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Possibilities. As golfers, that’s pretty much how we think. Each time we tee it up for a new round, in our hearts dwells the anticipation that this one will be special. Maybe under par? Maybe breaking 100? Perhaps a personal best? It’s definitely possible, we say.
If we’re disappointed at the end of the day, we still manage to get excited about getting back out tomorrow, ever more hopeful. Golfers and fishermen have that in common. Hope is, in fact, the very soul, of golf. Without hope, we might as well stay depressed and not even play.
When we explore the possibilities of our own golf game, what we’re really doing is playing the game of “What if?” I think it’s a healthy game, and I invite you to try it.
For starters, open your mind. Don’t be bound by your existing habits, beliefs and limitations. In literature, it’s called “suspension of disbelief,” and sometimes we need that for enhancing our performance.
Here are some examples. What if you always felt relaxed and didn’t have to think so hard about every shot? What if the six things you think about every time you swing the club became automatic? Could you teach yourself and practice to make it so? What if you saw the line clearly on every putt and were convinced every putt was going to go in? What if you played your game as if the consequences didn’t matter? How much better do you think you would you perform?
Next, consider this possibility: What if you were actually a much, much better golfer than you presently think you are? Ponder the implications of that notion: You’re good, but you won’t let yourself take your own game to its highest level. The master golfer is locked inside you, and you won’t even look for the key.
When you’re on the golf course, do you let your true talent come out? And what if you suddenly realized you had always underestimated your potential – not your recent results, mind you – and now understood that you can really play? If you truly comprehended that you could be an extremely skilled and gifted golfer, do you think you would apply yourself more than you do now?
What if there were no such thing as “par?” Or “bogey?” (The idiom “par for the course” is actually a negative, indicating what might be expected and annoying.)
Try to conceptualize a golf course as merely a series of 18 stretches of mostly lawn-mown lanes of grass, each with peculiar landmarks, like sandy areas and smooth grassy “greens,” suggesting different types of strokes, and which happened to be linked together in a consecutive layout.
Would you fret over a few bogeys? Would you dwell on making a “triple bogey,” or start throwing clubs in despair after missing a putt?
What if, instead, you kept a running number of strokes, trying continually to keep the grand total as low as possible? What if you focused more on each shot, and not so much on the end result on each of the 18 links?
Each stroke is a distinct task, and only a singular number, leading to an arithmetical total. Over or under par is mostly a made-for-television contrivance anyway.
Perhaps you are one of those golfers who struggles with maintaining your concentration on the golf course, feeling that you’re never actually fully absorbed in your game. When you are fully present in what you’re doing, you automatically block out extraneous noises and visuals – leaving you to focus 100 percent of your mental and physical energy on your shot at this moment.
What if your thought before an important putt you’re about to hit is, “I have a good feeling about this putt?” Do you think that would make a difference?
I’ve done that, and it’s made a major difference in my putting. I make more putts than ever before.
What if you pay total attention to the shot you’re about to hit, and not about your score – or winning or losing or how many high fives (or boos) you will get after the shot? If you know your score at any given moment, you’re not in the zone.
What if you were in the zone? How good would you be?
Dr. Charlie Blanchard is a licensed psychologist specializing in sports and leadership. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.