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Things I have learnt on a Golf course...

Updated: Aug 22, 2023

I am not from the mink and manure set, and things like polo or golf have just never really touched my life. I have perhaps had my own misconceptions about Golfers and I most certainly have not understood the intricacies, complexities and subtleties of the game. Slowly I am starting to understand what keeps Golfers on the course, hour upon hour, what lures them back every free moment, what keeps them away from nagging wives and demanding kids, what makes them leave work for “on site meetings”, or schedule fundraisers or business meetings on a green! The challenges and opportunities, the highs and lows, the Birdies and their nemesis, the Bogeyman, all exist somewhere between the Tee box (on fairways, bunkers, in the rough, on the greens) and that all magical hole!

Their competition is usually not the person they play with (or against) but against themselves! Golfers (CEO's and Managing Directors, many are powerhouses in their own right) are laid bare and as their own strengths and especially vulnerabilities, their own expectations and beliefs, determine their game and their state of mind. It fascinates me that your score is called your HANDICAP…. because I find so many golfers seem to focus purely on their poor shots….. poor performance seems to haunt them, like living with a disability! I walk with and watch and learn, amongst the beautiful trees and plants, the amazing bird life and little critters…. a peaceful place with so much space and yet grown ass men throw their clubs out the cart, curse and berate themselves, have such negative self-talk (that the mind boggles at the self-defeating beliefs that must underly this low self-esteem). I stand there, a bemused onlooker and it saddens me that here these people are playing a GAME, a sport, and yet taking every mis-hit, or obstacle so personally. Here they have the rare privilege, afforded to very few, of spending several hours out on a beautiful course playing a game they supposedly love (and are certainly obsessed with)…. and yet most of their time is spent in an unhappy place with a negative mindset. I watch their physiology and psychology unwind. We know that one can change one’s state of mind and well-being through one’s posture and physiology…. stand tall, chin up, shoulder blades back and chest out and breathe…. you will feel more confident and happy, one’s body even releases happy hormones (serotonin and dopamine) in response…. droop, shoulders hunched, head down, eyes averted, lungs closed - you will feel as defeated, helpless, hopeless and worthless as you look! I stand there quietly and watch these golfers physiology and moods change before my eyes as their performance changes. I have seen a professional golfer, so upset by a couple of less than exemplary shots (in a fun, social game without any high stakes or money involved) that his next few holes were tainted with his desire to just finish the game in record time and get the hell off the golf course…. when I pointed out my observation (of his body language) he turned everything around and played a beautiful couple of holes! He was not just sabotaging his own game but his enjoyment of the sport, and indeed the enjoyment of the amateur golfer playing with him as well as any spectators, as his negativity tainted the whole game.... I suppose though if it is one’s chosen career, and not just a hobby the stakes are much higher and the performance pressure far greater.... but it is sad that the love of the sport then becomes compromised.... and with others their good sportsmanship too! I have also suggested to my boyfriend, the one who dragged me kicking and screaming (well not quite) to a driving range and then onto the golf course…. that especially in practice and social games, the mis-hits, the challenges the obstacles etc should be seen as a bonus and one should in fact be grateful for them. They provide that incredible opportunity to redeem yourself and BUILD skill, resiillience and self-esteem. If one plays perfect golf all the time, when something finally goes wrong (and it will, and you won’t have seen it coming) you won’t be equipped with the experience, confidence, competence and self-belief (mental fortitude) to get yourself out of a pickle and back into the groove…. out of the veld and onto the fairway, out of the bunker and onto the green…. If you have a drop shot…. suck it up buttercup, it happens to everyone…. pick up you ball(s), pick yourself back up, lick your ball, dust yourself off…. whatever it takes and see this as the golden opportunity to face your nemesis, the Bogeyman.

When I was younger, I developed this notion of “who da Poo”…. It was based on how my rescue township dogs, especially the more insecure, fearful ones often roll in excrement (the stinkier the better) to mask their own scent of fear! Once they have rolled you can see their entire demeanour change…. they are so proud of themselves and feel like we’d feel, after a being pampered at a spa! There’s no point "kakking" on the dog ‘cos he is just thrilled with his makeover, and your disappointment and little wobbly barely dents his new found pride and confidence… So, the way my “Who da Poo” concept works is: as we all know, SHIT HAPPENS…. we need to then do splatter management…. the problem is some splatter usually contaminates us. Well we can choose to jump in the cesspool of sewage and drown ourselves; OR we can choose to embrace the thing we fear (as gross and squeamish and as stinky as it may be)! When you come back from crap situations and have handled them you should feel grateful for that learning curve, for the opportunity to grow and experience things you haven’t before, for learning how flexible, resourceful, courageous, skilled, resistant and brilliant you can be, even when facing the harshest realities and adversity! It’s the shit that takes us out of our comfort zones and helps us grow, change and develop! So whenever I bounce back from something, handle a difficult situation, manage something I felt I couldn’t... or deal with a problem that was hard to face…. I always (internally) give myself a massive hug, do a little jig, jump up and down with a fist pump and high five myself and say “Who da Poo!!!!” Life doesn’t happen to you….. you must happen to life - same is true with poo! It’s quite cute now, after my boyfriend redeems himself now at Golf he asks me “Who da Poo” and I answer: “You da Poo”

Who da Poo?

So in terms of Golf then…. two jokes come to mind…. What is a Golfer’s favourite bird? Any birdie will do!!! And his greatest fear?…. well the Bogeyman of course! So instead of fearing the Bogeyman he needs to embrace and become him (from time to time) and face that fear of being a stroke over par. Yes he can choose to have stroke (or heart attack, melt down, or throw his clubs out the cart) or he can embrace the fact that sometimes those extra strokes provide you with chances, opportunities and challenges you wouldn’t otherwise face….. a learning curve, an opportunity to perhaps be ballsy and take a risk, the opportunity to play it safe and choose to forfeit a shot in order to set up a better opportunity…. the learning curve and potential for growth is enormous! They need to, once in a while embrace the Bogeyman and be grateful for that opportunity…. Ha-ha, I am guessing most golfers would find this a ludicrous and laughable concept and mutter “spoken by a true non-Golfer”. One of the golfers told me that Golf is Life, and I am starting to see how Life Skills and Life Coaching could really be of benefit to Golfers as I witness their astonishing negative self-talk and self sabotaging behaviours…. Equally astounding is how blank, non-affected, numb and unemotional they seem about their truly great shots! Not only do they seem to beat themselves up for the poor shots, but they same to be apathetic and unable to celebrate their good shots! There I stand, a novice, marvelling at their magnificent shots, astounded by their accuracy, dumbstruck bu their drive distance, and they barely blink.... it's CRAZY! They don’t seem to recognise that where focus goes energy flows! If they keep puting all that focus on negative self-talk and beating themselves up, naturally that ball is going to veer into the pond, the bunker and the rough….. their ball will be manifesting exactly the self-defeating message they keep telling themselves. If the game of golf is life, then the messages you are telling yourself about your game will manifest as a self-fulfilling prophecy…. No amount of time on a driving range on golf course is going to improve your game if you don’t BELIEVE it will and believe that you are worthy and capable of playing a better game! Yes I am still very “green” when it comes to the intricacies and complexities of Golf (especially the different types of games and the scoring….)…. But, I cannot help wondering if it’s man’s age old search for meaning which unconsciously drives these golfers back to the range, day after day, puttering around on a Golf Course, trying to find their balls (searching for for affirmation and validation)…..

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