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Opinion & Analysis

How Gratitude Can Take Your Golf Game to the Next Level

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What are you grateful for? That might seem like a strange question to ask a golfer in a performance article, but the emotion of gratitude can help take your performance to the next level. Research has linked the emotion of gratitude to better overall physical and mental health, as well as sounder sleep, reduced anxiety and lower incidences of depression. Athletes who are more satisfied with their performances are also less likely to burn out and more likely to enjoy an better overall well being.

In my work with athletes, and in previous articles I have written for GolfWRX, I highlight the importance of enjoyment over achievement, which is making sure that enjoyment is at the forefront of performance in golf with achievement following. Golfers who pursue achievement in the game so diligently that they forget about the key purposes of sport, enjoyment and fun, can often end frustrated and miserable. Golfers who pursue enjoyment first, with a deep commitment to excellence and improvement, are the ones who achieve and last in the game.

So why can focusing on gratitude be so beneficial to you as a golfer?

Well, consider that it is impossible to have two emotions at once. The same goes for thoughts; we can only handle one at a time. As a golfer, this is important to know. When you feel negative emotions that limit your performance, you have the option of changing your state to a positive emotion. Gratitude is a great one to make the shift.

Characteristics of Grateful Golfers

Grateful golfers appreciate what they have. While some players complain, make excuses and don’t appreciate the fantastic opportunity of sport, grateful players are excited to have the opportunity to play a sport they love and enjoy all the benefits that are related to sport: fitness, relationships, life lessons, the joy of winning, learning from losing, and the opportunity to challenge and test their abilities.

Grateful golfers are grateful for competitors. Appreciate your competitors! Competitors can bring out the best in you, and without them you do not have the opportunity to play and test your limits. In his autobiography, former Olympic track star Carl Lewis said he chose to embrace his competitors as essential in the quest for performance excellence, rather than to see them as enemies meant to be beaten down. Lewis won 10 Olympic medals, nine of them gold. You need your competitors!

Grateful golfers appreciate the journey and struggle. They know that there will be difficulties and golf often goes in up-and-down cycles. Grateful players learn from these struggles and always move forward. There is an appreciation in the value of their struggles and an ability to look at the big picture and know there are brighter days ahead.

Grateful golfers “sweep the shed.” Like the World Champion New Zealand All Blacks, the great rugby team that tidies up its dressing room after every training and game, grateful players appreciate everyone around them. They appreciate everything they receive; there is no attitude of entitlement.

Grateful golfers enjoy pressure. Is there pressure in sports? Absolutely. But grateful players recognize the incredible opportunity they have to demonstrate their skills and test their limits. You play a game you love with people engaged and watching you. Grateful golfers appreciate the meaning that pressure gives their experience. They know pressure is a privilege. Grateful players look around and appreciate the challenge that is being given to them.

Grateful golfers do not rely on winning. Because they are so focused on a great process and appreciate great competition, the joy of grateful players is not dependent on winning. They want to win, but appreciate their process, the competition and the challenge.

Grateful golfers let go. When it’s time to play and practice, it’s done with purpose, intention and efficiency. Grateful players work hard with intention, but they also appreciate and enjoy their time away from practice and competition, appreciating all parts of their life.

What You Can Do To Become A Grateful Golfer

Many things, and it’s a little different for everyone, but here’s a start.

1. Never forget how lucky you are to be playing a fantastic game like golf, which gives you the opportunity to express yourself and has the opportunity to give your life meaning.

2. Remember you can only feel one emotion at once. Replace anxious feelings with feelings of gratefulness. You must make the decision to change your state with a shift to being grateful for the opportunity to participate in the game of golf.

3. Think about two things you are grateful for at the end of each day. Get in the habit of being grateful for things in your golf and in your life.

Remember to be grateful for what you have including your opportunity to play golf. Golf is never something you have to do, but always something you get to do!

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John Haime is the President of New Edge Performance. He's a Human Performance Coach who prepares performers to be the their best by helping them tap into the elusive 10 percent of their abilities that will get them to the top. This is something that anyone with a goal craves, and John Haime knows how to get performers there. John closes the gap for performers in sports and business by taking them from where they currently are to where they want to go.  The best in the world trust John. They choose him because he doesn’t just talk about the world of high performance – he has lived it and lives in it everyday. He is a former Tournament Professional Golfer with professional wins. He has a best-selling book, “You are a Contender,” which is widely read by world-class athletes, coaches and business performers.  He has worked around the globe for some of the world’s leading companies. Athlete clients include performers who regularly rank in the Top-50 in their respective sports. John has the rare ability to work as seamlessly in the world of professional sports as he does in the world of corporate performance. His primary ambition writing for GolfWRX is to help you become the golfer you'd like to be. See www.johnhaime.com for more. Email: john@newedgeperformance.org

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. asugrad1988

    Apr 25, 2017 at 11:34 am

    I have had a very good golf life. I’ve played for over 50 years and won a lot of tournaments. I also volunteer at a local food pantry. You see some very pitiful people coming in to get free food. Most all of them have some really sad stories.
    Now when I’m playing golf, if I hit a shot that’s not good or my round is not up to my expectations, I just remember those people at the food pantry and how much I spend each month to belong to a private club, and then I realize how many of those people that come in the food pantry would love to trade places with me for just one day, and I realize my round wasn’t so bad after all.

