Christian Living Lessons from Golf

Bob RoaneCounseling, Service, Wise living

Golf ball

(Excerpt from teaching/training classes, used also in pastoral counseling and prison ministry)

It is sunny and 85 degrees in Houston today. I drove passed people playing golf and remembered Jim Sheard. Jim is co-author of eight highly acclaimed books and posts encouraging thoughts on his website ( I haven’t played golf for many years and was a duffer at best, but I like Jim’s practical wisdom and have adapted and expanded on some of his thoughts. Jim uses the game of golf as a metaphor to describe lessons on following Jesus. Here are a few:

  1. You do not always win. Failure is inevitable in golf and in life. Michael Jordan stated, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. But I get up and I press on. And that is why I succeed.” James 3:2 “We all stumble in many ways.”
  1. Everybody gets into a bunker (sand trap, hazard) now and then. Job 5:7—“People are born to have trouble, as surely as sparks rise from a fire.” In football, the ball carrier sometimes fumbles. The secret is to get up, recover, and get back to trusting and obeying Christ.
  1. “Play it as it lies” means you don’t get to change your circumstances. This calls for our acceptance of what the Lord sends us and submission to His providence, learning contentment along the way. Job 1:21—“The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” Christ can teach us joyful contentment.
  1. In the real game of life, there are no mulligans (do-overs). Every choice carries consequences. Gal 6:7—“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A person reaps what they sow.” But praise Jesus for His matchless grace! He gives us second, third, and zillionth chances to love and serve Him again.
  1. Enjoy the scenery. Stop to smell the roses. Don’t be too busy to enjoy life. Matt 6:28–29 “See how the lilies of the field grow … Not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.” Being in grateful awe of God’s good creation sweetens every day.
  1. Anger does not help. PGA golfer Bobby Cole seemed angry and bitter all the time, made cutting remarks, and was known for his obnoxious behavior. Christ’s followers can’t be like that or we dishonor Him and make ourselves miserable. James 1:19–20—“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for person’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” Prov 29:11—“A fool lets fly with all their temper, but a wise person keeps it back.” Ask the Lord to give you the Holy Spirit’s fruit of self-control.
  1. The little strokes count the same as big ones. Zech 4:10—“Who despises the day of small things? People will rejoice when they see Messiah.” Are we content to serve Christ in small ways as we await His return and His approval? Sometimes that’s all He assigns us, so He calls us to be faithful in little things.
  1. The game is more fun when played with others. Prov 27:17—“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Prov 17:17 “A friend is loving at all times, and becomes a brother in times of trouble.” God created us to want and need fellowship with others. We need Christian brothers and sisters to help us practice Christianity.
  1. Treating people nicely is part of the game. We are to imitate Jesus’ kindness, respect, compassion, sympathy, and empathy for people. Matt 7:12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets (The Golden Rule). Imitating Christ proves that we truly are His followers.
  1. There is life beyond the score. We need God-centered perspective, Heavenly minded-ness. All Christians stumble into sin all through this life, but we keep on getting up and following Jesus, by His grace and for His glory. Failure is not fatal or final. A bend in the road is not the end of the road, unless we don’t return to Christ. Phil 3:13,14— “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

I used this in “Leadership” class at Belhaven University and on other occasions. Dr. Ed Young told the Bobby Cole story in a radio message.