Growing up, I always used to hear about how sports could teach me valuable life lessons off the field. However, as helpful as my coaches were, they never elaborated on those life lessons, and I was left to figure them out on my own. It was not until I started playing golf that I really started to understand that the strategies I used during a golf round could also be applied off the course as well. In fact, I still use two lessons I learned through golf today. Here are those lessons and the stories behind them.
As a senior in high school, I was wrapping up my last season as a Varsity golfer. I was having a decent season, consistently shooting 3.8 strokes over par for nine holes, but I continually felt that I should be playing better. I could hit almost any shot on the driving range, shot under par multiple times during practice rounds, but simply couldn’t emulate that success during real matches or tournaments. The problem, I concluded, couldn’t be technical, but mental.
Golf is said to be 90% mental and 10% technical, so the probability of my assumption being accurate was high. Luckily, my golf coach was also a sports psychologist, and helped our team that season take a closer look at our thoughts and how we could strengthen our minds to help us succeed.
One of my favorite lessons from our Coach had to do with the trees on a golf course. He told us to notice each tree during our next match, not just superficially, but to really bring them into our awareness. What color was it? How tall was it? What shape does the tree make? I was initially skeptical, but after that first “tree-watching” round, I quickly saw the value in this mental practice. I realized that in watching the trees, I was able to get out of my head about my performance or what my score was, and solely focus on the shot at hand. This enabled me to relax during my round and play with more enjoyment rather than fear or worry, which directly helped lower my scores. Along with my swing technique, I realized that the ability to stay present during my round was equally important.
After seeing the difference my mindset could make, I began to look even closer at what might be holding me back from a mental standpoint. After each match I would reflect on what had transpired and try to figure out ways I could improve. I would pay particular attention to the unforced errors I made and what went on in my head before those bad shots. In doing so, I found that I was focusing a large amount of my attention on what I didn’t want to happen instead of what I did want. For instance, if I was teeing off on a par 3 over water, I would focus more on avoiding the water than on landing it three feet away from the hole. I was therefore unintentionally attracting those bad shots into my round. I made the decision to have a more positive mindset before my golf shots, and subsequently began making more of the shots I knew I was capable of hitting.
After a season of sharpening my new mental arsenal, my skills were put to the test during the County Championship tournament. With my new mantra “stay present, stay positive,” I was able to shoot the best competitive golf round in my life: a 1 under par 70. Our team went on to win the tournament for the second straight year.
As I’ve gotten older, I look back on that golf season and tournament more and more, not because it feels good to reminisce, but because of how much those two golf lessons keep popping up in my life. No matter what I may be doing - working on a project, going on a date, creating a work out/diet plan, I am constantly reminded of the importance to stay present and positive. These lessons have not only made my golf game better, but also my life in the way they remove all of the unnecessary fear, doubt and worry that may pile up. What’s left is more room for enjoyment, love and happiness. If you want more of that in your life, give these two lessons a try - I promise you won’t regret it.
Golf Brand Manager
SF Bay Native, Experienced Golfer