The Scream by Edvard Munch
2 13 mins 2 yrs

You hold the club and how you swing it determines the trajectory and pathway of your golf ball. Therefore, how you feel affects your golf swing and what kind of shape you are in massively affects your golf shots. We all bemoan how inconsistent most of us are at the great game of golf. Many of the golfers I regularly play with share their frustrations at not being able to make the shots they know they can when out on the course.

Golf is a thick soup of experiences, which bubbles on the stove for over four hours. There are high points and low moments during our rounds of golf.

Robert Sudha Hamilton

At times, the game seems almost effortless and at others it is a dire struggle. The evidence indicates that the common denominator is the guy or gal holding the golf club. Our state of being impacts upon how we play a shot and the outcome of that shot. #emotionalstate #golffears #anxiety #angrygolfer

How you feel affects your golf swing extreme close up photo of frightened eyes
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Drilling Down Into the Golf Swing

This is why we ritually drill sequences within our golf swing in a bid to develop a repetitive action capable of getting the job done out there. Obviously, if you are a raw beginner and don’t know what you are doing the road will be bumpy on your journey toward proficiency. We have all been there and the only solution to this early phase is diligent application and getting proper instruction from a PGA professional. However, you will, also, see better players practicing moves prior to making shots, as they attempt to groove a successful action. The golf swing can appear fairly straight forward but a lot can go wrong on the club head’s journey from go to whoa. Timing the exact moment of impact, when the grooves strike the back of the dimpled golf ball, is paramount to the thing going where you want it to. Developing a reliable technique is the intention of most of us who love to play this game.

Our Overall State of Being Impacts Our Golf

This is one layer of what is happening for the golfer in his or her procedural application to hitting the golf ball. In addition, to this, there is how you are feeling overall, which makes a large impact upon your ability to effectively strike the golf ball. We have all experienced the negative influence of rushing to the golf course and our game without adequate time to warm up prior to teeing off. The rushing invades our swing speed and we make numerous mistakes due to bad timing in the swing. Everything gets too fast and we get all out of kilter. Golf is an activity, which is greatly affected by our overall state of being.

How you feel affects your golf swing man punching gray wall
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Rushing and consequentially getting too quick is but one manifestation of this phenomenon. Fear and anxiety is another. Why do we fear stuff on the golf course? Nasty hazards like bodies of water and devilish waste areas are sometimes awe inspiring. Awe as in awful, I mean. Having to hit over a large expanse of water in high winds early in your round is one of those moments for me. Recent bad outcomes in relation to hazards can provoke anxiety in golfers the next time they are confronted by them. Another type of anxiety prevalent out on the course is when a golfer is going through a bad spell with his or her swing. The memories of bad shots and outcomes are hanging over your next shot like a vampire about to chow down on your throat. We tighten up and duff the shot. The ignominy compounds like an infection spreading all over our body and the pressure builds up and up. Sometimes it feels like being tinged with madness with all those negative thoughts and feelings just waiting in the wings for their chance to stuff things up. Golf can be tough because unlike more reactive sports there is plenty of time to think about bad shit. Obsessive compulsive disorders are just around the corner at this point in time. Hey, I thought this was supposed to be a fun game.

Golfer vintage drawing - how you feel affects your golf swing
Golfer vintage drawing by The British Library is licensed under CC-CC0 1.0

What Can We Do About This?

Like everything in life we need to acknowledge its existence first up. Denial and bull-headed ignorance are not going to cut it in this situation. We need to dispassionately own the fact that how we feel affects our golf. The golf swing involves so many moving parts and depends upon exquisite timing that our overall state of being impacts upon our ability to swing that club. If we are nervous this can influence our tempo depending on how we cope with anxiety in our lives. Similarly, if we are frustrated and angry, then, this too will greatly affect how we swing the golf club. Golf can make you angry or you can arrive at the golf course already in the grip of some rage or level of frustration. Learning to recognise your emotional state is the first step in dealing with it out on the course.

Next, take the time to feel what is pumping around inside you and your blood. Breathing is the best way to access feelings and give them the space to release the energy they contain. Take a few deep breaths as you walk along and prior to hitting off. In golf there is more time than you might think to constructively manage these emotional states out on course. Inhibiting and blocking them only builds them up and the energy messes with your golf. You can use the energy caught up in nerves, anxiety, and frustration, but only by acknowledging these feeling states. Humour can be a positive means of releasing the energy caught up in fear and anxiety. In golf you don’t want to tighten up under the influence of tension due to focusing on outcomes. Staying in the moment and not projecting into the future is the best means of avoiding this kind of tension.

