Golf as a Microcosm of Life

Jack Nicklaus Quote

My passion for golf started later in life. I played some as a kid, but my main passion was football growing up earning a college scholarship at the University of North Dakota. 

My football career came to an abrupt halt when I had a life-changing and career ending injury tearing three out of the four knee ligaments in my right knee. 

Once my knee healed I started to pick up the clubs again. At first, not very seriously and then it became an obsession. Probably, even a little unhealthy. I have never been very good at finding the middle ground. I started to take lessons. I would practice at home and wear down the carpet from practicing my swing inside. I would be thrilled when I played great and sullen when I had a poor round. For most of my playing days, I was playing for all of the wrong reasons. 

At this stage of my life I have come to realize that golf is a microcosm of life and a great teacher if we allow it to be. My perspective towards golf has shifted and has allowed me to enjoy the game to its fullest extent and become a better man in the process. 

Golf can be an escape for many people. I know it was for me. It helped me escape my identity as a washed up football player that blew out his knee. It helped me escape an unhealthy marriage that was doomed to failure. It helped me escape the realities of this world and all of the responsibilities that go along with it. 

But golf is so much more than that. With my shift in perspective about golf, it is now a way for me to become a better human being. Golf is a microcosm of life. Who doesn’t struggle with their incessant chatter in their mind, the monkey mind so to speak? 

I have found golf a great way to better myself from the inside out. It helps me to connect my mind, body and spirit. In my work with golfers, if I am just focusing on helping them get physically fit, I am missing the point. There is so much more to this game. I have discovered so much about myself  from playing this amazing game.  The following are a few of the things I have learned along the way. 

Quiet the Mind

Golf at its core is a mental game. Life at its core is about learning to be still and quiet the mind. I am all too familiar with the incessant voice in my head that tells me that I am not good enough. That I will never measure up. That voice is a lie. 

Through a consistent meditation practice and the use of mental rehearsal  my mind gets quieter every day. Practicing meditation has become a non-negotiable in my life. I can’t excel in life or play my best golf with an out of control monkey mind. I have found that a regular meditation practice is the single most important thing in my life that has transformed me on and off the golf course.

It gives me a sense of inner peace. A calm within the storm. I would say that meditation and mental rehearsal is even more important than going to the driving range. Golf is a beautiful game where we can practice quieting the mind and filling it with affirming thoughts rather than the harsh inner critic that so often keeps us from playing our best and living the lives we are created to live. 

As Steve Elkington points out, “The mind is your greatest weapon. It’s the greatest club in your bag. It’s also your achilles heel.” -Steve Elkington

Which one is it for you? It’s a practice of a lifetime and one that I am willing to dedicate the rest of my life to finding that deep inner peace within myself through the practice of meditation and taking my quiet mind to the course. 

Detach From Outcomes

“The wise man lets go of all results, whether good or bad, and is focused on the action alone.”

I grew up as a competitive athlete and it was all about just win baby. I played football, basketball, baseball and ran track. The feeling of winning was one of euphoria and the feeling of losing was always disheartening. 

I didn’t have the maturity to think of losing as an opportunity to learn. I can now appreciate what Nelson Mandela has to say about winning and losing.

“I never lose. I either win or learn.” -Nelson Mandela

One of the hardest things to do in golf and in life is to detach from outcomes. My identity has historically been wrapped up in how I perform. I was constantly praised as an athlete. It was actually how I felt loved. I was loved for what I did on the athletic field, instead of who I was as a human being. 

I have put so much pressure on myself to perform, I have felt this low level sadness that I have finally been able to overcome. How I did this was to let go of control and detach from outcomes.

A poor golf shot doesn’t define me anymore than a great golf shot. It simply is what is. I hit every shot to the best of my ability and do my best not to give more meaning to the shot. I either hit a great shot or I learn from it. 

Same as in life. I simply make a choice and it either turns out great or it doesn’t. I learn from the choice I made and move on. I detach from outcomes. 

Golf doesn’t define me. It’s simply a platform to become the best man I can become. Nothing more and nothing less. I only compete against myself. If I can be a little better today than I was yesterday, that is a victory. 

Be Fearless

Playing fear-based golf never turns out well. Living life from a place of safety and security limits our possibilities. 

As Fuzzy Zoeller points out, the people who aren’t afraid to screw up are the guys who are going to win. 

“You’ve got to have the guts not to be afraid to screw up. The guys who win are the ones who are not afraid to mess up. And that comes right from the heart.”- Frank Urban “Fuzzy” Zoeller,Jr.

Being fearless to me means not being afraid to fail. Not caring what others think of me. I used to be so self-conscious out on the golf course and in life. I was afraid that someone would be better than me or what somebody would think of me if I hit a terrible shot. 

Why did I care so much? That is codependency. Something I actually have struggled with my whole life. The need for you to like me and think well of me. 

What a beautiful place to practice this on the golf course. We all hit poor shots. We all make poor choices. It doesn’t define me or you. 

I have learned to recognize that many of my choices are based out of fear. That’s the ego trying to keep me safe. Golf is a very humbling sport. It’s a great teacher for when the ego wants to take over.

As Sam Snead points out, “Of all the hazards, fear is the worst.” -Sam Snead

Golf as in life is all about taking chances. It’s about being afraid and doing it anyway. Golf is a game of courage. It’s just me and that little white ball staring me in the face. It’s about the practice of humility and overcoming pride that my oftentimes fragile male ego gets so caught up in. 

Being fearless in golf and in life excites me to no end. That is how I choose to show up in the world with all of my humanity. 

Have Joy in the Present Moment

If we aren’t having fun in life, we are missing the point. If we aren’t having fun on the golf course we are also missing the point. 

