The Mental Roller Coaster Named GOLF
For those that have embarked on the journey of becoming a golfer then this article might make sense to you. The world renowned sports psychologist Bob Rotella says in his book Golf is Not a Game of Perfect, “a golfer has to learn to enjoy the process of striving to improve. That process, not the end result, enriches life.” He has a lot of great information in his books on how to try and control the highs and lows of a round of golf. I like to refer to golf as a mental roller coaster one minute you are on top of the world after sinking a 10 footer for birdie and then the next minute you are looking for the 800 number to suicide prevention. Being dedicated to the process is the only way to ever get better at the game. There is something about the game that makes getting punished for four hours enjoyable. I tell this to all of my beginners, “it is the only thing I have done in my life that in the course of four hours I have, totally lost my cool, quit and swear I am selling my clubs, to looking to blow off work the next day to do it again.” It is bizarre. For some of us the hardest thing to do is manage your emotions but in golf it’s a must.
For those that have a bit of fire in their belly and a super competitive nature then even a practice session can turn hazardous. I have been witnessed to club throws, drop f bombs and even a snap a club or three and remind you this was just in a practice session. I absolutely do not condone this behavior but sometimes you have to have total control of your mind to not take it to that level. The great thing is you are constantly learning more about the game and learning more about yourself, so episodes like that hopefully are isolated. The more calm and cool you can stay during a round or practice session the more you will get out of it, yes this is easier said than done especially if you just got done snap hooking one in to the weeds.
Having a process in place to pull yourself out from the depths of self destruction is very important, it takes a lot of patience and will power. Having a mantra you can say to yourself and a breathing technique is a start to building the foundation so you can stop yourself from the free fall. Just remember as in life somedays are just better than others and this goes the same with golf. In fact, golf and life have so many parallels not just in the mood swings but also in the etiquette and the respect that goes along with the history of the game.
Have you ever had a day at work were everything just seemed a bit off and couple breaks just didn’t go your way? Well I have and I have had that exact day on the course also, after finishing the round I just felt like what I would imagine 12 rounds with Mike Tyson would feel like, just beat up. Then on the flips side, things were just rolling, the boss complimented you on a job well done, you landed a few deals and the traffic was light on the way home. Well those are the same on the course, a tree kicks your ball into the fairway instead of going OB, your normally shaky short game is on fire and the five footer that you hit on the edge dropped instead of lipping out.
Let’s face it for those that really care about the game, have had moments of extreme happiness and moments of extreme sadness but that’s just part of the journey. The Japanese business men like to take a potential customer or partner out to play because they can tell in the 18 holes what kind of person they will be getting involved with. Another quote I always loved from Bob Rotella was “attitude always wins over ability” now this might not sound true but I am a firm believer. Trying to keep a positive attitude during a round is a task in itself but it is yet another part of the game that is fun and challenging to work on.
One of the reasons I got involved in the golf business in the first place was the fact that golf is such an amazing game for kids to learn. I have seen it transform kids from a coordination stand point and from a mind and spirt stand point. If the particular junior is willing to learn and put sometime in at a young age it will change their life, even if they decide the game is just not for them.
Now back to the grind, one thing I love to work on with my students is a solid pre shot routine, I mentioned it earlier but I want to express the extreme importance of a solid pre shot routine. A solid pre shot routine puts you in the present mind, a quote from Gautama Buddha says it all, “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” Always attack the shot at hand! A good routine is a work in progress, it is always getting better, stronger and clearer. The goal is to build a process that you can do every time it is their turn to play. The routine requires focus, planning, visualizing, breathing and execution. This is very helpful when going through the mental roller coaster of a round.
I always love watching golfers like Justin Rose, you can never really tell if he is playing well or poorly. The ultimate goal is to make that roller coaster the most boring ride ever, come off of it without breaking a sweat and feeling relaxed. Jack Nicklaus was quoted saying “concentration is a fine antidote to anxiety” and I would image his concentration started with a solid pre shot routine. Even if you are the biggest fans of the scary roller coasters like The Gravity Max or The Wicked Sister keep those highs and lows for the amusements parks and try your hardest to start leveling out your emotions on the golf course, work on building a bullet proof routine and you will be amazed on how much this will help your game regardless if it is the golf course or the course of life.