Dr Kitrina Douglas shares her secrets to bringing out the best golfer in you. Since everyone is different in their own way, do what works for you on the golf course to succeed

When I was an amateur I would occasionally caddie at county matches, as I figured watching the best players up close and seeing how they played shots and made strategic choices would be a great learning opportunity for me. And it was, though what I learned wasn’t always what I was expecting to learn. I didn’t caddie too often but one occasion has stuck in my mind.

I remember the player I was caddying for didn’t play that well at the start of the match and was a couple of holes down by the 8th hole. Then, a confrontational incident occurred where the player I was caddying for and their opponent had a disagreement. I don’t now remember what it was about other than it was one of those silly little misunderstandings that can happen between players during a match and was probably over some minor etiquette issue, standing in the wrong place while someone is teeing off or standing behind them on the putting green in their line of sight … sort of thing.

Whatever the issue was it seemed to have the opposite effects on the two players. The player I was caddying for suddenly became a different animal, seeming to relish the confrontation. Their walk and demeanour was more purposeful and they looked more intent, slightly aggressive and engaged. Within five holes my player was up in the game - and eventually went on to win. The other player, in contrast, looked a little shaken, didn’t seem to be able to come back from the incident and looking back, the
match turned at that point.

What surprised me about the incident is that the player I was caddying for smiled and said to me quietly that a little aggression, the disagreement, was exactly what she needed in order to perform at her best, to hate the opposition and have a reason to beat them.

The questions I have often considered since is: How do you get the best out of yourself? Is there a right or wrong way? What lengths should or would you go to in order to win? These are possibly also questions most sportspeople consider at one time or another.

At the top of golf, where margins for improvement become smaller, small errors can become more costly, and the difference between players is very marginal, so getting the best out of yourself is imperative.

This is often amplified in the golfing press and in the media where journalists often write that sport is war, you should take no prisoners, that two players battle-it-out and you have to be tough to win. Does my
caddying experience confirm that this is true? That the gentle and mild mannered players are always under threat from the volatile, angry, players? Should a player make themselves angry if that is how they
play best? Even if it might upset the performance of the other player? Is this fair game?

While some players might use anger in order to get the best out of themselves, not everyone does. For other players focusing on their own game, and being courteous to their opposition, seems to help these golfers get the best out of themselves both on and off the course.

So how can you make sure you always play your best golf?

  1. We should recognise that some people see sport as war and, in a competitive contest, see aggression as part of the game; they enjoy it. Being non-judgemental, it’s important to recognise therefore that different philosophies exist within sport and some golfers want to make war against the opposition to make it fun.
  2. We might also ask; What type of golfer do I want to be? If you try to be an aggressive player, but aren’t by nature that way, you are likely to be in conflict with yourself. If you try and make golf a battle, you are unlikely to perform well.
  3. There are plenty of mild mannered, gentle golfers at every club who get the best out of themselves by remaining calm, by not allowing their opponents (or a bad ruling, or piece of bad luck) to rile them - because they are so focused and in tune with their own rhythm, swing and game.

About Dr Kitrina Douglas

Kitrina is a qualified NCF Coach and PGA professional. She also has an Honours degree in exercise and sports science and a PhD from Bristol University.

Currently a professor at Leeds Becket University, her golf career saw her win at every level. Her achievements include representing GB&I in the Curtis Cup, 10 professional wins and being part of the first winning European Solheim Cup Team to defeat the USA in 1992.

The above article was taken from the Mar/Apr 2020 issue of Women & Golf magazine.

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