Eighteen Golf Lessons From Queen’s Gambit

Posted on January 15th, 2021 by Herb Rubenstein

Eighteen Golf Lessons From Queen's Gambit

 

 

 

 

 

Queen’s Gambit is a 2020 Netflix miniseries hit directed by Scott Frank, based on the novel by the same name by Walter Tevis.  The word “golf” is mentioned only once in the entire series. The story is about a girl who as a young woman becomes a champion chess player.   There are eighteen “golf” lessons embedded in Queen’s Gambit.  They are are relevant to every golfer and everyone who might take up the game in the future.

Comparing golf and chess is not new.  In fact, an entire book was published in 2016 by Jimmie H. Clark titled The Similarities Between Golf and Chess. I am sure when Mr. Clark watches Queen’s Gambit, he will see many more great golf and life lessons in the show.

Lesson Number One

Acquire an Instructor

The first lesson in Queen’s Gambit is simple but ignored by many golfers, especially beginners.  The lesson is: if you are even thinking you might want to play golf, or if you want to become a better golfer, acquire an instructor who knows how to teach the game, who cares about you and your golf game, who can see your potential, and who wants you to improve significantly. This lesson, acquire a teacher, of course, is not new and is included in the Talmud and many writings over the past three thousand years.  However, too many golfers and people thinking about playing golf do not follow this lesson.  It is taught right in the beginning of the show.

In the first episode Beth Harmon, then a nine-year-old girl, lives in an orphanage.  She goes down the stairs to the basement and sees the custodian, Mr. Shaibel.  The room is not well lit. He is sitting at a chessboard.  Beth asks what the name of the game is, and then asks “Will you teach me how to play?”  In spite of Mr. Shaibel’s saying no to her repeatedly, Beth insists.  She demands that he teach her how to play chess.

Throughout Queen’s Gambit Beth finds instructors and they find her. All golfers, beginners and excellent golfers, who want to improve need at least one good instructor, one Mr. Shaibel in their life.  As long as one plays golf, one should have an instructor since there is always more to learn about the game and always room to improve.  Tiger Woods, when he was playing better than anyone in the world, worked with an instructor to change his golf swing in order to become a better golfer.

Lesson Number Two

Study The Game On and Off the Course

In Queen’s Gambit it appears that Beth and Mr. Shaibel play chess often because the show moves so quickly. Beth does not have anyone else to play chess with. She does not even have a chess board.  Somehow, between her lessons and games with Mr. Shaibel, she improves at lightning speed. After several games Mr. Shaibel tells Beth she is “astonishing.”  Mr. Shaibel invites a high school chess coach to come to the orphanage and play chess with Beth in the basement. After Beth beats him repeatedly, the completely flabbergasted high school chess coach looks at her and asks, “Do you have a team here?  Who do you play with?”

Beth tells him that she only plays a few games a week with Mr. Shaibel.  Almost not believing what he is hearing, he then asks Beth what she does between her games with Mr. Shaibel.  She says she “plays chess in her head.”  She also studies the book Mr. Shaibel gave her, Modern Chess Openings.  Every time she comes to play chess with Mr. Scheibel, she is a much better chess player.

Throughout the series, you see that Beth and every other key chess player featured in Queen’s Gambit study how others throughout history have played the game and learn by going over the other players’ games and reading their books.  At one point in the show, Beth and others intently watch the character, Benny Watts, the reigning US Open Champion, give a demonstration at a tournament. They watch every move he makes and listen to every word he says explaining his moves.

In the same way, golfers can learn about the game of golf and improve by reading books by great golfers and great golf instructors.  Today’s golfers have another powerful learning tool. Beth’s story, which spans more than a decade, takes place well before the Internet, but now golfers are able to watch videos and use modern technology to study and try to figure out how great golfers swing the golf club so well and hit their putts with such precision. In addition – and this point is often completely ignored by many golfers and golf instructors – golfers, like chess players, must study how great golfers make excellent strategic decisions on the golf course, deal with adversity, read the greens, play the wind and post great scores, which is the ultimate goal.

