Golf Mental Game, Dr Kitrina Douglas

If I asked you to make a list of things that distract you on the golf course how many things would make it on to your list? At a Women & Golf Workshop at Muckhart GC in Scotland last year I invited the 30 or so participants to ‘brain storm’ this question. The list was extensive.

My purpose with the workshop delegates, as well as those of you reading this column, is to provoke some kind of reflection about your golf game so that you can better understand different types of ways one can be distracted. Then, having identified different times, contexts, playing conditions and so on, begin to understand what we can do about negating or lessening the impact.

It isn’t my intention in one article to address every item that came up, as doing so would be superficial. One purpose of including this list is to show how complex we human beings are. A second thing I want to bring out is that one can’t address all issues in the same way. If you are distracted by hunger and your playing partner says, “don’t think about it” it may be possible to think about something else for a little while, but, if your tummy announces itself rather noisily, and you then feel embarrassed about your rumbling tummy and feel increasingly tired, the distraction will not go away until you eat something.

The way to address feeling hungry, however, is not the way you might address the problem of seeing or hearing ‘greenkeepers’ on the golf course, eating them is not an option. Greenkeepers distract you for entirely different reasons.

One reason some women are distracted by greenkeepers, and by people talking as you address the ball, is because both of these actions show a lack of respect and etiquette.

Another completely different reason greenkeepers distract some golfers, and is a similar distraction to playing through a group or being watched, is often to do with self esteem, and a feeling that you, your swing, play, standard, cloths etc may be ‘judged’ by others or that others may make or think derogatory things about you. No matter how you may rationalise this, saying, for example, ‘don’t be silly’ or ‘no-one is talking about me’ this strategy is simplistic and usually ineffective. This is because, of course, many of us have heard greenkeepers, male golfers, junior golfers and possibly even the club pro, or other women, say derogatory things about other golfers, women golfers, high handicap golfers, slow golfers and so on. Maybe you have even said something you are later ashamed of saying.

The ‘thing’ is, we need to understand what is behind the ‘other people’ being a distraction before we can do something about it. Given it not that long until it's new year again, it’s definitely the time to address these things.

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