    • John Haime

      Apr 25, 2017 at 4:29 pm

      Thanks for the comment asugrad – that’s a great reminder and perspective that we have to enjoy every minute of our time in golf.

  2. Kenny Taylor

    Apr 25, 2017 at 11:27 am

    Thanks John. As a retired Navy SEAL and burgeoning performance consultant for youth sports, performance artists and young men interested having a career in the Military Special Operations, the message that “Pressure is a Privilege” really hit a chord for me. When people take time out of their lives to work with you on attaining your performance goals, is it a privilege and some thing to be grateful for.many
    Playing golf and testing your abilities in a vacuum and the range or on the course without fellow competitors, is hardly a test, it’s practice. I am grateful to have friends to share my golf experiences with. Most of us (amateurs), don’t have admiring fans standing outside the ropes, but those few people in our foursomes are often plenty to provide the pressure an external motivation to stay focused our process and attempt to play well.
    Thanks for the EI insight.

  3. Bigputt18

    Apr 25, 2017 at 11:27 am

    I have had a very good golf life. I’ve played for over 50 years and won a lot of tournaments. I also volunteer at a local food pantry. You see some very pitiful people coming in to get free food. Most all of them have really sad stories.
    Now when I’m playing golf, if I hit a shot that’s not good or my round is not up to my expectations, I just remember those people at the food pantry and how much I spend each month to belong to a private club, and then I realize how many of those people that come in the food pantry would love to trade places with me for just one day, and I realize my round wasn’t so bad after all.

  4. 8thehardway

    Apr 23, 2017 at 8:11 am

    Grateful to whom? I think you’re describing “appreciation,” a completely reflective process with no hint of (externally oriented) obligation, indebtedness or response.

    • John Haime

      Apr 23, 2017 at 10:35 am

      Hi,

      Many thanks for the comment and perspective.

      The article is about the feelings of being grateful for what the game provides and how it adds value to our lives.

      Yes, being grateful is about being appreciative for the wonderful benefits received (from the game). Those benefits are derived in many different ways – some outlined in the article – but just generally being appreciative and carrying the feeling of gratefulness before we play, during and after play. I think you’ll find appreciation in the definition of grateful along with others like thankful etc.

  5. coolhandbirdman

    Apr 22, 2017 at 9:53 pm

    To be able to walk in the hills of the finger lakes on a sunday wearing shorts enjoying a beer on the back nine with my friends. Sticking a few pins is an extra bonus. But thats why I’m grateful for golf.

    • John Haime

      Apr 23, 2017 at 10:39 am

      Exactly! Enjoy the game, enjoy your friends and enjoy the challenge – what could be better!

      Thanks for the great comment.

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Opinion & Analysis

Slow play is all about the numbers

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If you gather round, children, I’ll let you in on a secret: slow play is all about the numbers. Which numbers? The competitive ones. If you compete at golf, no matter the level, you care about the numbers you post for a hole, a round, or an entire tournament. Those numbers cause you to care about the prize at the end of the competition, be it a handshake, $$$$, a trophy, or some other bauble. Multiply the amount that you care, times the number of golfers in your group, your flight, the tournament, and the slowness of golf increases by that exponent.

That’s it. You don’t have to read any farther to understand the premise of this opinion piece. If you continue, though, I promise to share a nice anecdotal story about a round of golf I played recently—a round of golf on a packed golf course, that took a twosome exactly three hours and 10 minutes to complete, holing all putts.

I teach and coach at a Buffalo-area high school. One of my former golfers, in town for a few August days, asked if we could play the Grover Cleveland Golf Course while he was about. Grover is a special place for me: I grew up sneaking on during the 1970s. It hosted the 1912 U.S. Open when it was the Country Club of Buffalo. I returned to play it with Tom Coyne this spring, becoming a member of #CitizensOfACCA in the process.

Since my former golfer’s name is Alex, we’ll call him Alex, to avoid confusion. Alex and I teed off at 1:30 on a busy, sunny Wednesday afternoon in August. Ahead of us were a few foursomes; behind us, a few more. There may have been money games in either place, or Directors’ Cup matches, but to us, it was no matter. We teed it high and let it fly. I caught up on Alex’ four years in college, and his plans for the upcoming year. I shared with him the comings and goings of life at school, which teachers had left since his graduation, and how many classrooms had new occupants. It was barroom stuff, picnic-table conversation, water-cooler gossip. Nothing of dense matter nor substance, but pertinent and enjoyable, all the same.

