Golf can be hard.

Yes, I know, this is not a newsflash to anyone who has ever picked up a club. The skill required to just hit that little white ball takes years to fine tune.

Adding insult to injury, golf is difficult because it puts the golfer through a series of tests—physical, mental, and emotional—each and every round.  Even better, those tests take place right in front of friends, teammates, and fellow golfers.  It’s a bit unnerving, all right.  To top it off, golf is supposed to be a “dignified” sport where participants display their best behavior at all times. Therefore, getting worked up on the rare occasion where something goes wrong is highly frowned upon.

For example, let’s say you have a really bad shot (or maybe this is your fifth bad shot in a row). Every ounce of your being might beg you to throw your club or at least slam it on the ground.  But, guess what? In golf, that would look pretty bad. So instead, you just need to take a deep breath, smile, and move on.

It’s also not super cool to swear (quietly or loudly) when you miss that putt. Again, remember you’re a golfer (not a sailor) and take the higher ground. Bite your tongue, smile, and curse away… in your head.

Stuck in the sand for a few shots? Taking the rake and burying your sand wedge, or just throwing your club to the middle of the trap certainly seems like a fine idea. Again, the golf gods look down on this kind of behavior.

Let’s take those days you’re just not feeling it, and you find yourself exhausted on hole 6 of an 18 hole round.  You’d like to just call it a day and go back to the clubhouse. Believe me, I’ve been there. But, really the only thing you can do is reach in your bag and hope you have some reserves—nuts, M&M’s, or maybe a crushed granola bar from last season. That, or pray that the beverage cart passes your way. Savor whatever you find, and hope for an energy boost to carry you through.  You will survive, I promise.

Stuck behind slow players? Yeah, all of those names you have in your head for those slow pokes ARE pretty funny, but deep down you know it’s not right to say them out loud.  After all, unfortunately, you realize that half the time, you are that slow player holding someone up.  Knowing this, and because your mom taught you good manners, you suck it up and patiently wait.

It’s not all gloom and doom. The fun thing about golf is that you will hit some pretty amazing shots. While you’d like to do your best happy dance when these things happen, you’ve seen the pros handle their victories humbly, so you begin to adopt this behavior too, all while glowing inside.

Then there are the little things, like playing the honor system, repairing your divots, and generally respecting your fellow golfers—those in your foursome and those you see on the course. Basically, in golf, there’s just a lot to think about, and a lot of rules and guidelines to follow, all while you’re being tested on so many levels in this complex game. Yet, the crazy thing is, you discover that it does get easier the more you play.  Okay, maybe not the game, but your reaction to it, and your ability to ride out the challenging times and handle them in a calm, cool way.

You begin to see why this has been called a game of dignity, and you start to find yourself treating the game accordingly, which is pretty awesome. It’s then that you put it together that the challenges that happen during golf, also creep up in life… and these challenges are actually best handled with dignity, just like in golf.  The moment you realize this is the moment you realize that the secret to becoming a truly exceptional player is actually quite simple—be an exceptional person.