December 19, 2013
“Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser” goes the old quip line. But golf, as we all know, is for the most part about losing and learning to live with it, gracefully or otherwise. Unlike many other sports, golfers of all levels can and should learn as much from their losses as from their occasional moments of euphoric victory.
Take talent. Sure, at the apex of the game there are players like Phil Mickelson who combine a pair of gifted hands with extraordinary shot-making imagination: but there isn’t one golfer who does not have some small measure of skill that keeps him (or her) coming back week after week. Problem is, most accept this part of their game as a given, instead of strategically working to take advantage of it.
Think of it this way. Take a talented chipper and putter... what on earth is he doing, blasting driver at the tightest of holes, when two smart shots can get him into par-score position without hitting the green in regulation. So rule one, treat your gift with the respect it deserves, and work hardest on honing that skill.
Take anger. The guy up ahead banging his club in the ground and screaming at the sky still hasn’t got the message; golf isn’t personal. Golf has no axe to grind. It isn’t a thing. It’s not trying to make life harder. When it goes awry, it is because we, not it, did something wrong. The point is, can you fix it, calmly, cerebrally, and even as seems totally contrary, actually enjoy the process?
The putt that’s in then horseshoes out, the drive that finished six inches out of bounds at the last hole of your best round of the year; can you summon a wry smile, then hit a great shot? That’s the real learning process, not just how to execute a high draw in a left-field crosswind.
Take opportunity. Let’s face it, few of us play the professional 72-hole stroke play format, but from time to time club golf does involve aggregating rounds. Pros will say that the true mental challenge only starts on the last nine holes Sunday, and their goal is to get into contention for that stretch. We can also use this process.
Certain golfers start nervously in the big game, say the club championship, and play themselves out of the event almost before it gets started. One way to alleviate the pressure is to divide each round into six-hole segments and, no matter the outcome in each, discard the result mentally until it comes to summing up the overall totals. Just as the pros strive to get under ‘the last-nine gun,’ applying reverse logic in our games can relieve that unwelcome anxiety factor.
Understand the magic: on the days you hit the ball just as you want, don’t bar-celebrate too soon. Before taking off your shoes, head to the range with a bucket of balls and try to understand what made it work today.