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The Resilient Golfer

Becoming a Resilient Golfer

Dr. Sam Goldstein Resilient Golf

Resilient golfers are successful golfers. The word success, however, should not be confused or completely equated with shooting a low score. Resilient golfers possess a mindset of certain assumptions or attitudes about themselves and the game. These ideas influence their behavior on and off the course as well as their mental and physical skills. In turn, these behaviors and skills influence this mindset, creating a dynamic process. A resilient golfer feels in control, deals well with stress, communicates effectively, and possesses solid problem solving and decision making skills on the course. He or she establishes realistic goals, learns from both success and failure and plays the game responsibly. A resilient mindset does not free a golfer from stress, pressure or problems on the course, but rather helps him cope with problems as they arise, allowing him to enjoy and learn from all aspects of the game.

The word “mindset” also implies a certain mutability — they are not cast in stone. Once a golfer understands her beliefs and motivations, she can begin replacing counter-productive, self-defeating assumptions with a positive outlook.

Negative Scripts: The Elephant on the Road to Resilience

Have you ever felt negative thoughts on the golf course, and then had poor results for the round? If you answered yes, you are not alone. Most golfers bring a set of negative scripts onto the course with them round after round, with predictable, disappointing results. They are like actors who have rehearsed their lines and cannot deviate from the script. Such a script leads a golfer to go for the green when the shot is clearly beyond his distance or chip with a wedge when she lacks the confidence and skill to do so. For many golfers these negative scripts full of self-defeating thoughts influence most if not all aspects of their game. Positive scripts, on the other hand, occur when we repeat attitudes, beliefs, strategies and behaviors that lead to a good outcome.

Golf provides many examples of negative scripts. For instance, many recreational golfers expect perfection, and by the third flawed hole, they have long since forgotten to enjoy the company and the round. Some individuals remain unaware of their negative scripts, even when it is obvious to other golfers. Some blame their equipment, the weather or a misguided instructor. To develop resiliency, a golfer must first identify his ineffective or self-defeating attitudes. Then he must define new goals, anticipate possible obstacles and select a positive script. Take a minute and consider three negative scripts you bring to the game and the positive scripts you might substitute in their place.

Changing Negative Scripts Begins with Changing Your Attitude

Try this simple exercise. Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the center from top to bottom. On the left side list three or more words you would use to describe your thoughts and behaviors on the golf course. Then add three or more words you think fellow golfers and friends would chose to describe you as well. On the right side, list three words you would prefer to use to describe yourself on the golf course and then three or more words you would want friends and fellow golfers to choose. The left side of the page represents your current mindset. The right side of the page represents the resilient mindset you want to achieve. To get there, you must identify and change your negative scripts and learn from every drive, shot, pitch or putt. You must accept your game and set realistic expectations and goals based on your current skill level. Furthermore, you have to recognize your strengths as well as your vulnerabilities. Remember you play golf in the first place to recreate and have a good time. To become a resilient golfer you should develop effective self-discipline and self-control on the course. Finally and most importantly, your response to mistakes and failures are an integral part of a resilient mindset. Resilient golfers view mistakes as experiences for learning and growth. Of course, no one likes chipping an easy shot into the sand, but resilient golfers are not easily discouraged. Consider how your personal beliefs about mistakes affect your behavior on the course.

Practice the Three P’s

Resilience requires PATIENCE, PERSISTENCE and, most importantly PRACTICE. On the professional level, the differences between scores are as much a reflection of the attitudes and beliefs each golfer brings to the game as a difference in actual ability. A resilient mindset brings enjoyment and consistency to every golfer’s game.

Sam Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical neuropsychologist and a member of the faculty at the University of Utah School of Medicine. Dr. Goldstein’s work and writings in the area of resilience have been in collaboration with Dr. Robert Brooks, including their book The Power of Resilience. Author of thirty one books, he is the Director of Psychology at the Golf Lab in Salt Lake City, Utah.