I am excited to launch our IHG Golf “Back Nine” segments to help you with your game on and off the course. Enjoy!
Please feel free to leave me a comment.
In His grip,
We all know a friend who can easily drive a golf ball over 300 yards. It’s a thing of beauty to watch. Some of those balls seem to hang in the air for hours. Sometimes he can shorten a par 4 to a wedge, which gives him a huge advantage…when he finds the fairway.
Like many guys who don’t play regularly, he has some shots get away from him. It’s like the trees along the fairways are magnets for his balls and he could sometimes use a lumberjack as a playing partner.
The bigger problem, however, is his alignment. He may hit a great shot that slowly draws like it was struck by a pro, but he isn’t lined up properly in relation to the direction of the target to which he’s trying to hit. He executed the swing mechanics perfectly, but that doesn’t amount to much if he leaves the tee heading in the wrong direction. Making par after a well-struck ball poorly placed can be as difficult as recovering from a hacker’s slice.
The legendary golf instructor, Harvey Penick once wrote “Take Dead Aim.” In just three words, he emphatically says your aim should be sure and clear, focused directly on the goal or target. Do not step up to the ball until you have made sure where you are aiming. Every golf instructor makes a similar point by saying that we must have a clear vision of the target – and focus on it.
In life, we also need to identify our target, our ultimate purpose, and then aim at it. The Apostle Paul wasn’t a golf instructor, but when he wrote to his young counterpart, Timothy, he instructed, “But as for you, man of God…aim at righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness and gentleness” (I Timothy 6:ll).
As Christians, Christlikeness is our ultimate target and we get there by walking the fairways of life aiming for sanctification through faith and obedience. However, we must check our alignment to Christ to make sure we’re heading in the right direction.
Let’s play word association. When I say a word, you quickly respond with the first thing that comes to mind. Here goes, ready?
April: The Masters Golf Tournament
Bingo! That’s exactly what I was thinking as well.
April is my favorite month and even though my birthday is April 12th much of it has to do with the Masters. I’ve had the privilege to walk along those fairways 2010-2013. If you like flora and perfectly manicured landscaping, there is no place better. It’s also an ideal venue if you are into drama, There have been so many dramatic moments at the Masters over the years, but arguably the most dramatic moment in Masters’ history was Bubba Watson’s massive hook shot from the trees during the 2012 playoff against South African Louis Oosthuizen. Watson hit a blind shot in the dimming light that curved more than 40 yards and nestled just 10 feet from the pin. He was champion two putts later.
Bubba’s drive left him no choice but to take a big risk. However, it really wasn’t that big of a risk for Bubba. Not only did he grow up hitting those kinds of shots as a teenager on his tree-lined home course in Bagdad, Fla., Bubba practices those types of shots all the time. It wasn’t an ideal situation, but it was a moment for which he was prepared.
Think about the challenging life situations in which you find yourself. How prepared is your faith to handle unexpected circumstances? I’m not talking about faith in yourself to handle a particular circumstance; I’m talking about your faith in Christ that He is able to provide the strength and wisdom you need to lead you through trying times.
And you need those trying times. The Bible is replete with examples of how God leads people into and through adversity to strengthen their faith, drawing them more deeply toward Him in their trust and confidence in His plan for their lives. We see it with Abraham, Moses, David, Paul and Peter just to name a few.
Hebrews 5:11-14 challenges us that we should be moving forward in our faith, from a basic understanding of biblical truth to a mature understanding. Verse 14 says the ability to discern right and wrong comes from “constant practice.”
The challenges you face may never be as publicized as Bubba Watson’s miraculous shot, but it doesn’t mean they are less important. Bubba overcame his challenge with a golf club. Your swings at life will depend on your relationship with Jesus.
Is your faith prepared?
Golf is a complicated game. There are so many things one person has to be good at such as swinging violently yet controlled off the tee, or have a “touch” to hit irons with accuracy. Golfers also have to be bold putters to risk great reward, yet patient to know when to be more cautious. And then there is the mental side – a complicated discussion all together!
And there are coaches for all of it.
Life is certainly more complicated than golf with expectations to be a good spouse, parent, employee, employer, follower of Christ, and much more. Like golf, we need coaches for all of it, and God advices we find them. “Plans fall for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22).
I focus on ministry to men and I’ve absolutely concluded men need other men to hold each other accountable to the standard to which God calls us and to be challenged to grow in the faith.
However, the same is true of women. God intends His children to walk in community with each other, humbly encouraging and coaching one another to successfully live the Christian life. In fact, the writer of Hebrews instructs us to, “Consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,” (Hebrews 10:24).
If you aren’t sure where to begin, here are a few coaching tips.
Show up and listen – We all need to find places where godly people congregate (church), and listen for those among us blessed with wisdom. Often these are the “older” men and women (as Paul describes them) who are charged by God to instruct those younger in the faith.
