Life is More Like Golf than Bowling

About 40 years ago, I heard an unforgettable message during a sermon: You and I expect life to be like an afternoon of bowling, but it’s more like a game of golf.  

Think about it. In bowling, you go into a climate-controlled building, find a pair of geeky looking shoes that have never been touched by dirt. You select a ball that’s fits your hand and strength; or if you own the ball, it’s been cut to fit your fingers. You place it on the rack and look at many lanes with their 10 pins, perfectly pre-set by a machine in exactly the same place each time. 

You stand in your normal place, take three steps, throw the ball down the waxed lane with the goal of striking the pins in such a way that they all fall down. If you’re not successful, no worries, the ball automatically returns so you can try again. If you’re still not successful, no worries again. 

No matter what happens, you get a break, and when it’s your turn again, you repeat the process with fresh set of perfectly set pins. Today the machines even keeps your score, so from beginning to end, you are taken care of like an overindulged baby. It’s neat. Tidy. Predictable. 

The conditions of golf are quite the opposite. You enter a totally unprotected and never predictable environment—you play under sunny skies, during a windy storm or anything in-between (and sometimes you experience more than one kind of weather in a single game. You might start with clean shoes and balls, but they won’t stay that way.  

If you’re like me, when you swing, the ball can land anywhere. Sometimes you’ll watch it go into the weeds, hit a tree, plop into the water—or disappear completely. But the real difference between bowling and golf is Rule 9: “Rule 9 covers a central principle of the game: ‘play the ball as it lies.’† 

And such is life. You make a decision, and then you see what happens, and go from there. No resets or do overs. When we see our lives as a series of making decisions, accepting the consequences and then asking, “What’s the next step to reach the goal?” we avoid the frustration of thinking that someone is going to magically do it for us. And this builds creativity and resilience skills. And makes for great stories. 

It’s up to us to move forward in life, and even better, to be grateful for those who show up to point the way—especially when we’re lost in the weeds.

Conversations will be on-going through March at our monthly Sole-to-Soul-workshops. Check them out!

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