In Queen’s Gambit chess players study and reflect on what occurred move by move in the games they themselves played.  Golfers must do the same.  After playing a round, taking a lesson, or practicing, golfers should study and reflect on what occurred shot by shot. Colin Morikawa does this with his coach Rick Sessinghaus. Too often golfers just hang around the “19th hole” or drive back home without thinking much about what they did on the course.  How many golfers take notes either during or after a lesson to pin down the key points?  Very few. And very few golf instructors encourage their students to write down what they have learned in every lesson they take and every round of golf they play. Queen’s Gambit shows how important it is to study and take notes.

Lesson Number Three

Do Not Let Sexism, Racism, or Being Economically Disadvantaged Get in Your Way of Playing and Improving  

In the first episode Beth demands for a second time that Mr. Shaibel teach her how to play chess.  Mr. Shaibel says, “Girls Do Not Play Chess.” Beth does not let that comment deter her in any way.  In fact, it is possible that it strengthened her determination to learn chess and excel. She keeps demanding that Mr. Shaibel teach her how to play chess and he finally relents.  He teaches Beth both how to play chess and how to improve.  

Lesson Number Four

Weigh the Benefits and Costs of Playing Aggressively versus Playing Conservatively and Defensively

Beth learns this lesson in one of the first games she plays with Mr. Shaibel.  She is playing black, which moves second.  Mr. Shaibel leads with a simple pawn move.  Beth quickly attacks with her Knights and is checkmated in four moves with “The Scholar’s Mate.”  As a beginner, Beth did not yet know about protecting her pieces or playing defensively, that is, she wasn’t “playing smart”.

Tom Kite, the great golfer once said, “A double bogey is a bad shot followed by a stupid shot.” Bad golf shots like bad moves in chess, can put you in a risky situation.  When you have a risky shot due to a previous bad shot or how the golf course is set up, you can lose many strokes and ruin the score on an otherwise well-played round.  Playing aggressively in this type of situation is almost always the wrong strategy. The better strategy is to play smart. By defeating Beth quickly, Mr. Shaibel was trying to impress upon Beth the same point Tom Kite wanted to impress on golfers: you have to play smart.

Dawn Mercer, PGA tells her golf students to “make good business decisions” as her way of saying “play smart.”  When a golfer makes a bad decision and takes an unnecessary or not worthwhile risk, (as I did several times during my playing lessons with her), she kept repeating “you made a bad business decision.”  She brings home the point to her students that golfers would never make as bad of a decision in business as they make every day on the golf course.  She makes an excellent point.  If every golfer properly weighed the expected benefits and potential costs of trying very risky shots on the golf course their scores would very likely improve both substantially and immediately.

Lesson Number Five

Sportsmanship and Etiquette are Required – Never Gloat or Brag

The next time Mr. Shaibel and Beth played chess, she fought to a commanding position.  Then she makes a move that she knows will seal her victory.  Up to this time in the series, she had almost never smiled, but now she starts to take a small smile.  Mr. Shaibel looks up from the board at her, sees this, and says with a gruff voice and a stern face, “You are gloating.”

Beth learns the lesson.  She often says in Queen’s Gambit that she will win and in doing so she shows her fierce determination, confidence and competitive spirit, but she does this without bragging or gloating.  Sportsmanship and etiquette are equally important in golf and life.  People improve the most when they understand and acknowledge just how complex and difficult the game is, and not when they think or say to others that they are better than another player, or worse yet, have mastered the game.

Lesson Number Six 

Learn the Language of the Game, Build a Large Vocabulary, and Understand Key Concepts

As Mr. Shaibel is teaching Beth, he makes a move and says, “Knight to Queen’s Bishop Four.” Beth asks, “What is Queen’s Bishop Four?”  He says it is the name of the square where he just moved his Knight. Beth asks, “The squares have names?” Mr. Shaibel then makes one of the most brilliant statements in this brilliant series.  He says, “If you play well, the squares have names.”

