Gratitude and Golf

Gratitude begins the holiday season, and frankly, should be carried throughout the year. With Christmas and New Year’s around the corner, perhaps an attitude adjustment could do us all a favor. By the time you read this, it will be the season of consump- tion, over-spending, and debt accumu- lation. But as the writer of this article, I want you to adopt this gratitude attitude, and carry it throughout the year. So, here is a friendly reminder by considering the game of golf. Now, I know what you’re thinking.

How can I possibly be thankful for the fact that the course I enjoy is over- priced, my clubs need upgrading, and I need to “swing THROUGH the ball, not at it!”? Yes, you might want the latest Callaway driver or the newest high-MOI mallet putters (sorry to tempt you), but STOP. Sit back and count your blessings.

How can you be thankful for the game? How has it impacted your life? If you can’t seem to think right now because you are obsessing about that shot that went water- bound this morning, perhaps you need an attitude adjustment.

Here are some reasons to be grateful for this game!

1. It’s A Healthy Activity

Ok, so you can’t run 10 miles, 5 days a week anymore. Your knee is shot, your back is giving you fits, and clipping your toenails is an effort. But, you can get pretty fit walking
18 holes. Golf keeps your competitive fires burning and helps keep you well rounded by forcing you to stay away from your cell, to people watch and to enjoy nature. (Yes, there
are birds to be seen and heard).

Some don’t notice the rewards of what golf offers until they are much older with perhaps knee transplants; it’s the one thing that keeps you out of the lounge chair and out near nature.

2. You Get In Touch With Your Emotions

You will laugh

You will cry

You will get angry

You will find joy

3. You Can Release Stress

The key to golf is relaxation. Ironically, the less you play, the more relaxed you are because you have such low expectations. You don’t expect to play well, so you don’t over think or over swing. (No wonder I have been so relaxed lately!!) If you are playing often, however, golf refreshes

your mind because it forces you to focus your energies on a “target not a ball!” (as my instructor preaches).

4. It Teaches Life Lessons

Just when you say, “I got it!”, you get pummeled. Yes, humility is part of golf; it kicks your butt just when your head needs a little shrinking.

There are also memorable moments which are built on the golf course. Have you ever hit a shot that you can re- member the play by play? This teaches us to appreciate the little things.

And finally, meeting people you would have otherwise never en- countered occurs on golf courses daily. What a beautiful setting to just connect with a stranger. Not many other events can bring people in harmony, and this comes from having manners with strangers one learns by being on a golf course.

5. It Builds Relationships

I am reminded of a friend who told me that he created such a strong bond with his father through golf, and he would not trade that for any- thing! Now he’s creating that same bond with his children. Also, some women find that is a way to connect with their husbands and vice versa. Where else can you have four solid hours in a natural setting with people you love (or are trying to love!)

6. It Doesn’t Age Discriminate

Where else could a 75-year-old man school a 28-year-old in a sport- ing event? Golf is the great equalizer: everyone can compete on an equal level. It is about skill levels, not about race, gender, religion, or anything else.

Just remember: “PLAY” golf. I love the word “play.” Yes, adults we are, but as adults we need to be kids on occasion. Golf is not about being perfect. It’s about constantly setting a new bar for ourselves, and this can be a picture into the rest of our lives: We can always strive to be better! So be grateful and PLAY more golf.

Golf is the Grand Irony

Have you ever wondered why it is so difficult for people nowadays to sit for 30 seconds without having to tweet, post, blog, text, or search? But, usually the most mentally tough golfers, according to Mr. Quote, Jack Fertig, are the top golfers in the world. But sometimes, mental toughness means NOT thinking! It means having the discipline to turn it off and turn on the game. That takes practice. But, how does one practice the art of tough thinking in an age where 123 thinking is challenged by all the distractions? It’s the old chicken and the egg theory. Does one become a tougher thinker BY playing golf, or does one become a better golfer BY becoming a tougher thinker? Hmmm. To me the mental side of golf has two parts.

Part 1: Approaching the game. Can you put your ego aside and allow yourself to have a terrible shot in the middle of a round? Can you let even the stupid mistakes not let you get really frustrated and mess up the next two holes? It’s like life! Take it one by one…step by step….shot by shot. This is a hard thing to change, but if you can focus on scoring, rather than impressing your playing partners, you’re on the right path.

Part 2. The mental ability to stay strong and committed in spite of distractions! You should be an expert at recognizing distractions since that’s what this electronically stimulated era is filled with. In golf, there are three ways to practice mental toughness. Expect to SEE shadows. Expect to HEAR: whispers, sneezing, and coughing. Expect to FEEL itches, twitches and your heart beating.