Golf is supposed to be fun and so is life. I am not big into swearing, but if a F bomb is going to come out, it’s probably going to come out on the golf course. Can you relate?

If there is one thing I have learned along the way is not to take myself or golf too seriously. I actually get to have fun in this lifetime. I get to laugh and play. I think we forget that sometimes. I know I certainly have. 

We get to play like a child. We get to forgive ourselves for living a life of joy. 

As Ben Hogan points out, “As you walk down the fairway of life you must smell the roses, for you only get to play one round.” -Ben Hogan

We must smell the roses as life is very short. What if you enjoyed every shot you hit no matter the outcome? What if you hit every shot while smiling inside?

The greatest gift that I have given myself is the permission to play and have fun. I get to do this on and off the golf course. I get to have joy in the present moment. 

It’s About Who We Are Becoming

If you are great at golf and a jerk, you are missing the point. If you are only happy when you are playing golf you are missing out on so much of life. Golf is not something to escape to, it’s a spiritual practice that allows us to step more into the person we are created to be. 

Through my own deep inner work I have come to realize that life is about becoming. It’s about becoming a divine being of love integrating our humanity and divinity.

I get it. You just want to play golf and forget about all of this spiritual stuff. What I have learned the hard way is that golf will never fill that hole in my heart that only tapping into my spiritual aspect of myself will. Until I recognized that I am a spiritual being having a  human experience I was a pretty unhappy person. 

No matter how good my golf game was, it didn’t bring the fulfillment that I have now  since I have nurtured my spiritual growth. It’s not religious dogma, it’s simply living a life that makes me feel fully alive knowing that there is something greater than me who is in control. I believe everyone’s spiritual path looks different, but I strongly believe that without a spiritual practice we will continue to suffer. 

Golf can be a wonderful way to build our strength of mind and character as the king so aptly points out. 

“Success in golf depends less on strength of body more on strength of mind and character.” 

- Arnold Palmer

I will take it one step further than Arnold Palmer. Success in life depends on the integration of mind, body and spirit. If one piece of that wheel is missing you are going to be in for a very bumpy ride for the rest of your life. 

Be in Community

One of my favorite things to do is to play golf with my son. It brings me so much joy to share this common passion with him. To get away from all of the distractions of life and just focus on playing a game we love while sharing time together.

I have come to the point in my life where I recognize there is nothing more important than relationships. Golf is an opportunity to be with the people and surroundings we love. I have met so many wonderful people on the golf course. There is nothing like spending several hours on the course getting to know someone. 

There is a social aspect to golf that is unparalleled in any other sport. There is nothing like a shared passion to bring people together. 

There is no other game that allows us to spend four to five hours together playing a round of golf getting to know one another. 

Golf is a beautiful balance of solitude and being in community. It’s an individual game that does provide solitude, but it also provides time to be with people. 

One thing that golf shows us is the importance of having a coach. Someone who helps you see your blind spots. Every great golfer has a coach. That should tell us something. Currently the number one player in the world is John Rahm. His golf coach is Dave Phillips, the founder of the Titleist Performance Institute. The organization that I am certified through. 

As much as golf is an individual sport, it shows us that we can not do this life alone. We will never be at our best if we are trying to figure things out by ourselves.  We all need someone to speak the truth in love to us. We all need someone in our lives to encourage us when our backs are against the wall. I know how meaningful words of affirmation are to me and I want to do the same for other people.

As the late Payne Stewart points out, golf is still a game. It’s the relationships that we develop along the way that is most important.

“But in the end it’s still a game of golf, and if at the end of the day you can’t shake hands with your opponent and still be friends, you have missed the point.” -Payne Stewart

Lift and Strengthen Your Spirit

Golf is a beautiful way to lift and strengthen our spirit. It teaches us who we are when things don’t go the way we want them to. It teaches us to accept life as it is.

Dare I say golf is a spiritual game. It teaches us who we are at our core. It helps us to overcome our egoic mind. It teaches us to take the good with the bad. 

If we allow it, golf  helps us to integrate our humanity and our divinity. Golf shows us that we don’t have to be perfect. We just show up and give it our best on each and every shot and let go of control. 

I am learning to surrender and allow the flow of life to take over. I am learning to live fearlessly not being attached to outcomes knowing that there is a divine source that is much greater than I am that is ultimately in control. 

Playing golf from a place of needing to control is a recipe for disaster as it is in life. The same is true when we play golf afraid. Nothing good has ever come from living life afraid. Taking chances is what life is all about and I will say the same about golf.

I am choosing to see golf as a way to become the best man that I can during my brief time here on earth. Of course, I want to lower my scores,  but more importantly I want to lift my spirit and I want to do the same for you. 

I have all of the credentials to help you play the best golf of your life. I have been a health and fitness professional for almost thirty years. I have a Master’s degree in exercise and sports science and I am certified as an exercise physiologist from the American Academy of Sports Medicine. I am level 2 certified as a Titleist Performance Institute Golf Fitness Instructor. I love to learn and more importantly I love to teach and encourage others through the game of golf. 

My commitment to you is that I will give you my best every day to help you enjoy the game more, lower your scores and play pain free. Not only that, I will lift and strengthen your spirit providing you the encouragement and accountability you need to be the best you can in every area of your life.

If that sounds like something that is inspiring to you, I would welcome the opportunity to be your golf fitness professional that takes you and your game to the next level.

I will leave you with one final thought that I do my best to live by every single day. 

When you take a chance on yourself you are believing in all of your unlimited potential. 

Be in the Shot,

Troy Ismir, MS

TPI Certified Level 2 Golf Fitness Professional

Holden Qi Gong Certified Teacher


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