To the golf. Neither one of us looked at the other for permission to hit. Whoever was away, at any given moment, mattered not a bit. He hit and I hit, sometimes simultaneously, sometimes within an instant of the other. We reached the putting surface and we putted. Same pattern, same patter. Since my high school golfers will need to choose flagstick in or out this year, we putted with it in. Only once did it impact our roll: a pounded putt’s pace was slowed by the metal shaft. Score one for Bryson and the flagstick-in premise!

Grover tips out around 5,600 yards. After the U.S. Open and the US Public Links were contested there, a healthy portion of land was given away to the Veteran’s Administration, and sorely-needed hospital was constructed at the confluence of Bailey, Lebrun, and Winspear Avenues. It’s an interesting track, as it now and forever is the only course to have hosted both the Open and the Publinx; since the latter no longer exists, this fact won’t change. It remains the only course to have played a par-6 hole in U.S. Open competition. 480 of those 620 yards still remain, the eighth hole along Bailey Avenue. It’s not a long course, it doesn’t have unmanageable water hazards (unless it rains a lot, and the blocked aquifer backs up) and the bunkering is not, in the least, intimidating.

Here’s the rub: Alex and I both shot 75 or better. We’re not certain what we shot, because we weren’t concerned with score. We were out for a day of reminiscence, camaraderie, and recreation. We golfed our balls, as they say in some environs, for the sheer delight of golfing our balls. Alex is tall, and hits this beautiful, high draw that scrapes the belly of the clouds. I hit what my golfing buddies call a power push. It gets out there a surprising distance, but in no way mimics Alex’ trace. We have the entire course covered, from left to right and back again.

On the 14th tee, I checked my phone and it was 3:40. I commented, “Holy smokes, we are at two hours for 13 holes.” We neither quickened nor slowed our pace. We tapped in on 18, right around 4:40, and shook hands. I know what he’s been up to. He understands why I still have a day job, and 18 holes of golf were played—because we both cared and didn’t care.

There you have it, children. Off with you, now. To the golf course. Play like you don’t care.

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Opinion & Analysis

Golfers: Go easy on yourselves!

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Heres a fact for you: nearly half of all golfers will never break 100, according to the National Golf Foundation. Less than that will ever break 90, and only five percent will ever break 80. Golf is not an easy game, so you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it. Period.

I’m not here to go all Zen golf on you; I can only speak from personal experience, but the moment you accept that, regardless of your ability to score, you can have a lot of fun, the more you will truly enjoy the game of golf.

When I first learned to play, like many, I was not very good. Everyone I played with was way better than me, and although I don’t remember a lot of those early rounds, I can remember moments of feeling embarrassed for my play. It wasn’t because of the people I was playing with, they were all very helpful and patient, but for some reason, I knew that I was not helping the group. It is those memories that allow me to make sure no matter who I play with now, I make them feel welcome on the course and help them any chance I can.

We all started somewhere, and regardless of how many rounds we have played or how low our handicaps have gotten, we need to be accepting that anyone that takes the time to try and play golf should be afforded the opportunity to learn and enjoy the game.

Even with my current level of play, the insecurities of being a newbie creep in from time to time, I never want to feel like I am the reason my group is being slow—although I must admit that with my normal pace of play that’s not usually an issue. I played a round very earlier in the year during a trip to Florida where I was paired with what I would call very regular golfers, players who generally break 100, but struggle with aspects of their game. Even then, just like when I was 10 years old, I was having a hard time out of a bunker one the second hole and after blading one into the pond on my second attempt (give me a break, it was my first round in four months), I just walked to the green, tended the flag, and told them I’d take my ESC (equitable stroke control) number for the hole. Thas describes my golf game, and I’m OK with that.

Too many golfers get caught up in how the pros play—from the tips, bombing drivers, expecting to make six birdies a round. Players on the PGA Tour are like the aliens from Space Jam (I just seriously dated myself) the Monstars. They have every skill imaginable, and get to do this for a living—you better believe they are going to be good at it. There is NO reason as a 10-15 handicap you should be slamming clubs and stomping your feet for missing a green from 150 yards. It’s just part of the game. Heck, even Rory McIlroy misses greens from time to time. Do you ever hit it like Rory?

Expectations are part of the human ego, and if we don’t manage them properly, we will always feel like we are inadequate. In reality, we should approach every challenge (even something as simple as golf) with the idea that today I have the opportunity to be great, but there is also the equal chance I will fail. We learn from failure, we improve after failure, and it’s not something we should be scared of.

No matter your score, make it fun, enjoy the day, embrace the challenge. Your expectations can make or break what to take from every round of golf you play, and if you think for a second this is the worst golf ever played—trust me it’s not. It’s just one round of many bad rounds played every day, and the next round is your next challenge. Honestly, you’re not as bad as you think you are.

Go easy on yourself. Golf is a lot more enjoyable that way.

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Podcasts

TG2: LPGA Tour caddie Chris McCalmont

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LPGA Tour caddie Chris McCalmont joins us to talk about his 12-year career as a caddie. How volatile the job market is, the money they make, and what he loves about caddying. Chris also makes some interesting comments on slow play and what can, and cannot, be done about it.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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