You may well be coming down the final stretch and need to make par or better to clinch victory, but it is not helpful to focus on outcomes – rather, it is better to stay inside the process.

How you feel affects your golf swing a woman sitting on green grass
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Curing The Yips

Those golfers who develop the yips in putting and chipping are, often, projecting so much into imagined bad future outcomes that they cannot control their autonomic movements. Therefore, they manifest involuntary twitches and spasms that make putting and chipping virtually impossible. The only cure for these are staying in the process and not allowing any future focused projections. The body and consciousness of these golfers have to be retrained via rituals that engage the mind totally within the process of chipping or putting.

Drills which will develop a pre-shot or putt routine capable of dispelling the yips. Scar tissue inside the head built up from repeatedly bad outcomes on the golf course over particular kinds of shots can be repaired and remade – it just takes a diligent application.

The instinctive reaction to repeated failures over chips and particular types of wedge shots is to give up. Many golfers revert to the Texas wedge for the rest of their golfing lives. In a lot of instances this serves them well by using the putter they keep the ball on the ground and get it close to the hole. Personally, however chipping and pitching are some of my favourite strokes in golf and I take some pride when I pull them off. Yes, duffing chips is galling and you feel like a fool at the time but this is the price we sometimes have to pay. I like to work at being able to effectively play every club in the bag. Golf gives you 14 different tools to play your round with and I like the idea of  being able to use every knife in the drawer.

How you feel affects your golf swing on the golf book

Having spoken to numerous playing partners over the years in golf I can assuredly say that we all have moments of extreme bad feeling out on the course. There are those humbling periods during a round where everything you touch turns to shit. You want to hide under a rock or terminate your round post haste. Most of the time we don’t, thank goodness because things soon turn around. During those times of bad feeling golf becomes a foreign experience where you are unfamiliar with the lie of the land and what to do about it.

Your stomach twists in extreme discomfort at your ineptness. Your four ball playing partners become strangers who look upon you with imagined contempt.

The gorgeous day darkens dramatically and golf no longer seems such a good idea. Feelings can swamp us and we must rise up against the tide of negativity. The immediate solution is usually hitting a good shot off the next tee and the rebuilding of our confidence begins. Before we know it we are back playing some half decent golf and laughing at some witticism which moments before was terribly unfunny. This is golf folks and the feeling side of it cannot be completely unacknowledged.

Take the time to breathe deeply every time you feel stuff intensely out on the course and elsewhere in your life for best results. Breathing consciously is a meditative process and can assist in rebalancing our emotional states. Identify, acknowledge, breathe, feel, and release the energy. These helpful processes can get you in better shape to play golf. Respect your golf swing by respecting yourself and your total state of being. A few slow breaths can do wonders as you walk along and prepare to play your shot.

Identify the feeling.

Acknowledge the emotional state.

Breathe into it.

Feel it.

Release the energy.

The irony is that we may look like robots, all wearing similar outfits and making weird half swing movements, but we are robots with feelings!

Avoid getting caught up in reacting to outcomes out on the course. Golf is a long game and it is easy to become emotionally fatigued if you are riding a roller coaster of feelings throughout your round. Some of my playing partners loudly exclaim their disgust or triumph following shots during their round. This cacophony of groans and shouts is like the Greek chorus accompanying the story of their golf over a morning or afternoon. I notice that social golfers on Fridays at our course make a hell of a lot of noise voicing their enjoyment during their rounds. Although, I don’t want to be a killjoy this kind of voluminous reaction to golf doesn’t augur well for best results. Amplification and exaggeration of emotional reactions do not make for optimal performance over the long haul in my experience. Golf is, however, played by lots of different types of people and at a variety of levels. We share the course with golfers of all different levels of ability, commitment to the game, and what they hope to get out of the experience. It is a melting pot of swings, shapes, sizes, ages, genders, and cultures all deriving something from this great game we call golf. #golf #anxiety #frustration #negative emotions

Robert Sudha Hamilton is the author of The Golf Book: Green Cathedral Dreams & How To Play Golf: Like A Winner.


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