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The Black Hole of Frustration

Todd Monger, MA, LPC, NCC

A black hole is space phenomenon in which the gravitational pull of a collapsing galaxy is so strong that even light cannot escape. It begins by a large star exploding, known as a supernova. The remaining materials then collapse to form a neutron star which continues to increase in pressure until it implodes creating a black hole - a place from which nothing that enters can escape (Introduction to Black Holes, 1996).

I believe golfers often experience a similar occurrence, metaphorically speaking. I like to call it the Black Hole of Frustration.

When a negative activating event takes place it can sometimes create just the right conditions that the golfer cannot escape from its "gravitational pull." In turn, such an "explosion" or activating event feeds on itself, rendering the golfer captive to the destructive nature of this imploding mass. At times, there are golfers who can hit his or her ball into a sand trap or wooded area, and simply walk up to it with the mindset of "what is my target from this point, and how do I play it?" While for others this activating event results in becoming frustrated with themselves, their game, their equipment, the course, other players, or even their very existence. It is as if the latter, upon experiencing a bad outcome, implodes with frustration. A bad shot, therefore, leads to focusing on the mistake, leading to further anger, leading to a physiological reaction, leading to a poor recovery shot, and the cycle continues. For some, no matter how committed they are to remaining calm, eventually they are "sucked" into this hole's gravitational pull to a place that seems inescapable.

Recognizing this dynamic, and its ability to exist on any course at any time, is the first step in avoiding such psychological pitfalls. It would be foolish to assume that any player can approach his or her game with the ideal that they will not make a mistake. However, how to engage and deal with that mistake when it occurs may make the difference between saving par and walking off the course.

To break free of any circular force, one needs to engage it at the point which presents the least amount of momentum. In the case of this cycle, this point would be after the bad shot has occurred [activating event] but before ruminating on why it happened. The minute one starts making excuses, speaking negatively about themselves, or focuses on the mistake, is the time when one's emotions start to over ride staying in the present. When one's emotions are elevated in such a situation, the body will naturally react in an attempt to compensate or accommodate. An example of a physiological reaction might be to grip the club tighter, for one's hands to shake, for muscles to tighten, or to speed up or slow down one's swing. Whatever the reaction might be, it will often result in another poor shot and so the cycle continues.

The diagram below illustrates the approach one should take to avoid the gravitational pull of the Black Hole of Frustration. Choosing to let a bad shot go is the key to staying in the present and preparing to make the second shot one that counts. Letting it go, illustrates moving forward verses become stuck. Many golfers ruminate on a shot long after they have finished the hole, which results in continued mistakes on the proceeding holes. To move beyond a bad shot, the player needs to return to their pre-shot routine, focus on their target, and remain in the present [not the past "How did I get here" or the future "if I miss this shot I probably won't make par"]

This cycle is a perpetual cycle that feeds on itself unless a choice is made to change one's thinking, belief and focus. So often golfers are distracted by his or her bad shots which robs them of the chance to succeed. Remember golf is a game of who can recover the quickest and most effectively from a poor shot.

Some things to remember:

  • You hit it there; accept responsibility for it
  • Regardless of where you hit it, each new shot is an opportunity - to practice bunker shots, to hit a creative chip, to putt over a mound, to punch out of the woods.
  • Opportunity to play tough shots will provide valuable experience to draw from in later rounds.
  • Every location on the golf course affords the player an opportunity to use their creativity.

Black Holes are a space phenomenon and are a part of what makes the night sky so impressive. Frustrations are a part of the golfing experience, but are also what makes the game so rewarding when we overcome the odds.

University of Cambridge (1996). Introduction to Black Holes. Retrieved January 23, 2007 from

Todd Monger, MA, LPC, NCC currently serves as the Head Golf Coach and director of the Student Success Center at North Central University, in addition to providing private consultation through Swing Solutions. Todd is the creator of the innovative Vision Instrument, a tool that visually assists athletes in identifying why they are not psychologically performing at his or her desired capacity. Originally from Australia, Todd is an excellent communicator who currently resides in Minneapolis, MN. He may be reached by email at (Javascript required for email link)

Article Source: Todd Monger

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