How Golf Can Help Your Kids Build Character
By Jordan Fuller, Golf Coach
Known for being the only person to win golf’s Grand Slam - all four major championships in the same calendar year - the legendary golfer Bobby Jones won a career 13 major tournaments in his short 15 years playing golf before retiring, as an amateur.
But he could’ve won 14 if not for one of the greatest displays of character and sportsmanship in any sport.
Jones found himself in a second 18-hole playoff against Willie McFarlane for the 1925 US Open Championship at Worcester Country Club. On the eleventh hole, Jones hit his shot a little to the right of the fairway and found the rough. While the lie wasn’t all that terrible, after selecting his club and addressing the ball, according to Jones, the ball moved slightly.
Additional Read: Use Youth Sports to Help Build People of Character
Now, in the game of golf, if the ball moves prior to the player striking it, the player is assessed a one-shot penalty. Long before the days of continual TV coverage, the only person to see the movement of the ball was Jones. Not his caddie, or a gallery member, nor his opponent witnessed the movement, but Jones proceeded to call a penalty upon himself anyway.
Officials on the scene gathered asking if anyone witnessed the event, to which no one was able to confirm, but Jones was sure he’d moved the ball by mistake. The officials told him he should be congratulated, to which Jones responded that “you may as well praise a man for not robbing a bank.”
The story stands as a testament to the lessons the game of golf can teach.
Values and Quality Time
Historically, coaches, teachers, and advocates for sport argue that sport builds character. Many sports enthusiasts put great stock in the notion that sport builds positive character values such as honesty, responsibility, fairness, and respect, and they believe them to be one of the ultimate goals of sports participation, and one of the most notable of these is the game of golf. Many parents use their love of a sport to pass along their passion to their kids, and when it comes to the game of golf there is an added benefit in the opportunity to spend quality time together while teaching the game.
True Test of Character
Golf’s culture is one that is founded on honesty. This trust in the spirit of the game is emphasized by how easy it is to cheat. By moving your ball just an inch to the left or right can improve your chances. But in golf, the only score that a player truly needs to beat is their own. So by cheating, a player is only cheating themselves.
Play It as It Lies
Rule 13-1 in the Rules of Golf states, “The ball must be played as it lies unless the rules for a particular situation say otherwise.” As one of the most fundamental tenets of the game of golf, many cite this as a reason for the game as a builder of character. As a life lesson, kids can be taught at an early age that whatever obstacles or hurdles they face, eventually you need to make your decisions based on what you have before you.
Golf is Hard but Fun to Practice
It’s long been said that anything worthwhile in life is worth working for. Golfers play the game for years and years, spending countless hours on the practice green or driving range, only to be average at best (if they’re lucky). The game itself is very hard, and teaching children that things that are difficult can still be enjoyed, is important, but the good news is, the “work” of getting better is fun!
While playing the game itself requires a trip to the course, another benefit to the game of golf is the availability of indoor practice facilities and equipment. Most basements can be fitted with realistic simulators or indoor putting greens, allowing for year-round practice.
Jordan Fuller is a retired golfer who is now teaching and mentoring golf. Most of his students are children and teens who are wanting to learn how to play golf and improve their golfing skills. Jordan firmly believes that golf helps kids build a character that can be their foundation in life. He continues sharing tips and experiences by writing, and he owns a golf publication site, Golf Influence.