In chess there is a notational system to name both the squares and chess moves.  Golf also has its own language and vocabulary: shorthand phrases, names for golf clubs and different types of shots, different types of competitions,, names for each score one can get on a hole, names of the different parts of the club and the ball, and terminology used to describe various parts of the golf course. To understand and improve, a golfer must also learn the key concepts, such as: golf handicap, spin rate, ball speed, trajectory, swing path, swing plane, hook, slice, draw, fade.

Rarely do golf instructors tell their students to read, study, and learn the rules of golf, key vocabulary words concepts upon which the entire game of golf was designed and built. Golf instructors need to assign reading exactly the way Mr. Shaibel did to Beth. As mentioned earlier, when he gives Beth the book, Modern Chess Openings he tells her that in order to read the book, she will need to know the names of the squares and the notation for the moves on the board, the basic “language” of the game.

Lesson Number Seven

Don’t Get Mad On The Golf Course or Stay Mad After You Play Golf  

This lesson is given at least twice during Queen’s Gambit.  Right after Beth beats Mr. Shaibel, she says to him “You are mad” and Mr. Shaibel responds, “I am not mad, just playing chess.”  Mr. Shaibel knows that getting mad severely hampers one’s ability to play chess to the best of one’s ability.

This lesson is given to Beth a second time by the character Harry Beltick, a leading player in the series.  He played Beth in a tournament when she was very young.  He did not take her as seriously as he should.  As she beat him for the Championship, he became fascinated with her. Later, as she got even better, he wanted to teach her what he could. Once when he was teaching Beth, he told her something he thought was very important for her to hear.

“You’re stubborn, so you get mad. 

When that happens you only see what is right in front of you. 

Anger is a potent spice and the thing that gets you up too much also dulls your senses.”

This important lesson is ignored by a huge majority of golfers.   When one can “only see what is right in front of you,” it is disastrous both in chess and in golf.  In golf one has to see the entire hole as the architect intended it to be played, just like the chess player needs to see the entire board to play the game well. When you are mad after a golf shot, you cannot calmly reflect on the shot and figure out what you did wrong.  Not only is this a lost opportunity, but getting mad often affects one’s ability not only to hit the next shot properly, but also the ability to make the right decision about what the next shot should be.

If only golfers learned this one lesson – call it “lucky lesson number seven,” that losing one’s temper or getting mad is destructive to their skills and their golf game – it would be much easier for them to improve significantly.  Staying mad after a round of golf keeps you from really studying objectively what went wrong on the golf course, and, as described in lesson eighteen, can harm relationships not only with others, but can harm your relationship with golf itself.

The best remark I ever heard about getting mad came very soon after I saw Queen’s Gambit.  As I was walking to a golf lesson,  I saw a person in a wheelchair and overheard someone ask him, “How are you doing?” The person I the wheel chair answered:

“I used to get mad all the time.

But I realized I was just taking away from myself.

Now, I am fine.”

That is the clearest statement on getting mad anyone will ever hear. Queen’s Gambit makes this point several times and it sticks with Beth. When things go badly for her in a chess match, she does not get mad. She just thinks harder, sees the board, the pieces and the opportunities better, and “just plays chess.”

Lesson Number Eight

Commit Fully to the Shot You Decide to Make

When the character Benny Watts is asked what he would say to people who want to become good chess players, he says, “Most players lack the courage of their convictions.  The key is not to be tentative.  You have to play with absolute confidence.” This is a lesson that all golfers need to learn.

While practicing, try the difficult and risky shots in order to learn how to hit them correctly. But in competition, these shots can be disastrous and cost you many strokes, especially if you are not confident and cannot commit fully to the shot.  The most reliable source of confidence is achieved through learning, improving, and actually demonstrating a new skill repeatedly. You will often hear a golfer say, “I did not commit to the shot.”  That is what Benny was talking about.  The failure to commit totally to a mental decision one makes on a golf course is a sure path to failure in golf.

