Hamad Bin Khalifa University academic Dr. Susan L. Karamanian not only loves golf – she’s learned life lessons from it. As Qatar’s Foundation’s Education City Golf Club prepares for its biggest event to date, she explains why.
Golfers from around the world will be at the Education City Golf Club in Doha this week to participate in the 23rd edition of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, a European Tour-sanctioned golf competition. As a seasoned golfer myself, I am excited that my home course at Qatar Foundation is hosting these top players - and the event also gives me a reason to reflect how lessons from golf transcend the game.
Golf is surprisingly difficult. Hitting a decent drive off the tee or a respectable fairway shot requires a combination of coordination, flexibility, stability, and power, which are not second nature to most people. With the ball finally on the green, you need a calm and well-timed putting stroke, anticipating how the ball will roll to the hole.
Shortly after learning the basics, you invariably have moments when the ball flies off the club with ease or a putt sinks with a grace worthy of Tiger Woods. You then spend weeks trying to repeat those shots or putts. Eventually, your moments of glory, while fleeting, come more frequently.
After much practice, you muster the courage to stand on the first tee. Your nerves spike as others watch you hit grass, instead of the ball. They worsen as others join you in a futile search for your ball in bushes. Later, you miss a short putt that a novice could have made. Yet in that first round, a moment of glory will occur. That single accomplishment, coupled with the human desire to improve, brings you back. You also realize that you are not alone. Your experienced playing partners are likely to have had some poor shots too. The game manages to humble, regardless of your level of play.
In many respects, the lessons of golf are about the human spirit.
In many respects, the lessons of golf are about the human spirit. As a teacher, I find that they resonate with what I do on a daily basis, so sharing them is important.
The game tests your resilience. When facing failure, particularly in front of others, do you quit? Golf encourages learning and adaptability. If you go on, what adjustments will you make? Golf relies on self-discipline. The rules of golf govern the sport, but each player polices herself. If, out of everyone’s sight, I accidentally move sand in a hazard, elevating the ball and making it easier to hit, I need to acknowledge that this happened and accept a two-stroke penalty. Golf reminds me that my private conduct is subject to public scrutiny.
Golf fosters civility. Although the game is about you against the course – and yourself – it is also about your engagement with others.
Finally, golf fosters civility. Although the game is about you against the course – and yourself – it is also about your engagement with others, whether playing partners or course staff. In my many years of playing, the greatest satisfaction has been the friendships I’ve made on the course. We have the shared experience of humiliation, as that comes with the game, and the joy of a crisply-hit shot.
In my time as a golfer, I have grown to appreciate other aspects of the game. Being outdoors after working inside all day brings a peace of mind, the score aside. The golf course - particularly the Education City Golf Club, with its trees, plants, and birds – is a welcome oasis. The aroma of one unidentified plant or tree has the fragrance of pinion wood, and brings back memories of walks in the high desert of New Mexico.
If you take up the sport, your life will very likely change, not only due to the physical benefits, but because you will learn more about yourself
Mental wellbeing comes with physical benefits as well. In the winter, it is easy to walk the 18-hole Education City Golf Club Championship Course on a Friday or Saturday, and I cover about eight kilometers per round, if you count diversions into the desert to search for errant shots! Barring serious injury, I will be able to play the game well into my 80s.
If you have not experienced the game of golf, I would encourage you to visit the Education City Golf Club, Doha Golf Club, or any other course. If you take up the sport, your life will very likely change, not only due to the physical benefits, but because you will learn more about yourself.
Dr. Susan L. Karamanian is Dean of the College of Law at Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU), a member of Qatar Foundation. She has been an avid golfer since her father introduced her to the game as a child. She thanks her colleague Dr. Leslie Pal, Dean of HBKU’s College of Public Policy, who recently took up golf and contributed suggestions for this editorial.