As a young boy, at my local golf course and in my mind, I played Augusta National Golf Club many times. The gallery was always large; it was always late in the day on Sunday; the sun was always setting; and I always had a putt to win the Masters. It was common for me to beat Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, and Arnold Palmer. Thank God for creativity and memories!
Being able to walk the fairways of Augusta National was surreal, stressful, and, in a special way, spiritual. I gazed at the beauty of God’s creation and praised Him. The azaleas and dogwoods were in full bloom. The canvas on that Wednesday in late March was like a Sunday afternoon at the Masters…breathtaking!
I offer you ten lessons from playing golf at Augusta National Golf Club:
1. Accepting certain invitations is to be immediate
I’ll never forget the day that I received the call about Augusta National. At first, I misunderstood the call. I thought the invitation was to go to Augusta and watch other people play. I said, “Who are we going to watch play?” The person replied, “You’re not going to Augusta to watch. You’re going to play.” My acceptance of the invitation was immediate. As Jesus calls you and me to come and follow Him, our acceptance should be just as immediate.
2. Establishing relationships is important in life (and in golf)
You can’t call Augusta National and schedule a tee time. You have to be invited to play by a member. I’m grateful for people God used to help me have a place on the first tee. The member who hosted our group was gracious and generous. Our foursome enjoyed relational chemistry and a common faith in Jesus Christ…special brothers in the Lord.
Driving down Magnolia Lane, walking into the Members’ Locker Room, visiting the Masters Champions’ Locker Room, and seeing the entire golf facility motivated me to seize the day. I walked the same fairways, ate in the same clubhouse, and lounged in the same chairs as history’s greatest golfers. I visualized shots that many Masters Champions made on holes 10, 11, 12, 13, 16, 17, and 18. As you and I travel God’s path in life, let’s never forget the many people who paved the way before us. And if that’s not enough, let’s consider the many people who will come behind us and leave them a godly, Christ-centered legacy.
4. Paying attention to small details is a sign of leadership
As I walked the grounds of Augusta National, I didn’t see a blade of grass out of place, a cigarette butt on the ground, or a piece of trash on the course. The tee boxes, fairways, and greens seemed flawless from a golfer’s perspective. That kind of environment doesn’t just happen. It’s a sign of effective leadership. Great leaders are “masters” at casting vision for the big picture and paying attention to the small details.
Mobile phones aren’t welcome at Augusta National. No golfer is talking on the phone during the round; no golfer is checking email between shots; and no golfer is texting in the locker room. Even in the clubhouse restaurant, mobile phones aren’t permitted. The focus is on relationships and conversation. I sense our lives and relationships would be healthier if many of us disconnected from electronic devices more often. I’d be safe to say that our intimacy with Jesus would reach another level if we powered down on a frequent basis.
6. Enjoying the journey is an absolute must
I’m a competitive person by nature. However, I was reminded by people with Augusta National experience to enjoy the journey, not to focus on my score. The walk around the course was what mattered. As I thought about life, it’s possible to be focused on the results (or the destination) to the point that we miss the journey. You and I need to relish the sights, sounds, smells, and seasons of the moment. And it’s wise to love the people who journey with us, too!
7. Saying “thank you” is a courteous discipline
As I shared earlier, I didn’t call Augusta National and ask to play. I was invited to travel down Magnolia Lane. I expressed “thank you” to people often and in multiple ways. Saying “thank you” isn’t out-of-style. Jesus healed a group of lepers. Only one man returned to thank Him for his healing, leaving Jesus to question the behavior of the majority (Luke 17). As we experience God’s favor and people’s kindness, I appeal for us to take the time and express a sincere and courteous “thank you.”
As I walked the fairways of Augusta National, spiritual conversations were taking place. I talked with different ones in the group about Jesus, His church, and Christian living. Before our meal in the clubhouse, we bowed our heads and thanked Jesus for His abundant blessings. One of the caddies knew cancer firsthand for twenty-seven years. My nickname in the group was “Rev.” May you and I trust the Holy Spirit’s leadership and share Jesus at every open door!
9. Learning to listen to advice is a sign of maturity
One piece of advice I heard over and over, “Listen to your caddie. He knows how to play the course.” Did my caddie get it right every time? Not always! I remember at least two times that he missed a read on a green or a club selection. However, my caddie saved me many strokes during the round, too. He was fantastic! I was honored (and a better word is humbled) for him to carry my bag. James called God’s people to be quick to listen and slow to speak (Jas. 1:19). Mature people know the importance of listening.
Is Augusta National “Heaven on earth?” I must say, “It’s a perfect golf course for the avid golfer and fan.” However, nothing compares to the beauty, majesty, and splendor of Heaven. The Augusta National grounds are magnificent, yet they’ll fail in comparison to seeing Jesus face to face (Rev. 22:4). As we pulled away from Magnolia Lane, I thanked God for a bucket list item that was checked off, and I realized perspective matters.
As believers in Jesus Christ, may we never forget, it does get better than Augusta National Golf Club! And yes, I did enjoy a famous pimento cheese sandwich for lunch…delicious!
To God Be the Glory,