Lesson Number Nine

Golf is a Team Sport Played by an Individual

On numerous occasions Queen’s Gambit shows chess players huddling with other chess players during breaks in their games to help them figure out what to do when the game resumes. In one episode the character Borkov, the Russian World Champion, huddles with his colleagues at a critical time in a game. Benny Watts remarks the Americans have not beaten the Russians in chess in over twenty years because the “Russians work together as a team while Americans play the game as individuals”.  How often have you heard US announcers lament during the Ryder Cup that the Europeans play much better together as a team while the US struggles as a result of our culture of individualism.

To improve or even begin to play golf, every golfer needs to rely on a team. The golfer’s team can include instructors, sports psychologists, nutritionists, video operators and photographers, a caddie who knows the course, a good golf club fitter, and still others. For youth golfers, parents, possibly grandparents,guardians, siblings, and friends are key parts of the team they need to succeed. In this sense golf is truly a team sport played by an individual. 

Lesson Number Ten

Learn How to Play Well On The Road

At the highest levels few if any chess tournaments take place on the player’s home turf. Excellent chess players have to travel to their matches and tournaments.  Beth and the other chess players in Queen’s Gambit play all over the globe. Beth never lets the change of venue, the crowd, the circumstances, or the environment affect her during a chess match. She studies the new environment in advance of the match. She gets acclimated to the new environment, and in the new environment, she wins because her game “travels well.”

Many golfers have a game that “does not travel well” to different courses or even from the driving range, short game facility or practice putting green to the actual golf course just a few yards away. Like Beth, golfers have to develop strategies to enable them to play well on the road. The first strategy is to play a variety of courses. if possible, as often as you can, to gain experience.  Every golf course is different.

The second strategy is to learn about the environment you will be playing in. Benny Watts teaches Beth how chess is played in Russia and his teachings pay off.  When golfers learn to play well on the road, they inevitably play better on their home course.  Playing well in different environments, is a key element to becoming a better golfer.

Lesson Number Eleven

Compete Against Yourself and Be Your Own Teacher

In Queen’s Gambit Mr. Shaibel competes against himself, playing both white and black, as do many of the chess players in the series. With the help of books and by studying previous games being played and playing against themselves, they become their own teacher.

In golf it is exactly the same. During practice, each time a shot is hit the golfer is competing against him/herself to hit a shot better than the last one.  In competitive chess, it is the ranking of the player that often becomes the all-encompassing goal of the competitive chess player. For many golfers, the overarching goal may become competing against their previous scores to “break 100, or 90, or 80, or 70”.

As the great golfer Annika Sorenstam told me, “Every golfer must be their own instructor and their own student. You can’t have an instructor with you every minute or when you play in tournaments.  You have to learn from every golf shot you hit and teach yourself to be a better player.”  Being an excellent student in any endeavor means using every opportunity to learn.  There is no better opportunity to learn than when you hit a bad golf shot.

Lesson Number Twelve

Understand the Risks You Are Taking With Each Golf Shot

Beth played calmly. She understood the risks of every move she made in chess once she reached a high level of skill. By facing the risks while playing chess, she stopped getting tense while she played. In golf, it is essential to understand the potential risks of each type of shot, and the golfer must not let those risks cause fear or tension.  A golfer’s job comes in three parts: assess the situation, decide on the shot to play, and hit the shot.

As soon as you have decided on the type of shot you want to hit, you have only one job left: hit the golf shot as best you can.  When Beth decided on a move, she moved the piece.  Once a golfer decides on their next shot, the golfer should go throught their pre-shot routine and hit the shot that will produce the desired result.  Sounds simple, but there is a catch.

Golfers must correctly determine both the desired or “optimal”result of every golf shot and determine how to accomplish it. Even when a golfer plays a conservative shot (hits it shorter to help avoid the ball going too far off the directional line), the actual swing often must be an aggressive swing. Focusing intently on figuring out what would be the optimal result of the golf shot and how to hit it, and then hitting the shot without delay or further thinkingactually reduces the tension golfers feel. Tension is often caused by thinking about the risks of the shot when it is time just to hit the golf shot.

