I read recently that 3 ‘great tension reducers’ were; golf, swimming and fishing. Well I’m not an expert on water based activities but I can’t really say golf has reduced my stress levels very much over the years.
“Relax and play golf,” people say. They could just as well say “I hear that your uncle’s been eaten by a tiger. Why don’t you take your mind off it and take a trip to the zoo?”
There should be tips about reducing your stress whilst playing golf, not assuming that the very act of playing golf will somehow automatically reduce your stress. It is nonsense. Luckily, I’ve carried out a little research and have examined the top tips for reducing stress and tried to apply them to golf;
Tip 1. Reduce your stress levels by not setting yourself unrealistic targets
Sounds like a good idea. In principle I would be delighted to shoot a few shots under my handicap each time I play. However, when I’m playing the stroke index 3 par 5 and I’ve hit a glorious drive leaving me 200 yards from the green it would take the combined strength of Samson, Hercules and Geoff Capes to get the 3 wood out of my hand and give me a mid-iron. The overwhelming majority of golfers play golf because of those rare, rare moments when they hit a shot as good as a Phil Mickelson or a Bradley Dredge. Most of us know that a 7 iron, wedge and 2 putts will give us lots of stableford points but that really isn’t the game is it? There are those amongst us that calculate the chances of success at each shot and play the percentages. These people often win tournaments and are ‘good clubmen’ (they will be men). However, they are sad, unloved, boring and their mothers’ dress them funny. Their only aspiration in life is to be in the top 10 % best handicap secretaries in the South Wales region (valleys area).
Tip 2. When you have completed a task take a few minutes to pause and reflect before you start a new one.
It seems that many golfers are already doing this judging by the amount of time it takes 4 people to walk 10 yards to a tee and hit a ball each in the general direction of the next green.
Tip 3. Address problems as they occur. Don’t let them build up.
This seems to be based on ‘the green shield stamp syndrome’. For those who don’t remember green shields stamps they were the physical embodiment of nectar points. Every time you bought something you were given a few stamps which you put in a book. Then, when the book was full you cashed it in. This was illustrated to mew one day when I was working in London. I was not in my usual bed in Wales I woke up in a hotel ( 1 stamp). I couldn’t find a taxi (another stamp). The day was awful (many stamps). I had to stand up all the way to Newport on the train on the journey home (more stamps). My book is getting quite full now. I go in the house and my partner had bought the wrong cat food for the cat. I went ballistic on her, “You stupid ***, etc etc.” Waking up in hospital I reflected on the dubious merits of cashing in all your stress stamps at one time.
In golfing terms let your stress out as you go along – If you miss a putt … let it out. If you top a tee shot… let it out. Don’t save it all up and go home and kick the cat. I did see someone on the 7th par 3 at Dewstow cash all his stamps at one time. He was having a bad, bad day after a number of bad, bad weeks and after topping 3 titleists into the pond followed this us by sending his bag and golf club after them. He stormed across the course toward the clubhouse. He had only gone about 100 yards before he turned back and walked sheepishly back to us. He walked right past us and into the pond. He waded towards his bag where he pulled out his car keys.
Tip 4: Stay in the ‘here and now’
OK this sounds very another lot of pschological twaddle but I really like it. If I were calling myself a consultant psychological sports guru and charged you £2,000 per day you’d listen to me if I told you this. It really means hit one shot at a time. Often we’re hitting a shot and worrying about the putt, or the next tee shot, or the winners speech. When I was very new at the game a pal of mine who was also new, and quite a good player was always wide on par 3s. He eventually told me that he was worried about getting a hole in one and having to buy everyone a drink as he was invariably skint. So,hit the ball. Find it. Hit the ball. Find it…..
Tip 5: Avoid all drugs including tobacco and alcohol
Writer, golfer and golf writer, I have developed and moved on (not permanently in case there are any publishers reading this) from the relatively straightforward world of management consultancy with motivation, leadership, change matrices, decision making, communication, customer care, bottom lines, double-loop learning, stress, attribution theory, behavioural interviewing, project management, group think and Johnson and Scholes’ Cultural Web, to the complex and unfathomable world of describing places where people can hit a ball into a hole.
I have written for a number of golf magazines and newspapers including 'Golf International' , 'wales on Sunday' and am currently golf correspondent for Cambria Magazine (Wales's Magazine) and blogger for Wales Online.
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