people on a golf course green
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I was listening to the commentator share a story about South African golfer Brandon Grace choosing to play in the Zurich Classic instead of skipping it for his son’s birthday. The selfish golfer label immediately sprang to mind. There would be a hell of a lot of wives and partners who would agree with the condemnation of those individuals who choose to play golf rather than be there for their responsibilities and loved ones. Golf can be a divisive pastime for families and relationships. Playing golf is very much a solo pursuit and rarely fits in with lives built on shared responsibilities.

man standing in front of a golf bags
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The Saving Grace of Selfish Golf

Of course, Brandon Grace can claim that this is his day job and where he earns his livelihood and that of his family. This valid excuse is not present for most of the rest of us who love the game of golf. The fact that the average game of golf takes around 4 plus hours makes it a half-day commitment. The golf obsession is a time consuming one in a modern world where things like work and family commitments never really end.

I wonder how many divorces and relationship breakdowns contain golf related reasons at their core?

Golf & Family Life

Golf has traditionally been a male dominated recreational pursuit but the number of women playing is growing. Women, however, still bear the brunt of family and household duties in many relationships. This is an unfair state of affairs, and the golf widow has every right to complain and take remedial action to even things up. The golf addiction is preferable to many other modern-day addictions, as long as it is not combined with excessive alcohol on the 19th hole. There is nothing worse than carrying the can at home with kids and cleaning and being met with a returning partner pissed and overly pleased with himself.

photo of man sitting on golf cart
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The selfish golfer is involved with a healthy, physical pastime, especially if he or she walks the course. Golf can be a therapeutic retreat from the pressures of work and stuff, where life is simplified for those four plus hours.

If a balance between family, work, and golf can be found the game can be a good thing. The trouble with golf is that it can become an obsession demanding more and more input from those in its grip.

Is it the search for perfection? Is it because the golf microcosm has clearly defined rules in contrast to the shades of grey in real life? Whatever the reason the love of the game can put partnerships on the sacrificial altar.

The litany of negative backhanders served up to golf nuts can include these:

  • You have never grown up; you are still a child wanting to go off and play games with your buddies.
  • You are escaping from the real world into an artificial realm full of Peter Pans and Wendys.
  • Golf is a waste of time and money when you should be working hard for your family.
  • Your selfishness knows no bounds, everything is always all about you.
  • Why don’t you want to spend your free time with me your life partner?

The thing about golf is that for most people who play the game it is not an occasional pastime. By this I mean it is not a game that you can play every now and then and play your best. It is a game that requires regular participation and practice if you want to perform well. Golfers can get caught up in a cycle of playing more at the expense of marriages and families.

Then, there is the individual who gives golf his or her all. The family deserts them in response to their overwhelming obsession. Their partner ups sticks and walks out that door. Suddenly, there is plenty of time to play golf, practice, and focus on improving their game. Coming home after a hard day on the links you can hear yourself think because the sound of family life is missing. No more conflicting demands upon your time. No more commitments to sick relatives and visiting members of extended family. No meals prepared and warm beds. No shared movies and dinners. You have to take the good with the bad of course.

Sleeping with your golf bag can be a scratchy business. Golf as your only mistress can be a lonely time when the sun goes down. There are only so many reruns of tournament play to be watched on your big screen TV.

a man holding a golf club
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The selfish golfer can, of course, seek out another selfish golfer of the desired gender to share their obsessive pursuit. I meet couples playing golf together on Sundays pretty frequently. The banter is not always sunny but hey that’s life folks. The temple of golf can be a place of love for those with a shared passion for the small ball game. Perhaps, golf could become a Valentine’s special, along with diamonds, flowers, chocolates, and soppy love songs. “I bought you a new glove darling, I hope it fits.” “With this sleeve of shiny new balls, I profess my love!”

Golf as a way of life or bigtime hobby is best shared in most cases. The relationship that can survive a love of golf is rare indeed if the other resents the time devoted out on the links. Too much golf can spur resentment. For those who worship golf there is no such thing as too much golf. The green cathedral is a place for prayer and awe-inspiring shots. The wedding march is heard on the golf course, but it is usually confined to ceremonies and photo shoots for non-golfers taking advantage of the beautiful surrounds. The selfish golfer is a fact of life, we will just have to grin and bear it.


Another Viewpoint on “selfishness”

“Selfishness is the tendency to prioritize one’s own desires and needs above the needs and desires of other people.

What is Selfishness?
We are all born with a drive to stay alive and healthy, and selfishness may be a misplaced manifestation of this. A certain degree of selfishness is normal. For example, many people would choose to ensure their own food needs are met before giving food to others. But selfishness can also be a pathological personality trait. Selfish people may prioritize their own petty needs above the significant needs of others. For example, a person is exhibiting selfishness when he or she steals money from their mother to buy a comic book.

Some mental health problems can contribute to the development of selfishness. Many personality disorders, particularly antisocial personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder, cause people to be so wrapped up in their own desires that they either do not notice or do not care about the needs of others. Many other mental illnesses can cause extreme self-involvement, which can contribute to selfishness. A depressed person, for example, might be so wrapped up in his or her own feelings of suffering that he/she is unable to provide for his/his children or communicate with his/her partner.

Different Conceptions of Selfishness
Many religions decry selfishness and emphasize the virtues of compassion, empathy, and self-sacrifice. The pacifist movement, which draws on many religious traditions, is a radical answer to selfishness, and emphasizes non-violence even in the face of overwhelming hostility. Some religious gurus have advocated extreme self-sacrifice, emphasizing the primacy of others over oneself.

There is significant debate in evolutionary biology about the evolved nature of selfishness. Richard Dawkins’ book The Selfish Gene, for example, argues that our genes have the “selfish” desire to propagate themselves and do nothing else. Some biologists argue that people are innately selfish. Others, however, emphasize that helping others can ensure the survival of the species and argue that compassion, empathy, and self-sacrifice are as innate to people as selfishness. People are sometimes more likely to show self-sacrificing behavior for close relatives, and some biologists argue that this is an evolved trait. Many parents would give up their own lives for the lives of their children; one interpretation of this inclination is that when a child survives, the parent’s genes survive with the child.”


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