Most competitive sports suffer from a healthy (or some might say unhealthy) element of conflict between adherents who like to win at any cost – an attitude that can all-too-often lead to temper tantrums when things go wrong – and those who believe that a relaxed attitude and good behaviour are the key to success.
A 2008 edition of The New York Times probed this issue in some depth and reported:
“Like so many people around the world, Dr. Michael Joyner was transfixed watching Michael Phelps swim in the Summer Olympics. But while many of us focused on Mr. Phelps’s world records, Dr. Joyner, a competitive Masters class swimmer and an exercise researcher at the Mayo Clinic, noticed something else.
‘I have never seen anyone so relaxed in the water,’ he was quoted as saying.
Relaxation. It’s a trait that is often underappreciated, coaches and athletic trainers say. Yet it can make the difference between doing your best and not doing well, between feeling dragged down or soaring. Coaches search for better ways to teach it. And many athletes, including some of the world’s best, work on it constantly.
An ability to relax while pushing hard, exercise researchers say, is one reason why winners win.
So How Does That Apply to Golf?
In this blog post, we want to consider the above principle and see how it applies to one of the most popular sports in which pre-retirees and retirees engage: golf.
If golf is a favourite sport nowadays for people of all ages, it’s because it teaches all the skills needed to be a good player as well as how to be a good sport.
Here are a few fundamentals that will help in the overall development of the aptitudes of a “good player” who obsesses about performance, and those of a good sport who’s more concerned about attitude, behaviour and having a good time.
Inspiration vs. Perspiration
In golf as in most human activities, genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. You can read all the golf “how to” books in the world, watch innumerable TV shows and tournament play, but if you don’t get out and live the experience on the course, you limit your progress.
Stop Thinking & Relax
Taking into consideration the distance, wind, previous swing…it’s normal. But one thing sets the good golfer apart from the others: he or she knows to stop thinking and relax when it’s time to swing. Before the shot, this golfer prepares their body for action and enters the world of sensations, reflexes, and automatic movements. Works almost every time.
Success is a Sequence of Small Steps
While a good swing is a necessary condition for success, it’s not enough. You also have to perfect your putting, your approach shots and your bunker shots. You must have a vision of your whole game, but it’s equally important to work hard on each component. The idea is to have a plan that includes a step-by-step process, year after year, while never taking yourself and your game too seriously.
School of Efficiency & Self-Confidence
The mastery of movements that are simple, obvious, consistent, and – above all – relaxed creates confidence. Pay attention to what you do best, to what you’re sure of achieving, and focus on what’s essential. For example:
- If your swing is ugly but works, leave it alone.
- If you seek to create a pleasant atmosphere while out on the golf course, and know how to play with patience, relaxation, humility and serenity, then you understand what “fair play” means and you will be considered a “good sport.”
What more could you want? The perfect and balanced combination of these fundamentals makes the difference: it’s having a winning attitude towards the game you’re playing. And that’s why winners win.