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IMGCA Article - The Mental Game of Golf


When Things Go Wrong, They Really Go Wrong

Ron Strand

There are lots of life lessons to be learned from golf. One lesson is, sometimes when things go wrong, they really go wrong.

My friend and I are standing at the tee box on a 165 yard par 3. It's not a particularly intimidating hole, but not easy either. There is a creek down in a gulley half-way to the green, with high reeds, cattails and thick rough on either side. It winds kind of across the front of the green and up one side.

We each hit our drives into the rough. So we agree that this is an opportune time to take a mulligan and hit again. I'm lucky enough to land one between the hole and the front of the green. It rolls towards the hole and stops just a few feet away. My friend knocks a good one that lands in almost the same spot, but catches a bit of a slope, and to his dismay, it rolls sideways, off the green and down the bank of the creek into the reeds.

We walk down the creek bank, cross the bridge and look for his ball. He found it without too much trouble and decided that it was playable. He chipped it out of the reeds, but the unforgiving lie made it a difficult shot and he hit the edge of the green, in roughly the same sloped spot where his first shot landed. Of course, it rolled off the side again, but this time settled in a small hole, where there likely was a sprinkler head at one time. Since there was no sprinkler in the hole and it was just a hole, he decided he had to hit it out and after two tries popped it out onto a flat spot of the green about six feet from the hole.

As he was lining up his putt, a crash distracted him. He had left his golf bag and pull cart down by the creek, on the sloped bank. At that moment it gave way, tipped over, dumping his clubs into the creek. At least that's what it looked like at first. Closer inspection revealed that just the tips of his longer clubs were touching the water. After collecting his clubs, and having a good laugh, he got back onto the green and finished for a six. I popped in my two-footer for birdie, but went on to lose the game by seven strokes.

What's the point of this little story? It's the kind of thing that happens every day on every golf course in the world. It's the kind of thing that keeps golfers coming back. It is why golf teaches a person more about life than any other game. The difference between success and struggle is often a few inches and a bad bounce or roll. You can either have a laugh at how ridiculous it is that things can go so bad, and then go on to win the game, or you can let it drive you crazy, curse and wail, and probably lose as a result. When you get a bad bounce, play it where it lies to the best of your ability, then forget about it and move on.

Ron Strand is a college instructor, consultant and avid golfer.

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