What makes golf the ultimate endurance test is that it is quite practically 93% mental and 7% physical. How so? It takes anywhere between 5 and 15 seconds to actually hit a golf shot. That is, to take a club back and strike the ball physically. With an average score of 85 shots for 18 holes, that is less than 20 minutes of physical activity. This means that for a 4.5 hour round, 4.1 hours of it are spent on non-physical activity that very few golfers have any plan for. It begs the question of why almost 100% of time training for golf is spent on the physical activity - yet almost no time is spent on the game of golf between shots.
This book is largely about managing that 93% of golf. It is about having a plan to play golf to give you the best chance of being fully ready (mentally, emotionally and physically) to hit the next shot to the best of your ability, whatever that ability is.
The central premise of this book is that golf is as much an emotional endurance test as it is a golf skill test.
If you do not believe this, then this book will be of little value to you. If you do, then the next logical question should be: What do I do to prepare for the emotional endurance test?
In this book, I will introduce you to a sequence of mental and emotional preparation, before, during and after a round as well as for practice. You will be introduced to a new mental and emotional language similar to the physical language of golf. In the latter, golfers know what a bunker is, what fairways, greens or rough are, and what a putter is versus an iron or a driver or wedge. These are all words that form a language that allow you to understand the physical game of golf … for that mere 3% of your round.
In addition to a new language, you will build your own personal game plan. No two human beings are the same mentally and emotionally, so the plan for each person will be different and has to accommodate the emotional fluctuations of both life and golf, where highs and lows can impact so much of decision-making.
During a round of golf, the sheer volume of monologues that occur is quite unprecedented. Each monologue, that self-talk, after almost every shot, is a natural human response to the stimuli of the ever-changing environment. Whether it is the tee box, the wind, the rain, the heat, the playing partner, the lie, the pin position, the inconsistent greens, bunkers, or fairways, or whatever myriad of unique circumstances that literally each shot presents itself, the environment in golf is constantly changing and challenging. Compound this with the competitive environment of whoever you are playing with or against, your expectations or handicap, no teammates or coaches to help you, as well as the myriad of things that can go wrong, I am talking about a totally unique environment that will challenge your emotions to the core.
These emotions, both good and not so good ones, will dictate the tone and content of the monologues and critical subsequent decision-making. In Chapter 1, I will share several stories that almost all golfers will be able to relate to where they themselves got in their own way, failed to execute their strategy for the physical game, and underperformed.
Yet despite powerful personal stories of underperformance and many more well-documented ones from professional golfers, the average golfer still spends almost zero time training his or her emotions and thoughts. I researched dozens of golf training programs and videos and found very few that had budgeted time for this kind of training.
As a neuro-sports psychologist, one of the first questions I ask any golfer who comes to me is: What is the most difficult shot in golf? The most common answers I get are the first tee shot or a 40-yard bunker shot, or a few will say the next shot. It is my absolute contention that the most difficult shot in golf is the one right after a bad one. Why? As I will explain in Chapter 2, right after a bad shot, the emotional temperature is so high that cognitive decision-making is neurologically compromised leading to a very low probability that you can either make the right next decision or physically execute that next shot to the best of your ability.
This is the reason to write this book. I believe that most golfers are grossly under training in an area that has the potential to be a game-changer in performance. The inexplicable reason, I believe, that very established golf coaches and very intelligent and hard-working golfers are under training in this area is simply because they do not know how to do it. If it is done, it is done anecdotally, not with any scientific basis, nor with an accommodation for the unique emotional condition of each human being.
This book is not about swinging the golf club correctly, putting correcting, getting more distance or the short game, nor is it about any equipment. There are plenty of resources for these dimensions of the sport that are readily available. Golfers are notorious for buying anything that they believe will make them perform better, but there is no off-the-shelve equipment for our emotions that can be purchased. This is a personal endeavor.
This book brings decades of experience and neuroscience. I hope this book will be an invaluable asset to your practice and round of golf. I will start the book with real-life stories and quickly proceed to why it is so important to master the art of learning from your mistakes in the golf. Then I will provide you with detailed and easily understandable neuroscience of how the human body works; what emotions are and how they are created; how to recognize, label and manage them during practice, pre-round anxieties, and each situation in your round. There will also be a chapter on how to be an effective caddie – whether as a professional caddie or a parent or coach. Each chapter will have both EQ and practical tips. Finally I will explore happiness and life-balance – two areas that I believe are also under trained with roots in EQ.
The goal is to not just give you tips to be a better golfer, but to help you understand why that tip will work for your body from a neuroscience perspective. The explicit intention is that you fully understand why these tips work so you can make adjustments as warranted instead of just doing things and hoping they work. This combination of knowledge is guaranteed to help you with your goals, and almost surely, with your personal journey of growth as well.
Essentially, two books are being provided to you - one that I wrote, and the other written by you in the spaces provided in this book. Thus, if you do all of the written exercises suggested, you will have a second book written by you, and for you. Either or both of these books can be read many times over during your season.
Emotional endurance and mental strength are not just a part of golf, but also a part of life. It can be argued that life itself is an emotional endurance test. And this may be what makes golf so popular, as you can draw parallels between training for and playing a round, and your own life’s journey. It is possible to feel many highs and lows and everything in between in a round of golf – a microcosm of life. I hope that the reader-interactive format will impact both your physical and emotional endurance to get you to perform to the best of your ability when it counts the most.