Golf: A Game Of Life - Head's BlogPosted on: 11/10/2019
Last weekend I had hoped to attend a conference in Sheffield - the 4th annual WomenEd Unconference (it is called unconference for a reason - but this is not relevant to my blog!) However, I made a decision to put my own wellbeing first - take the foot off the gas so to speak and spend time with my husband - on the golf course! (I hear the chuckles already!)
Some of your children whom I have taught mindfulness to will already know that I am a keen golfer - but sadly do not get to play half as much as I would like to. As a youngster growing up on the west coast of Scotland I would spend every hour possible on the local golf course from about the age of 6 to 15. I attended golf summer school every year and was coached by the local professional, my parents were both avid players and my dad who once played off a handicap of 2 was a great teacher; I am so grateful for his patience as I tagged along weekend after weekend with my tiny clubs - the round of golf which should have taken 3 hours was often a day’s excursion as we waved players through! Juniors in Scotland were very much tolerated! (I am very proud to state at this point that there were only a handful of girls who played golf in the late 70’s early 80’s in my hometown - it was very much boys who were in the junior clubhouse - the lack of girls did not bother me - I loved the sport!) Thankfully the presence of girls and women in sport has somewhat escalated and last weekend there were numerous girls on the driving range practising as we finished our round.
So back to last weekend - as I watched my husband prepare for his first tee shot I could not resist but smile as I could see the tension on his face, his shoulders tighten and the look of determination for him to execute the best shot ever! He hooked his first shot…...(He plays much more than I do these days and I had not swung a club since the summer of 2018!!) I stepped up - took my stance - looked ahead - relaxed my body, inhaled - exhaled - kept my head down - and enjoyed the sound of the ball being driven down the first fairway! ‘You’ve still got it!’ was his comment - now that is praise of the highest!
Now for a bit of background ...my husband had never played golf until our honeymoon back in 1998 where we stayed on a beautiful golf resort in Malaysia (of course I chose the resort for a reason!!) Over the duration of two weeks he went from a spinning cartoon character attempting to tee off to someone who showed potential as a golfer… Fast forward 21 years and he usually beats me now! However, last weekend I have to admit to laughing out loud as he allowed his frustrations to show at some of his poor shots! (I had many too)
As I walked around the course my mind kept making analogies of how we can compare the game of golf to life and I knew that there was a blog to be written! To those of you who are non-golfers I shall try to explain how controlling a little white ball can be so relevant!
Swing Hard and Pray: I will give my husband a break for now but for many people who start golf this is the thought process - alas there really is no correlation between how hard you swing and how far the ball will go. With experience one learns that there is so much more to the game. By slowing down, having more focus, making good contact, the ball may travel further. Sheer force does create action, but it’s often negated by a lack of strategy.
Embrace Failure: FAIL -First Attempt in Learning. Golfers can be temperamental! Two bad shots and they give up on that hole or even worse walk off the course. We need to learn to embrace failure, analyse, learn, and move on - reflect on the shot, and use the positive mindset that the next shot or hole will be better.
Practice -the primary driver of consistent success is practice. You must try, fail, adjust, and try again. Last weekend I still played relatively (I use the term loosely) successfully and I am confident that this is due to the solid foundations of good habits, hours of coaching, more hours of practice over the course of many years of my youth which has secured my knowledge and skill level. Many of you may have heard about the 10,000 hour rule; the principle that 10,000 hours of "deliberate practice" are needed to become world-class in any field. I am certainly not world class in how I play golf but the fact that I was taught complex skills and technical aspects of the game at such a young age may be an important factor in my ability to engage with golf as infrequently as I now do and enjoy it as much as I do. Of course there are specific shots that still need refining and much more practice to be had - but could how I was nurtured also be part of the success - I was encouraged to play golf - the language of golf floated around our household (much to the horror of my older sister who to this day has managed to never play a round of golf - but has married into a golfing family!! Oh the irony!)
Mentorship Matters; Having a good mentor/teacher/coach is crucial. I have already spoken about how fortunate I was in my early golfing years. Even the top pros are coached on a daily basis. It is important to remember that asking for advice isn’t a sign of weakness, but instead a sign of maturity. You’ll never know what you don’t know unless you ask.
Lifelong Learning: One day, in my retirement (in a couple of decades!) I will aim to improve my game of golf and will seek out more lessons, a good teacher to help me refine my game - in the meanwhile I will allow my husband to do this!! But lifelong learning is exciting - we all have so many opportunities to learn and I for one have have a thirst for learning. I enjoy challenges, meeting people who will challenge me in my thinking and who will teach me new skills.
Fear: One cannot even consider playing golf if we fear how the next shot may unfold! Allowing fear to overcome us can only cause bad results. Fear can drive poor decisions, can cause paralysis, and debilitates us. When teeing off, yes bad things may happen, but one must focus on executing the best shot possible, it is likely it will go well if one focuses on the positive!
Self-Awareness: It is with experience and maturity that I have come to realise how important that self-awareness is. The art of self-reflection allows us to analyse our own motivations, our emotions and helps us to understand how others see us. Practising mindfulness has helped me to become more self aware and as I played golf last weekend I used my mindful practices not only execute the game but I allowed myself to enjoy the great outdoors, appreciate what surrounded me and was so aware of how fortunate I am to have the family, friends, job...the life that I have.
Like golf, life is a humbling game that can only be played well if we understand our own weaknesses and tendencies.
Like golf, life is an intricate game. Play it well!