Therefore, your next golf practice should be setting up your habits of MIND. There’s a term called metacognition which means thinking about your thinking. Next time you’re practicing, notice the moments where you tend to have a mental hiccup or basically where you dozing off in your mind. Your goal is to have that ability to say to yourself, “Self, you are in charge of how you feel and how you’ll perform, not anything or anyone else.” It’s been said that we can over think our golf game on the range, driving to work, at our desk, and in the shower. This is perfect, but not when you approach the tee. There is a difference between thinking and assessing. You pick your club; you evaluate your shot; you carry out your routine; and you craft your swing. You did your thinking in practice. At tee time, you just do it.

There’s a scene in Tin Cup where the stressed Kevin Costner character mis-hits continuous shots on the range. His caddie advises him to turn his hat backwards, isolate all of his change into his back pocket, and put a tee behind his ear. All of a sudden, he contacts the ball and he realizes that now he’s not thinking about the mis-hits. In fact, as the caddie put it, “You’re not thinking at all. Your brain was getting in the way!”

The minute you tee up, the noises will get louder and your list of do’s and don’ts will be shouting in your head. But this is where your habit of mind of not thinking too much will kick in. This is where you need to shut it all off and not focus on any distraction.

So the next time your children won’t sit and read their book or focus on their homework for longer than five minutes without texting, emailing, or facebooking, sign them up for golf lessons. Maybe golf is the answer for the next generation to train their brain to become mentally tough.

The Golf of Politics

If you’re anything like me, I’d like smaller government. No, this is not an article persuading you to vote for fewer taxes or for government to get out of your life. It’s a plea for politicians to play more golf! Politics and golf go together like peas and carrots. We can armchair quarterback all day about how the government shall be doing their job, but for some reason it’s much more fun to critique the political figures’ golf swing. How did they vote on the debt ceiling? What about their voting record on immigration reform? Who cares! More importantly, what is their handicap? That’s what matters in politics. In Washington more than anywhere else, politics and golf have long been linked. (No pun intended).

I have this theory that maybe the world would be a better place if they’d play more golf and play less politics. I mean just recently, there was much ado about an infamous foursome. Yes, it was the “Battle O-Bo” ac- cording to Gold Digest. Speaker John Boehner and Barak Obama joined Vice President Joe Biden and Ohio Governor John Kasich for a round of golf on June 18th, 2011. Boehner is listed as a 7.9 and Obama a 17 in Golf Digest’s annual recap of Washington’s power players. Lyndon Johnson once said, “One thing you better learn if you want to be in politics is that you never go out on a golf course and beat the president.” Apparently, Kasich and Biden heeded that wisdom as the succumbed to a Boehner/Obama victory as they won on the 18th hole. According to U.S News, they all enjoyed a cold drink on the clubhouse patio and spent some time chatting with ser- vice members before the president headed back to the White House. Ah, can’t they all just get along!? What a lovely scene.

Maybe the way to world peace is a few rounds. Passion for golf has come from politicians for years; from lobbyists who have used it to sweeten the members of Congress, and the members of Congress have used it to gain knowledge of each other’s habits. The presidential habit of getting on the green seems to be building. Presidential candidates maybe should take note. Instead of campaigning, maybe they better get on the greens and start swinging their club instead of their votes.

Obama seems to be taking that ad- vice. He has logged more rounds of golf (32) in his first 14 months than George W. Bush did in his two terms (24). A deeply committed Bush used to focus wholeheartedly on his swing. In fact, one could tell his passion (for golf) as he stopped to comment on the looming terrorism problem. “I call upon these nations to do everything they can to stop these terrorist killings. Thank you. Now watch this drive.” Reagan’s passion for golf trumped that of his love of Congress. He commented once, “My golf-loving friend Bob Hope asked me what my handicap was. So I told him- the Congress.”

Sadly, Ford should have taken Obama’s lead. “I know I’m getting better at golf because I’m hitting fewer spectators…either that, or fewer people are watching me play.” I think they are both true. But as far as presidential swingers go, oddly enough, the most avid White House golfer was Woodrow Wilson, who played twice as many rounds as Ike, which is hard to believe because Ike managed to squeeze in 800 rounds during his two years. There have been only three presidents since Taft — Hoover, Truman and Carter – who didn’t touch the game. JFK was rated the best presidential golfer, but only because of his graceful swing. As president, he rarely played the game, but mainly hit range balls on weekends to let off steam apparently.

It seems that golf provides relief for politicians with great responsibility, while still challenging their minds and bodies. But the way I look at it, golf teaches valuable lessons and offers priceless mea- sures of a man or woman’s character, which politics needs. Politics takes place on the golf course, but golf transcends politics. Maybe if they would play more golf, we’d know who has the character to run this country. So, as the election season looms, you politicians, get out there and play more golf.