Every golfer knows the highs and lows of playing golf. Regardless of their ability, excitement and disappointment is attached to every shot. It is that one sport where you are in total control of your results and wearing your emotions on your sleeve can be helpful or a detraction. I certainly have felt elation and despair during my many rounds. I am not sure I can control the situations, but I sure can control my reaction to the extreme during events. As amateurs develop their game, controlling our responses to the peaks and valleys of golf is one aspect of becoming a better golfer.
Running the gambit of emotions on the golf course is nothing new. We experience elation, frustration, anger, anxiety, fear, and whimsy to name a few. Depending on how invested we are in our game, the extremes of these emotions can be helpful or detrimental to the results. In most cases, golfers tend to lean towards the negative aspects of most situations. These emotions are the strongest (it seems) and quickest to surface. I know this because I have lived many rounds of golf where my emotions have gotten the best of me. Right now, many of you are thinking of a recent situation where your emotions were at their most profound and I bet it focuses on a negative outcome. This is common and not unexpected.
I am not a sports phycologist, but I have played enough golf to understand that emotions can be our friend or foe. I have also experience a situation where an awesome result caused the collapse of my game. Let me explain.
Years ago I was playing in a military regional golf tournament. It was my second time qualifying for the team and I approach the event with the attitude of not wanting to suck. I realize that this is the wrong mental approach, but at that time, there is where my mind was situated. During the first round, I was two over after 5 holes. My nerves were just starting to settle as I approached the par 3, 179 yard all carry hole. I selected a 4 iron because I was hitting into the wind. I aimed for the center of the green because it was the safe spot for this challenging shot. As I watched my ball land 8 feet short and slightly left of the pin, I was happy to have hit the green. Suddenly, my ball shot right for the pin and into the cup for my first hole in one! I was so excited I could barely control myself.
Standing on the next tee, I was still charged up and my emotions were running away with my mental capacity. I could not concentrate and as a result I doubled the next two holes. My elation crashed to deep frustration that I could not shake. Due to my inability to keep my emotions in check, I shot a smooth 17 over on the last 12 holes. I could not shake my emotional roller coaster to the detriment of my score.
The above is just one example of how my emotions affected my game. Fortunately, I have learned to control my emotional response to great or poor golf shots. I learned that it is okay to be happy or disappointed, but not to let it override my mental ability to play my next shot. I accept the results and strive to emulate or eradicate the results moving forward. Basically, I focus on being mindful of each shot.
Staying mindful is critical to my game. It empowers my physical play because my mental game is sharp. Understanding this, I make the effort to keep my mind focused on the present. If I am not focusing my awareness on the present moment then why am I on the golf course? My intent is to always play better than the last time out (or the last shot) and this mental attitude has helped me be successful on the links. So, being mindful is a crucial part of my golf game.
The best way to sum up my view on being mindful is:
The emotional highs and lows of playing golf are real. Emotional control is something that every golf must face and master. If we fall prey to our emotional mind on the links, the chances of achieving our intended goals are unlikely. Being mindful takes effort and practice. By consciously staying focused on the present for every shot does take training, but is worth the time spent improving our mental strength on the links. Next time you are playing, give mindfulness a try; it might be the advantage over your playing partners that leads to more victories.
I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!