I always know when it is Fridays on my local golf course because of the noise generated by the golfers out there. These visiting golfers, generally, make a racket whilst having a good time playing our course. There is nothing wrong with that but it sure isn’t the way of the peaceful golfer. Social golfers and infrequent visitors to golf courses, in my experience, make more noise in the green cathedral. Somehow, they feel it necessary to inject a lot of loud reactions to what happens in their rounds. Maybe this behaviour is about reinforcing the belief among the four ball that they are getting their money’s worth from golf as entertainment?
Finding Inner Peace & Focus On The Fairway
Those of us who play a lot of competitive golf, in my experience, STFU and internalise our responses to our golfing outcomes. You soon learn that a lot of emoting during your round does not set the stage for PBs. Understanding that the golf swing and putting are sensitive actions, and prone to being negatively impacted by overt expressions of feeling, rapidly comes home to roost. Golf is largely a mental game and a Stoic sensibility serves you best. The pros on TV rarely let slip their emotional responses to the stuff happening on the golf course because they know the dangers of the emotional roller coaster to their overall performance.
True Peaceful Golfers Find Their Own Way
Watching top golf on TV can be a mixed experience for the viewer. The network producers are doing their best to inject as much tension and excitement into the event as possible for the viewer’s benefit but golf is a strange beast. The players are doing their best to keep their cool under the pressure of the moment. The on-course fans, especially in America, are hooting and hollering whenever they can, because having a good time is on their agendas. There are competing and conflicting desires in the mix at a televised golf tournament. We watch these championships, and like big kids want to re-enact the perceived drama and excitement in our own golfing matches. Thus, the imprint of what golf is all about for the occasional player.
If the golf bug has bitten deeper into your veins and you play a lot of competitive golf – you make golf about something more than aping what you see on TV. Committed members of golf clubs, who are on the journey of becoming the best player with the lowest handicap possible, make it their intention to get inside the golfing experience. They know that putting good swings on shots for nearly 5 hours takes all your physical and mental concentration. They soon realise that the way of the peaceful golfer is pretty much the only way to approach things. A game of golf is full of ups and downs in terms of outcomes. There are bad breaks and the rub of the green. Keeping a calm repose, even amid the calamities and disasters, is the only way to stay in the game when it really matters.
The mental game is the only game in town, when it comes to winning golf championships. If you cannot manage your mental and emotional states during your round of golf – the odds are massively stacked against you. I know, in my own experience, this did not come naturally to me, I have had to learn the hard way. Indeed, I am still learning, I don’t think we ever truly stop learning stuff in golf and life. Some of us are born with more or less passion pumping through our veins. Some of us are more inclined to extrovertly express these feelings within our social circles. Nature or nurture, or a mix of both, has formed our personalities in particular ways. We bring whoever we are and how we act to golf. This can make for interesting results.
Golf, as many of us know, can be an extremely frustrating experience. We want to play well and score well. The game is played over a giant arena with lots of penalty areas and hazards. Golf is played over a long time, nearly 5 hours in a lot of competitive rounds at clubland. Aspirations are high but the odds are against us when you factor in all the variables and the number of things that can go wrong. Statistically, the average club golfer only achieves or beats his or her handicap around 20% of the time through a season. In my experience, I seem to have patches of playing good golf and equally periods of playing crap golf. Repeated failures in terms of final scores can get you down. It is easy to lose confidence, especially over aspects of the game like putting. Missed putts can mount up on your psyche like dark clouds and bleak weather.
Fortunately, we love the game so much we keep on turning out each week for another serve of 18 holes in hope of possible success. The game itself is so engaging that we immerse ourselves in the process amid the camaraderie of our four ball groupings. The ability to laugh at yourself in company is an essential component of the clubland golfing experience. Every now and then, however, we suddenly excel at key moments during our round. We manage to put a good score on the card and may perchance jag a victory. This is what the golfing world is like for club golfers around the globe – who love the small ball game.
However, we can all get down during our rounds of golf and when in a bad patch of performances and scores. Learning to manage these emotional reactions can help us to play better golf, score better, and enjoy our golf more. Stoicism can show us the way of the peaceful golfer, which can deliver these positive outcomes to our lives and our golf. It is like re-setting the parameters in your golf and in your life. These are my Top 10 Stoic Principles to assist with taking control of your life and golf:
- Dichotomy of Control: Accepting the things we cannot control and focusing on changing the things we can control.
- Virtues: Stoicism emphasizes on developing four cardinal virtues: wisdom, courage, justice, and self-control.
- Rationality: Rationality is the basis of Stoicism and they believe that people should use their reason to understand the world and their place in it.
- Emotional Control: Stoicism teaches individuals to control their emotions and desires to live a harmonious life.
- Acceptance: Stoicism advocates accepting everything that happens, including both good and bad, as a natural part of life.
- Tranquility: The ultimate goal of Stoicism is to achieve a state of tranquility or inner peace.
- Ethics: Stoicism holds a universal ethical code, based on the principles of natural law and the common good.
- Impermanence: Everything is impermanent, including material possessions and people.
- Stoic Joy: A Stoic rejoices in the present moment and finds joy in living a virtuous life, regardless of external circumstances.
- Universal Reason: All human beings have access to universal reason, which helps us understand the world and our place in it.
In my book, The Stoic Golfer: Finding Inner Peace & Focus on the Fairway I unlock the how’s and why’s. I interpret and apply golf specific illustrations for this Stoic wisdom. Acceptance – play it as it lies – is the most important credo to apply to our golf to escape from the frustrations and angry golfer emotional trap. We have to reset the emotional ground rules and discover our golfing virtues. Virtue is an old fashioned word and concept. It may appear foreign to the modern person but it has a big part to play in rising above your circumstances and winning. Golf has always been a game that demands virtuousness. It is the game with the highest integrity quotient in sport. The game of golf demands wisdom, courage, justice, and self-control. If you lack these you are liable to become lost. It is like you are a hero on a quest, every time you set out on a competitive round of golf. You have your weapons in clubs and the challenges and monsters abound on the course. Your golf ball is your soul, if you like, and you have to keep it safe and navigate the maze that is an 18 hole golf course. Keeping your golf ball pure by keeping it out of traps, hazards, and misadventure is essential to winning the game. Competitive golf is a test of your mettle. It takes character to meet the demands of a round of golf. You have to have the courage to take on risk reward challenges over water and waste areas. Out of bounds and penalty areas confront golfers during their rounds. Can you slay the dragons of fear and greed in your bid to find fairway or green every time you swing that club. We all know the thoughts and feelings that can beset us on the tee or just prior to making a shot. We have to put these aside and stay true to our technique and intention. The Stoic warrior will overcome these challenges via his or her virtuousness. The Stoic golfer knows that she or he is not their feelings – these are distractions on the path to victory.
Wisdom from The Stoic Golfer: Finding Inner Peace & Focus on the Fairway by Robert Sudha Hamilton
Available at Amazon