For Tom Perry, golf isn’t just a sport — it’s a game that intertwines life skills such as integrity and honesty.
These life values create a strong foundation for golf and lead to a respectable golfer and person, said Tom, associate golf instructor at Swinomish Golf Links. For example, scoring and going through the rules all require an honest person.
“In golf, you’re the referee,” Tom said.
He uses strong, positive morale and character building as a foundation for teaching his students.
Before taking new golfers on the course, Tom discusses their motivation for playing golf. He uses that information to set individual goals and training plans.
Many new golfers are intimidated by tournament play, he said, because they don’t know standard or acceptable course behavior.
“They [tried competing], then found out that they couldn’t keep up with the other players. They didn’t know where to stand or how to walk through people,” Tom said. “They didn’t know golf etiquette.”
A negative experience often led people to give up golf for a while.
His students range from 6 to 20-plus-year-olds. While youth students are often brought in at their parent’s request, many adults learn golf in an effort to play with business clients.
Tom often hears new golfers say, “I wish I’d started when I was younger.” Now he sees families coming in together for lessons.
For new golfers, Tom usually spends half of the first lesson on the putting green getting a feel for hitting the ball. Then they head to the driving range, where they can get more repetitive practice.
While golf isn’t an easy sport in nature, a successful player is self-driven and always plays their best. But above all, Tom said it’s important to just play and have fun.
One of Tom’s students, Ashley, 12, started playing golf four years ago. Her mother, who also plays golf, was her inspiration to learn. Ashley said golf is a great game for anyone.
“You can play at any age, and it doesn’t matter if you’re good or bad at it,” she said.
Tom uses positive reinforcement during lessons — he highlights improvement and focuses on moving forward. Throughout the years, Ashley came to appreciate Tom’s kind teaching style.
“I was breaking my wrist a lot with my swing,” Ashley said. “He had a lot of patience.”
Renowned golfer Arnold Palmer once said, “I’ve always made a total effort, even when the odds seemed entirely against me. I never quit trying. I never felt that I didn’t have a chance to win.”
Being positive and never giving up are just a few life values that golf motivates in players.
Above all, there is no age limit or skill level required for golf. You can’t be too old or too young. No matter your goals or intentions, it’s never too late to start playing golf.