Ask for help – Too often we become passive and do nothing. Find someone of wisdom, ask them to coffee, and ask them to consider becoming your coach in an area where they excel.
Look around – Who around you faces similar challenges? Pull together. Yeah, life is busy, but there is strength in mutual encouragement with someone who understands what you’re facing. For the last 16 years I have sought out wisdom from my mentor Jack Countryman. Jack is now 85 years old and finishing strong.
Look behind you – Who is coming behind you who is younger or newer in the faith? The best way to press life lessons into your own life is teach those lessons to others. None of us ever has it all figured out, but we grow when we help others move forward in faith. For the last 2 years I have been pouring into Brett Kern, the punter of the TN Titans. It is very fulfilling to stroll the fairways of life together.
I have recently completed writing a book called “The Front Nine” which contains 9 key chapters of everything that I would coach young men on to start strong on the course of life. I am now working on “The Back Nine” which will have 9 chapters on helping us men finish strong on and off the course.
Don’t allow your plans to fail for lack of wisdom. Find godly coaches; be a godly coach.
I sometimes chuckle when I talk to people who don’t know a lot about golf. They wonder how touring pros can walk those long courses four days in a row and it not affect their game by Sunday afternoon. It’s humorous because most of those guys would probably see those four rounds as light workout days!
Most of today’s players workout before or after a round, but it is the rest of the week and during the offseason where the work gets done. It’s not uncommon for a touring pro to put in 12 hours a day working on conditioning, ball striking, putting, chipping and sand play, and then get in a round (to integrate what they’ve learned).
They work…hard, and that’s what the Bible calls us to. “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty” (Proverbs 14:23; NIV). I look at men like my dad and grandfather and a distinguishable trait of their character is that they worked hard. They didn’t lament what they didn’t have, or came up with excuses for why they couldn’t do something. They rolled up their sleeves and went to work.
God intends His people to labor with a purpose. “Commit your plans to the Lord and then they will succeed,” (Proverbs 16:3; NIV). Let’s make sure we get our alignment right on this verse. We don’t make plans, ask God to bless them, then get bent out of shape when things don’t go as we intended. Our alignment is correct when we submit our lives to God, seek first His Kingdom (Matthew 6:33) and allow Him to define our plans.
Jesus was the greatest man who ever lived. He faced the greatest challenge known to man – our separation from God by our sin. He labored hard throughout His life to glorify God in all he did. He deserved better than what He got at the cross, but He took it on knowing the joy that would echo through eternity for millions of people because of the selfless work He accomplished.
How about you? Would you come to someone’s mind if they were asked to name the most industrious people they know? Is laboring well becoming a mark of your character?
I absolutely love this time of year and realize that the spring season is the time to get out and prepare the fields for the fall harvest. We just need to make sure we are laboring toward the right goals in life. What are you working hard toward? Climbing the corporate ladder? Make sure it is leaned against the right wall.
The golf swing only lasts a few seconds. Think about it: from the time the ball is placed on the tee until it is launched down the fairway takes very little time. Most golfers spend the majority of a round walking or riding to their next shots.
But think how complicated those few seconds are, and the fact that they determine everything. You can focus on dozens of little pieces if you break the swing down: ball height, grip, grip pressure, club selection, club angle, stance and much more. Often, golfers obsess about one aspect of their swing and work incessantly on it. Where they fail is in not seeing the bigger picture and how that element fits with their overall swing. The point is not to have a better grip per se, it is to land the ball where you want it for a better score.
Our lives can often be like that. We get so focused on our current circumstance that we lose perspective of life. Maybe we face unemployment, divorce, illness or something else that absorbs our full attention. Time passes and we develop tunnel vision. Often we feel trapped and hopeless, like our lives are in a free fall and not connected to anything. We may even blame God for the “mess” we’re in.
What we need is a change of perspective, to stop looking at the parts of our lives and see them in the context of the whole. The Bible says, “[Jesus] made the things we can see and the things we can’t see…Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and He holds all creation together” (Colossians 1:16-17; NLT).
This is great news! If our lives are connected to Jesus by faith, then we are connected to the very One who holds this crazy world and everything that happens in it – and to us – together! There’s hope in that, knowing that the challenges we face have meaning, and lead to His glory and for our benefit.
Only in hindsight do we see the end result of the segment of life we are dealing with now, but Jesus not only knows in advance, He is holding it together for you and directing it toward His intended goal. Trust in His perspective and not yours.
In the summer of 2005 I received one of those phone calls where you have to pinch yourself to make sure it wasn’t a dream. The call from the VP at Promise Keepers went something like this; “hey Scott, I wanted to see if these dates are open in September as we are hosting 40 key donors for a 3 day golf retreat and would like you to lead us each morning in a short devotional on golf & life and also have you on the range for any quick tips that you can give to the guys.”
