The Many Lessons of Golf Applied to Marriage

I have a confession to make. Board up your windows because I am learning to play golf... I have bought lots of 'how to' books, a set of clubs and watched several videos. I've just got my 28 handicap recognised by the English Golfing Union but thankfully with God we don't need one. Whether you do or don't play golf, I'd like to commend to you 12 simple lessons I am learning about golf which equally apply to marriage.

1. Golf teaches that we all have handicaps ... and that hardly anybody knows what they really are. In marriage you get the chance to discover what those handicaps are in yourself and in your partner and in love begin the challenge of improving one another's game.

2. Golf teaches that the best courses are the ones that hardly change at all what God put there to begin with. You marry into a family and many of our handicaps are inherited. As you grow in your marriage you will learn to accept each other the way God has made you, handicaps and all. As they say, play the ball where it lies and play the course as you find it. Today you are accepting one another for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part. In marriage you never need to lie about your handicap.

3. Golf teaches that although there are a few people who are honest in golf but cheat in life, everybody who cheats in golf cheats in life. Marriage, like the rules of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of Saint Andrew, requires total honesty. Share everything with one another, honestly and openly and then together you will find an answer to every hazard ahead of you.

4. Golf teaches that even though we need strict rules, we also need a leaf rule. Because we all have a handicap, we all need a forgiving partner. The most important words to use in marriage as in golf are 'I am sorry' 'what do you think?' 'Its your honour', 'please' and 'thank you'.

5. Golf teaches that even people who wear green tartan plus fours deserve some place where they can go, get a little exercise and not be laughed at. Marriage is the place where you can be yourself and not have to follow a dress code. Instead of competing with each other, marriage is the place to accept, support and protect your partner.

6. Golf teaches that even though you probably don't have a shot at being the best, you do have a good shot at being the best you can be. When the adrenaline of today wears off the work of your marriage begins. Start each day with the aim of being the best husband and the best wife you can be and you will be surprised how far your strokes will go.

7. Golf teaches that both success and failure are temporary and that success is a lot more temporary. You have promised today to be faithful to each other in sickness and in health, for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer. You know you can start a game in glorious sunshine and by the second hole you are have to change into all weather gear. Marriage is about the long haul and the greatest rewards are for those who persevere and make the whole round. Winning at golf, as in marriage is about finishing well. Golf rewards those who forget what lies behind, the mis-hits, the bunkers and the double bogeys - and press on to a strong finish.

8. Golf teaches that although practice does not always make us perfect, no practice always makes us imperfect. Marriage is all about being a learner and always seeking new ways to improve your stroke, your pitching and your putting. Make it your aim to be teachable and a learner in marriage and your game will improve.

9. Golf teaches that no matter how good you are, there is always someone better and that person will usually find you and tell you. Your commitment is now first and foremost to your partner. Resist the temptation to be like someone else or be with someone else. The grass may be greener on the other fairway but you still have to mow the grass.

10. Golf teaches that even though the best golfers have the most chances to win, the other golfers have the most chances to improve. Marriage is about the joy of improving your partners game. And when miracles happen on the course, it is important to know how to handle them. Songwriter Hoagy Carmichael, an avid golfer, once teed up on a part-three hole, picked up a club and hit the ball. It bounced once on the green, hit the pin and dropped in for a hole in one. Hoagy didn't say a word, but took another ball from his pocket, teed up, then observed, "I think I've got the idea now." Keep practising and you will keep improving.

11. Golf teaches you to hand in your score card because the aim is to lower your handicap. I am still waiting to get a card worth handing in. The third person in a good marriage, as in a game of golf, is having a pro play along side you, the person who modelled the rules perfectly - the Lord himself. Imagine playing someone with a perfect score - a hole in one on every fairway, every time, better even than a Tiger Woods. Would it put you off or improve your game? But imagine as you walk away from the 18th, he takes your card, puts his name on your card and your name on his. That is what Jesus did for us on the cross. A perfect score. In marriage as in golf, God would have us remember he thought up the rules, and if we ask his advice he will show us how to play the only game that matters, the game that need never end if we invite him to be our saviour and pro.

12. Golf teaches that, on some dewy morning or some golden afternoon, with the sun warming the world, we can find ourselves walking through an improvised meadow and realize we are not searching for the little white ball, but for a glimpse of that moment where the world of nature and the world of play are one. And then in the dew and sunshine we can understand that even though we can make a ball perfectly white, only God can make a meadow perfectly green.

May you experience that sense of wonder in God's presence every day of your life together, May God bless you.

Adapted from Chicken Soup for the Golfers Soul by Jack Canfield and Friends. Health Communications , Inc.