9 Fundamentals of Golf That Will Improve Your Relationship

From The Front Nine: Nine Fundamentals of Golf that Will Improve Your Marriage by Roger and Becky Tirabassi

If you are among golf's devoted, then you already know that this particular sport teaches many lessons -- from proper stance to proper grip. But did you know that you could translate these athletic skills into an improved relationship? Read this excerpt from The Front Nine to find out how you can get a hole-in-one kind of relationship.

Fundamental #1: Loosen your grip
Those of us who have held on to a golf club too tightly know from experience that this can cause several undesirable results: loss of distance, slower club head speed, and a ball that is apt to fly in the wrong direction. Though it seems that a tight grip would bring more power and control, it usually produces a shorter drive.

When you loosen your grip, your swing becomes more natural and relaxed, the club head goes naturally into proper positions, and you'll experience every golfer's dream -- unrestrained freedom and balance.

A "loose grip" in marriage can mean eliminating critical comments or refraining from asserting your preferred style into your spouse's method of doing things. As you see the freedom that comes with a loosened grip, you'll be encouraged and motivated to let your spouse develop strengths, pursue dreams, and overcome obstacles!

Loosening your grip is a matter of paying close attention to your spouse's personality and strengths and of being an encourager rather than tightening the grip of control that squelches a healthy relationship.

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Fundamental #2: Master many skills
Seasoned golfers are acutely aware that every round of golf -- even every shot -- will challenge them. But they also know that enjoyment of the game and the ability to lower your handicap come only with willingness to master many skills.

Often couples underestimate how much effort it takes to sustain a good relationship. They don't realize how many skills are required to build and enjoy a healthy marriage for a lifetime.

Mastery of communication skills, such as anger management and conflict resolution, will lead to a more satisfying marriage and a lifetime of having fun, growing in love, and staying committed to each other.

Fundamental #3: Maintain a positive attitude
Golf expert, Dr. Bob Rotella says, "Negative thinking is almost 100 percent effective." He doesn't want golfers to even entertain thoughts like, I'll bet I'm going to hit into that huge sand trap or Oh, no, a water hazard. I always find a way to hit into them. Why? Because those who dwell on the possibility of landing in the water and sand -- or who look right at the hazard -- focus more on the hazard than on the fairway. The result is, they end up in the hazard almost 100 percent of the time!

In marriage, there are ample opportunities for couples to hit rough spots. A poorly timed or sarcastic comment, selfish behavior, or even a simple misunderstanding can steal a light-hearted moment or ruin a fabulous day. Maintaining a positive attitude in your marriage will promote mutual respect. All marriages hit rough spots. But when we treat each other with respect and a willingness to forgive quickly, rather than trying to "win" or rub in the other person's mistake, we'll elicit a lot more laughter than tears or silence.

Fundamental #4: What feels natural isn't always best
Changing a stance, grip, or swing, especially if you've gotten into a rut or a bad habit or never learned correctly, isn't easy. It will be uncomfortable and feel unnatural at first. It takes time to change your muscle memory, to unlearn old patterns and replace them with new ones. But if you want to improve your golf game, you must be willing to change.

Continually adapting and learning new and better skills must be a lifelong commitment for those who desire to improve their relationships. What feels natural isn't always best. Putting new habits into practice in your marriage might bring discomfort, but it will also yield greater results and consistent improvement.

Fundamental #5: Repair your divots immediately
If you golf, you will make divots. It's part of the game. But unrepaired divots can hinder play. Repairing divots immediately minimizes damage to the course and makes the game more enjoyable for everyone.

The sooner we ask for forgiveness after hurting someone, the easier it is to move forward together. The longer we wait to reconcile our differences, the more difficult it becomes to resolve them. In fact, the longer we wait to resolve conflict, the greater the chance additional trouble will enter the relationship and complicate our lives even more.

Fundamental #6: Getting better takes time and practice
The temptation for beginning golfers is to observe how effortlessly pros hit the ball and to naively think they should be able to perform the same way without the same investment. They forget or don't realize that professional golfers can be found on the practice tee or golf course day after day after day -- driving, chipping, hitting sand shots, and putting.
Maintaining a healthy and happy marriage takes time and effort. But practicing good communication skills is the key to keeping your marriage on course.

Fundamental #7: Avoid the hazards
Sand traps, water hazards, out-of-bounds markers, and a forest of trees all have the potential to ruin a great day for many golfers. Some hazards are hidden, until you are in them. Others are foreseeable, and the wise golfer will avoid them. Make a list of the specific hazards in the course of your marriage and consider them out of bounds. Do your best to stay clear of them. It will help you experience a safer and more enjoyable relationship with both immediate and long-term rewards.

Fundamental #8: Have realistic expectations
What is a realistic expectation for the average golfer who approaches the first tee? Acknowledge the nuances of the game, enjoy your companions and the beauty of the course, and play your round one shot at a time. Of course, your personality, level of intensity, and competitiveness will factor into the way you golf. But having realistic expectations gives everyone the opportunity for a more enjoyable experience on the course.

Successful marriages take time, effort, and understanding. Just as expecting your handicap to drop 10 strokes after three or four lessons with a golf instructor is unrealistic, so is expecting rapid improvement in a troubled relationship. If you are realistic, optimistic, and patient with yourself and with your partner, we are convinced that, over time, your marriage will improve!

Fundamental #9: When in a slump, get back to basics
Renowned golf instructor Harvey Penick said, "If you play poorly one day, forget it. If you play poorly the next time out, review your fundamentals of grip, stance, aim, and ball position."

As in golf, when your marriage is in a slump, getting back to the basics can create a spark of fun and love to keep you moving forward.

Rounding the Turn: Golf is both a mental and physical game. Encouragement, advice, and direction from a knowledgeable or respected friend, coach, or instructor will bring valuable perspective to the inevitable difficulties of the game.

Much like golf, marriage is multifaceted. To maintain a great relationship, you might need the help of a counselor, pastor, or mentor who can encourage you and tell you the truth. Don't hesitate to speak with a professional counselor, especially if you're struggling to master any of the The Front Nine fundamentals. Work on your marriage with the same intensity you would use to improve your golf game, and you'll see measurable improvement.

From, The Front Nine: Nine Fundamentals of Golf that Will Improve Your Marriage by Roger and Becky Tirabassi (Howard, Jan. 2003).

For more information on attending or scheduling workshops for couples based on The Front Nine or to order a copy of the book, call 1-800-444-6189 or visit www.thefrontnine.com.

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