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Arnold Palmer and the 10 Valuable Life Lessons Golf Teaches

Golf ball on a tee

Mon, 11/21/2016 - 12:19pm

Arnold Palmer was a talented golfer, prolific golf course designer, and one heck of a person. He showed the world the value of consistency, hard work, and fun -- all attributes that make for a better golf game and a better life.

University of the Cumberlands head golf coach Taylor Riggs believes that Palmer's efforts transformed countless lives: "Most times in sports we are taught that we have to beat the other team, show no mercy, and be super competitive, because that is what our society has turned sports into. Golf however, is different. Golf is a game of character and appreciation."

Highlighted below are a few of the most valuable lessons golfers can use in everyday life:

1. Cooperation is key.

Golf may be a competition, but it is underscored by a clear spirit of cooperation. Even the most bitter enemies can find common ground on the green. As Riggs explains, golf is "a game where two businessmen who hate each other can go and enjoy a day away from the office."

2. Humility is valuable.

Many of the world's best golfers are shockingly humble. They recognize the talent against which they compete, and they know that they're always a swing away from being tested. Win or lose, they show other players the respect they deserve.

3. Hard work is more important than luck.

Luck plays a surprisingly small role in the game of golf. There is only so much somebody with raw talent can accomplish. Palmer once admitted that his luck increased tenfold when he worked hard. This is imperative in every aspect of life.

4. Never say never.

With hard work, even an inexperienced golfer can make great strides and accomplish great things. Golf teaches athletes not to give up, even in the face of repeated failures. Life is a lot like this with the old adage “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

5. Silence is golden.

Most athletic pursuits are high volume. There's nothing wrong with a raucous atmosphere, but many people fail to recognize the value of silence. Golfers revel in the peace and quiet, which allows them to better focus on their technique. Golf teaches us that there is beauty in silence which is where growth can be achieved. This is true in both business and personal relationships.

6. Make the most of each situation.

The circumstances in golf are rarely ideal. Shots often must be taken from the worst imaginable locations. Complaining doesn't accomplish anything -- good golfers accept the situation, strategize and remedy it the best they can, while abiding by the rules of the game. Ben Hogan had a great quote “The most important shot in golf is the next one.” This acceptance of your circumstances and recalculating can pay dividends in a variety of other settings.

7. Don't ruminate on failures.

The longer golfers spend worrying about bad shots, the less capable they are of making up for those bad shots. Each shot is a different story -- and a chance for redemption. This concept is incredibly valuable in daily life, especially in academia and the work world. Everybody comes up short sometimes, but no matter how bad we mess up, there is always an opportunity to turn it around.

8. Jitters are normal and controllable.

First tee jitters happen even for the best golfers. Years of training may not eliminate these jitters, but with practice, they can be controlled -- and even harnessed for better performance. Just ask UC’s men’s and women’s golf teams that are projected to be champions in their regular season, this year. Pressure is part of the game (of golf and life). Learning how to optimize the jitters will pay dividends for you in the long term.

9. Visualization is a useful tool.

Visualization can be valuable in a variety of situations and environments, including the golf course. Before swinging, it helps to visualize every element of the maneuver, and what will happen to the ball after it is hit. The end product will not always look like what the golfer visualized, but this strategy can lead to better results. Visualization is such an important aspect to success in academia, business and life in general.

10. The big picture is important.

Golf is a series of swings, but each swing aims for one specific goal. Golfers need to know where they are going and how they plan to get there. The same can be said of pursuing a college degree, a career field, or any other major goal.

This anonymous quote sums it up, “in golf as in life it is the follow through that makes the difference.”

University of the Cumberlands thanks Arnold Palmer for his contribution to the game of golf as well as to the game of life.