Lesson Number Thirteen

Play the Game of Golf in Your Head

This has been discussed earlier when Beth told the high school chess coach “I play the game in my head.” To drive home this lesson again, in a later episode, while driving in a car Benny and Beth play a game of chess by speaking using chess notation. They have no board or pieces.  They simply say what chess move they would make when it is their turn.  That’s it.

As they announce their moves quickly and confidently, Benny and Beth visualize the entire board in their heads, and see each chess piece move when they or the other player use the shorthand notation to describe the move.  Beth and Benny play the game in their heads. They use what is sometimes referred to as the “mind’s eye.”

Ben Hogan, the great golfer, did a very similar thing before a round of golf in a golf tournament. Onthe driving range before a tournament round of golf, he visualized the each hole and decided the exact shot he wanted to hit on every hole.  Then he would attempt (and would usually succeed) to hit the exact shot as if he were playing all eighteen holes from tee to green.  In essence, he played the entire eighteen-hole round (except for putting) in his head, hitting shots on the driving range as if he were playing each hole in order to prepare himself for the day’s tournament round.  While chess and golf have different systems, in both sports the player needs to be able to play the game in their head to be a very good player.

Lesson Number Fourteen

Start Out Confident and Stay Confident

In the third episode Benny Watts says “You have to start every game being confident.” What he means is that you have to be as prepared as you can be for your first move.  For some the first shot during a round is terrifying, or at least unsettling.  There is even a name for it: the first tee jitters. Even professional golfers often get anxious over their first shot in a round. Benny gives you the answer, but you have to look further in Queen’s Gambit to figure out how to become confident at the start.  Each chess player in the show clearly has a plan for their opening moves.  They practice it and learn to adapt to how different opponents move in response to their initial moves.  In golf, it is essential to have a clear plan in mind for that first shot and how you will play the early holes. On the driving range, practice that first golf shot many times right before your golf round.  A key strategy to being more confident is to know the golf course through studying it in advance whenever possible so you can plan and practice those early shots in your round.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter, the Harvard Business School professor has written a book titled Confidence. Every sports psychologist will tell you that confidence is important.  Finding or creating that confidence is essential to curing once and for all the first tee jitters and reduce nervousness throughout the round.  Confidence in golf also comes from knowing what shot to hit on the first tee and in every situation. When you have a plan for a golf shot, it will be because you are confident that you have selected the right shot to hit.

I had a nine hole playing lesson with a great PGA pro.  We both played our own ball. He decided to try out some new things to improve his own golf swing during the lesson. We came to the second hole, a very tough 400-yard par four with a blind tee shot, and water along the right side of the fairway and the entire right side of the green, courtesy of Pete and Alice Dye.  My teacher, an excellent player, “topped” his tee shot (hit the ball on the bottom of the club) and it only went fifty yards.  He walked up to his ball, looked over the situation for a few seconds facing a blind shot with a water hazard “somewhere over the hill and to the right,” looked at me and said calmly, “I can still make a par on the hole.” He was not gloating.

He made that statement as my teacher, and he was trying to teach me how to think confidently in the face of tremendous adversity.  He was teaching me how to focus on the goal, a par on the hole, even though he had just hit a horrible shot.   It was clear he was not giving any thought to the bad shot that got him in this jam. As he stood to hit the second shot, I knew he would go to his old reliable swing.  He did.  He hit a great shot right in the middle of the fairway leaving him about 140 yards to the green.  He walked up to that shot with a tight front pin, and hit it 15 feet from the hole.  He lined up the putt and it just lipped out giving him a bogey on the hole.  He looked up with a big smile and quietly said, “Well, I almost made par.”

Most players, after hitting such a terrible drive on that very tough hole, would have never had the thought, much less have been able to say out loud, “I can still make a par on the hole.”  While he did not make the putt, he taught me a great lesson about confidence.

