not against me, nor was every misfortune “just my luck." I learned that on the golf course.

Ever thought about the difference in golf and some other sports? Well try this: On days when we play poorly in say, baseball or football, the manager or coach simply takes us out of the game. Not so in golf: we just keep hitting our ball until it goes in the hole. Don’t give up, do the best you can on every shot. I learned that on the golf course.

We police our own game. There are times when it would be easy to improve the lie of the ball, mark down a four when we made a five, or “shorten” our putt a little. But who am I cheating really? Myself, of course. How can I ever improve at a game when mendacity is rooted deeply in my soul? Good golf demands brutal honesty, there is no substitute, there are no shortcuts. I learned that on the golf course.

We share this planet. No man is an island, and everyone has the right to be here. It is incumbent upon each one of us to respect and honor that right. The same is true for the consideration we afford others when playing golf. They have every bit as much right to my considerate actions as I do theirs. I learned that on the golf course.

So go play now and have fun. Try on every shot, be courteous, and let the breaks fall as they might. And remember this: You’re playing the greatest game ever known to mankind. You’re part of a community of kindred spirits who understand this little secret: It’s not winning, losing or shooting lower scores, but how we play the game that makes a difference. Like life, the game has its ups and downs, its peaks and valleys. And the real test of our character is not how well we handle the peaks, but how we conduct our affairs while in those valleys.

Dennis Clark
Director of Golf, PGA Master Professional
Nemacolin Woodlands Resort


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