Well, I knew that PK was based in Denver and thought that sounded like a fun experience to be a part of as those fall dates were open on my calendar. My response was, “it would be a privilege to serve you and your mighty men of God.” Well, the words that came through the phone just about sent me backwards with a Olympic-style landing when I heard; “that’s great Scott, we will cover all of your expenses and give you an honorarium for your time. I will actually need you to fly to San Francisco since the retreat is being held at “The Lodge” at Pebble Beach. We will be playing The Links at Spanish Bay, Spyglass and Pebble on the final day.”
After pulling off a triple back flip with a twist I composed myself to ask him to please walk me through the agenda as drool was pouring off my chin. I don’t really remember anything else but his last statement was, “oh by the way, you are more than welcome to invite a guest and we will take care of his expenses also.” Oh my…any guesses of who I asked to join me? First person to comment with the correct answer will receive a FREE In His Grip hat.
I look forward to sitting back this weekend and watching the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-AM. How about you?
In His grip,
One year ago, Leslie and I embarked upon the 2013 PGA Merchandise Show with a plan to find a few new vendors for IHG Golf. One of our main objectives was to find an apparel company that would be able to supply our needs for all of the demands of guys wanting to wear the IHG branded polos and pullovers.
We marched from one big company to another all with the same results. Nothing! Each door we walked into seemed to shut quickly for one reason or another. It just wasn’t a fit. We found ourselves in the middle of a 1,000,000 square foot building filled with 40,000+ golfers and 1,000+ golf companies feeling a bit overwhelmed and frustrated to say the least. I remember saying underneath my breath, “come on God, we could use a little help here.”
A few minutes later I looked up and saw the PING Apparel booth and said, “honey, let’s go check them out.” As I walked up to the booth, a gentleman looked at my badge and asked, “is that a Christian organization?” I immediately said, “yes sir, our mission is to introduce men to Jesus Christ through the game of golf.” This same guy then asked a very simple but direct question…”why are you here”? I told him that one of our key objectives of the show was to find an official apparel company for our In His Grip Golf organization. He quickly answered, “you found it”. I chuckled and said that I would really need to talk to the decision maker and as he turned around his badge, it read Vice President of PING Apparel. He again quickly answered, “I am he.”
That divine appointment spawned an amazing relationship with PING as a few weeks later I found myself flying to Phoenix to go through a personal fitting with PING and had the opportunity to tour their incredible factory where all of their clubs are assembled. Each of the employees I came in contact with had a sense of joy and there was this sense of community that was almost family-like. Truly amazing!
I have had the opportunity to support many great golf companies over my 45+ years of playing this great game but I am beyond excited to share with you that I have been adopted into the PING Family and look forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship. I love their tagline:
“Play Your Best”
Be on the lookout this spring for new IHG Golf Gear Powered by PING Apparel.
I look forward to strolling the fairways of life with you.
In His grip, Scott
Last year as this time I drove to the Mickey Mouse Mecca a.k.a. Orlando and arrived Sunday battling the flu bug the whole way down. I woke up Monday morning in the fetal position not knowing if I could even get out of bed. By noon, I was feeling a bit better and wanted to do ONE thing to be productive. I decided to drive out to Bay Hill Golf Club to buy a few items for our IHG Celebrity Invitational golf tournament. I said a quick prayer of..”and Lord, if there is any way you could introduce me to Arnie, I would greatly appreciate it.
Well, as I was heading to the Pro Shop counter to buy a few BH flags and hats, a gentleman walked in to announce that Mr. Palmer was heading to the first tee. What??? Are you kidding me? I grabbed one of the flags and went walking out the door…ok, I sprinted out the door and sure enough, there was the king of golf sitting in his golf cart getting ready to tee it up. I don’t recall everything that I blurted out of my mouth but I was able to share the IHG Celebrity Inv event with him and ask for his autograph and of course a picture. Mr. Palmer was most accommodating and then he was off to the 1st tee. I went back into the Pro Shop to pay for the stolen items and must admit that I was kind of numb from this amazing experience. As I walked back to the IHG rig I asked the Lord what just happened.
This is what I heard in my heart of hearts…”My son, I answered your prayer by introducing you to the king of Golf, but remember, I AM the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, I can do ALL things.” Yowsa! Oh, how I need to be careful not to worship any man as that can only be one and his name is Jesus.
I may just have to slide over to Bay Hill Golf Club again this year and see what the Lord may unfold.
I wanted to follow up on the video I posted of Ben Hogan’s slow-motion swing drill and share with you today’s model. Take a look here at Luke Donald’s swing, not a bad one to emulate for 2014 and beyond. Take a look at the down swing and where does the butt of club point to?
During these cold days of winter, grab your seven iron and head to the bonus room, garage or basement and start swinging in slow-motion. I love this drill and it only takes me .09 seconds from takeaway to a full finish. You really start to get a sense and a feel for a balanced consistent swing. Isn’t that what we are all longing for?
Please comment with any other questions you may have.
Have a blessed New Year.