Lesson Number Fifteen

Show Up Early and Be Ready to Play

Beth is often the first competitor at the tournament site. Tom Watson, the great golfer, was also often the first golfer at the practice range before a tournament round. Getting to a golf course early is something many golfers do not do. They do not properly warm up, or putt on the putting green long enough to get a feel for the speed, the grain, and the breaks in the green.  They do not hit a large enough variety of practice shots to be able to assess what “game” they will be actually bringing to the golf course that day.  Some days you might have more of a fade than a draw, but if you don’t hit enough practice balls on the range before you play, you will likely have some bad surprises in the early going of your golf round.

During the Championship Match in the Kentucky State Open when she played Harry Beltick, Beth knew she had him in a very difficult position.  They each made a couple of moves and Beth looked at him, and said, “I think that’s it.” Beltick immediately responded by saying, “No, I think I can get out of this.”  Beth says, “No,” and pauses, and then says, “Maybe,” and pauses and says, “if you got here on time.”  Later in the show, the only time Beth was late for a chess match for reasons that were very, very interesting, the result of the chess match was bad for Beth.

I always seek to get to the course early when I play golf both in tournaments and just playing a few holes for practice or a casual round of golf. Before a round of golf it is important to practice every aspect of the game you can.  In addition before I play golf at a course I have never played before, I talk with the “pro” and people who work at the course, especially caddies if they have caddies, and ask them for tips and suggestions they have about playing the course. Those tips have saved me lots of strokes and helped me win a few bets on the golf course.  The best tip I ever got by showing up early was in Las Vegas when the pro said, “When you hit into the mountain, hit an extra club or two, and when you hit away from the mountain, hit a little less than you would from that distance.”  I made the only par on the first hole that day as all three other golfers in the foursome left their approach shots fifteen yards short of the green.  After I hit, I told them what the pro had told me and they were hardly every short the rest of the day. 

Lesson Number Sixteen

Minimize the Damage of Your Bad Shots                                                               

In chess and golf, even when you win or score really well, you may have made a bad move or hit a bad shot.  Benny tells Beth after one of her games with another player, “You should not have castled in your game with Beltick. You could have given up your advantage.  Pawn takes pawn and he cannot take back.” Beth looked stunned because she thought she had not made a single mistake in the game.  Benny, seeing the look on her face, tells Beth, “Go and set it up.”

Beth immediately goes over to a chess board and sets up the exact positions of both players in the Beltick game just before her castle.  She sees that Benny is right and that with that one bad move she could have lost her advantage in the game and lost the game.  Fortunately, while it was a bad move, it was not a disastrous one.

In golf, there are bad shots and there are truly disastrous shots.  As you play more golf, your score will improve dramatically when you eliminate the terrible, disastrous golf shots and replace them even with shots that while not very good, are not so terrible as to put you in a severe penalty situation.  In Willie Park, Jr.’s excellent book, The Game of Golf (1896), he noted that many high (i.e., poor) golf scores were the result of just one or two bad holes during an eighteen-hole round where there were sixteen or seventeen good scores.  These one or two very bad scores were caused by terrible shots that cost the player many strokes and could have been avoided by hitting the shot just a little bit better or trying a less risky shot.  It is often said that good golfers know “where to miss” when they hit a shot.

Certainly, it takes some skill to hit a golf ball in the general direction and for the general distance you want the ball to go.  But even good golfers who play well for sixteen or seventeen out of the eighteen holes, often hit a shot so badly or plan a shot so poorly that the score they get on that hole ruins their overall score. Some great instructors spend their time not trying to teach their students to make on their good shots better, but rather trying to help them avoid the terrible golf shots.

Lesson Number Seventeen

 

Develop Your Strategy for the Entire Golf Hole Before You Hit Your First Shot on the Hole

In Queen’s Gambit the chess players often play very quickly.  They know what they are going to do for the next several moves provided their opponents do what they expect them to do, which is often the case.  They have strategies for opening (the term Queen’s gambit in fact refers to one such strategy) and for the end game for each set of pieces they could have for their final moves.  In Queen’s Gambit you see players deploying their strategies rather than making separate, individual moves.

