Hits you like a freight train. Just moments ago the birds were chirping and you were waltzing down the 15th fairway humming your favorite Sinatra tune. But now the whole world is on fire. That toe shot rope-hook never had a prayer of landing in bounds. JUST when you had a great round going. You try to zen yourself down before re-loading another rocket, clamoring to recall some self-help mantra you heard on business radio ‘Omnigushee…Omnigushee…Omnigushee…’Hurry up before any negative thoughts enter that sponge between your ears. BANG..the ball is struck. *Whew, at least it’s airborne, and didn’t start left* It felt good off the face but it’s tailing the other way. Must have been on the heel. Why can’t I find the center of the club face?!
Into the woods, right. Lost ball.
Now you’re really sweating bullets. Your blood pressure is screaming. Or is that me screaming? The raw and the ugly is surfacing as you pull another pelota to re-fire. No more pinball, you idiot. In between minor convulsions you manage to rattle off, “My third provisional is a Titleis..”
The words eat away at your soul like a hungry mole rat. At this point, you wish you were a hungry mole rat. At least then, you’d wake up each day and capitalize on your talents.
You bunt out a third tee shot with some sawed-off choke swing and it carries about as far as your grandpa could throw it. Wow, is this embarrassing…Do I even ask them to help me find those first two? No, that’s even more embarrassing.
Forget about it. I don’t want those balls anyways.
Lying five in the fairway, you’ve gotta hole it to make DOUBLE. I’m selling my clubs. I’m really gonna do it this time. What kind of brainless inchworm is hitting six from 170 after five birdies in the first fifteen holes?
You’re standing over the ball, fuming. Why is this happening? Rearing back, you can’t help but think of those last two shots. Tension plagues your tendons and they can’t fire how they should.
Cold shank into the hazard right.
Your mind is now the enemy. Negative thoughts swarm and overpower what little glimmer of hope you had left. I just want this train wreck to be over. Not only did you hit a hosel-rocket in public, but it nearly clipped the new company CEO in the back of the neck. When will this end? I’d rather have toothpicks shoved under my fingernails.
You find it, but there’s a quarter inch of water between you and the top of that little white devil. Doesn’t matter. You don’t care about anything at this point, especially not your shirt. Surprisingly, you slash it out and the ball ends up on the putting surface. Mud is everywhere. You slosh yourself up to the green ready to break your Scotty in two before you even have a chance to roll a putt.
Three mini swings to get down because every fiber of your body is stiff as a board. You card a 10.
Over the past few years, I’ve spent several thousand hours in observation of the fight or flight mannerisms of golfers. I paid particular attention to those who avoid big disasters vs. those who fall victim to the dreaded blow-up hole. The main difference I find between the two is not handicap. It’s not skill level, or athletic ability. It’s not how much they practice. It’s not what clubs they have, or clothes they’re wearing. It is however….
ATTITUDE and MINDSET
Now before I go all father/son on you, I have to admit that I’ve had my fair share of blow ups. I remember traveling 600 miles to play in a one-day open event for AJGA Qualifying only to throw a putter on the last hole (after missing a 3-footer) to card an 8, get penalized one stroke for poor conduct (net 9), and miss the cut by a shot. My Dad sat me down and said if he ever saw me throw a club again, he would sell all of them.
That was the end of that.
But by and large, attitude and mindset is the primary contributor to big numbers. And this is especially true for golfers who are highly skilled. I consider a highly skilled golfer to be one who can regularly shoot in the 80’s. If we’re all being honest, the national handicap resting at 16.5 is a bit skewed. If the average golfer (there are over 26 million of them out there) played every shot into the hole and counted every whack, slash, chunk and skull…they wouldn’t break 100.
ATTITUDE and MINDSET is what separates.
The golfer who blows his first ball out of bounds has an opportunity. It’s up to you out there, and only you. You have no team to rely or (or blame) and nobody else to fault for your own failure OR triumph. I think this is what makes this game the greatest in the world. The golfer who loses his or her first tee ball has an opportunity to regain composure and get out of impending doom. Only when the mind gets in the way do we make a big number.
1. Tell yourself that you’re not a perfect machine. Often times we expect perfection, and truthfully this is unattainable. Holding yourself to that standard perpetuates the issue. The best in the world only hit 65-70% of their fairways and 65 – 70% of their greens, on average. And that’s the best in the world. Use this to gain perspective.
2. Consider a breathing exercise. I don’t mean short, hot breaths that work up your nerves. I mean long, deep breaths (eyes closed) coming in through the nose. You should feel the air moving down your airway into your stomach. If you struggle with this, open your eyes and put a hand on your stomach. Watch closely. If you’re doing it correctly, your hand will move out as your stomach expands. Breathe out through the mouth. It is scientifically proven that breathing deeply and intentionally improves oxygen levels to the blood and brain, (duh) which fights back the blood boiling scenario above.
3. Positivity is KING. When a negative thought enters that computer between your ears (it will), embrace it. But, redirect your energy. Remind yourself of a great shot you hit recently that felt and sounded flush. You know that feeling. It felt like nothing at all at impact. That’s how it should be.
4. Forget. Think of nothing more than the next shot at hand. If you fight yourself with the thought of the last swing, you will tense up and the next swing will look like a caveman trying to kill his dinner. Think about rhythm, tempo, and balance.
5. Let go. Think “make a good swing.” Whatever happens, go find the ball and hit it again. That’s what so fantastic about this game we all cherish.
Remind yourself constantly that you are an imperfect human being hitting a little ball around some beautifully landscaped terrain FOR FUN.
Is there any other point to playing? Go out there and enjoy yourselves, Dirt Nation. And let us know how you fare.