Golf is such wonderful game that brings people together from all walks of life. Summertime is the best time for families to get on the course and spend some quality time together. As a mental coach, I’m often asked about the secret mental game skills that will lower scores. I laugh because there are not any secrets; however there is one thing that gets lost in striving for lower scores, enjoying the game. In life, we will perform better when we enjoy the activity. How often does a bad attitude on the course just make performance worse and it becomes difficult to get back on track?
Unfortunately, while working with competitive juniors I see unhappy players who are only concerned with their score. They have gotten away from the great experience of playing the game. What I mean by this is it is important to get back to why you play golf. I love golf because I can experiment on the course and attempt different shots like hooks, slices and other trouble shots. It is challenging and keeps me wanting to learn more. The other reason I play is to spend time with my friends and family. Where else can you spend four hours with friends in a beautiful setting playing a game?
I know from coaching juniors that score is important, yet long-term the only way to get better is to enjoy the process of playing and practicing. Part of this is about being less critical with yourself and being open to learning from your results. Also, a goal I set for many juniors (and parents) is to have a smile on the first tee and a smile leaving the 18th green. When you hit a poor shot, learn from it, instead of being critical like saying “I’m a terrible player”. Unfortunately, I used to be critical and learned a different way to act from one of my students.
I had the pleasure of coaching the Tri-Valley Special Olympics golf team for 10 years and learned so many valuable lessons about how to enjoy golf. These athletes would come every Saturday for an hour group lesson and it amazed me that just getting to hit a ball on a range gave them so much joy. I remember a specific instance when an athlete named Joseph was attempting to hit a 7 iron on the range. He missed and said, “let me try again”; he missed again and said “let me try again”, and then missed one more time and said “let me try again”. He then settled in and this time hit a great shot down the range and said, “See Rick, I knew I could do it”. He wasn’t looking at the misses as failures; he looked at them as part of playing. His attitude continued to be positive and he celebrated when he did well. The lessons I learned from coaching the Special Olympics changed how I viewed golf. I now saw golf as more then just about score. It was a game that could be shared by so many different people. I learned that life is about the moments in our life we take on challenges with “I can do it attitude” instead of a “poor me, I’m never going to get it”.
This summer I challenge you to enjoy golf to the fullest. Play for the reasons that get a smile on your face and finish the round with a smile. Push yourself to play with different people and get to learn about why they took up the game. Sharing your golf experiences with others reminds us all of the great moments we have had on the links. Create some more great moments!
Dr. Rick Sessinghaus PGA, is known as “Golf’s Mental Coach” and coaches at Chevy Chase CC in Glendale. He is the author of Golf: The Ultimate Mind Game and you can find out more by visiting www.RickSessinghaus.com.