Most golfers don’t have a plan for any hole. They hit the ball as far as they can from the tee, do not think about the pin placement, and then only when they walk up to their ball do they try to figure out what to do with that second shot on a par four or a third shot on a par five.  You don’t have to be good in golf to develop a smart strategy for each hole before you hit your tee shot on the hole. As you improve, things will go more and more according to your plan, but only if you have one.  Gary Player says that when he stands on a golf tee the only thing he is thinking about is “how to make a birdie on the hole.”  He is not thinking about how to swing the club or the risks that exist on the hole.  He is thinking about how to achieve his goal on that hole.

Lesson Number Eighteen:

Have A Life Outside the Game

I won’t be a spoiler for the ending of Queen’s Gambit.  Suffice it to say that throughout the series a key lesson is the importance of having a balanced life and interests other than chess.  For Beth and Benny chess is all-consuming at several key points in the show. That obsession risks damaging relationships, causes great mental anguish and messes up even the most intimate of circumstances.

Golf, like chess, is a game. Either can become a  profession, and that will take significant dedication.  But the series makes clear that people can burn out in chess, just as they do in golf, if the game becomes an obsession.

Golf professionals often work 80 hours a week.  Even amateurs who play in tournaments travel widely and on many days practice and play for 10 hours.  This time commitment and focus on golf can be unhealthy for relationships and one’s overall mental and physical health.  In extreme cases, it may destroy a person’s desire to play golf altogether. The book The Professional by Evan Mandery (2020) makes these points brilliantly.  By the end of that great novel, the main character seems to have learned this important lesson.

Conclusion

Applying the eighteen lessons from Queen’s Gambit will go a long way to helping golfers begin to play, improve, and enjoy the game.  Golf, like chess, has many life lessons built into it. Both are great sports because they are both “thinking” and “doing” games.  They mirror life in many instructive ways.

Beth embodies each of the lessons we have discussed here.  She is insistent in her pursuit of what she wants. She acquires a teacher. She learns the language of chess.  She studies the game and learns how to play well on the road. She stops getting mad.  She starts out confident and stays confident.  She plays the game in her head.  She plays against herself and she becomes her own teacher.  She demonstrates sportsmanship and follows the rules of etiquette of the game. She shows up early, ready to play in most every tournament. She is strategic when she plays always thinking of how to minimize the risks she was taking while advancing her pieces. She learns that chess is a team sport played by an invidual.

But perhaps the most important lesson Queen’s Gambit and Beth Harmon teach is:

Never let sexism, racism or living in an economically disadvantaged situation keep you from playing and improving at the game of golf, or anything else you want to pursue in life.

I never had any money to play golf growing up.  But I could “jump the fence” late in the afternoons to play at Querbes Golf Course, across the tar covered street next to my house.  I played with hand-me-down golf clubs and golf balls that I found on the golf course.  I caddied and learned by watching others play golf, including my Dad.  Even though I grew up in an economically disadvantaged household, by the time I was fourteen, I had won a city championship in my age group.  Growing up the golf course was my second home, and I even felt in some ways that “I owned the golf course.” I knew I had the best “backyard” anyone could have.

I went on to play collegiate golf and got to travel to golf courses I could never afford to play and travel to places I never could have gone without being on my college team.  Later in my life with the help of three great instructors, Nick Miller, Dawn Mercer, PGA, and Brad Worthington, PGA, I became a professional golfer, a PGA member, at the age of sixty-seven.

With the help of these great lessons from Queen’s Gambit, anyone at any age can begin to play golf, can improve, maybe even excel, and certainly enjoy this great sport throughout your life. Queen’s Gambit is worth watching not only for its great entertainment value, but also so for its great life and golf lessons.

 

Eighteen Golf Lessons From Queen's Gambit

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