Home » Feature Story

Negative Self-Talk On The Golf Course

Andrew PennerBy Andrew Penner,

CALGARY - We've all heard the statistics. Golf is 85% mental, 11% physical, 2% luck, and 2% level of intoxicants in the system. For the most part, I don't have a problem with the numbers. However, for somebody like Barney (the purple dinosaur), golf being 85% mental is somewhat scary. I'm convinced that if that big ugly purple "thing" (no offense, but if you ask me, I'd say he's retarded) would peg it up, he'd be lucky to break 1000. He just doesn't seem to demonstrate the mental toughness necessary to play golf at a high level. I.e. Stupid laugh followed by "Look boys and girls, watch as Barney attempts to bank a shot off the tree, off his spleen, and onto the green!" Not really the stuff of legends.

Negative self-talk is prevalent among many of the golfing segments, of which "retarded purple dinosaurs" would probably make up the smallest group. Basically everyone who has ever picked up an iron, wood, and especially a putter, has suffered from negative self-talk.

What exactly is negative self-talk, you ask? Good question. When you inwardly cite things like, "I'm not good enough, I'm not smart enough, I'm not strong enough, and dog-gone-it, people don't like me," you've self-talked negatively. And unfortunately, according to the statistics, negative self-talk will severely hamper your game. That's why I find it intriguing why so many golfers don't recognize this fact and rectify it (chaining a cannonball onto your leg and jumping into the lake beside the 16th green doesn't count).

Perhaps we should start by listing a few possible situations where negative self-talk can rear it's ugly head. We will then provide a few alternative ways, which, depending on which part of your brain is functioning, would be considered more or less positive methods to deal with your everyday troubles on the links.

Situation #1 - Half the ball needs to be hanging over the hole in order for you to make a putt.

Struggling with the flat stick is all too common. Naturally, most people react by thinking negatively. "My blind and retarded pet dinosaur could make more putts," and so on. In an effort to combat the negative talk in this situation, your first step is to grab the guilty putter and snap it over your kneecap or a log. As every good psychologist will tell you, you need to get rid of the negative things in your life before you can heal and go on. While shouting despicable threats to your new putter, which could be your driver or some other rebellious weapon, can sometimes be helpful, it's best to just "pick-up" after your third putt.

Situation #2 - You've just sliced five in a row out of bounds.

Although making a 16 on a hole (good job, Bob!) isn't really what you had in mind when the day began, keep in mind that hitting five balls OB on one hole isn't even close to the record. Barney hit twelve consecutive tee shots out of bounds at the "Retarded Dinosaur Classic" golf tournament last July (mind you, he was pretty wasted by then).

Nonetheless, your reaction in this situation might be to impale yourself with the broken shaft of your driver as you scream out confirmation of your self-hatred. Remembering that there is usually somebody else out there who has done worse than you, should make it less painful going back to your bag for more ammo in these situations. Also, if you must, impaling yourself onto a golf club will work best with a top brand xxx stiff shaft.

Situation #3 - You're in the bunker.

Due to obscure reasons, such as the three hundred previous times you played a shot from the sand you launched screaming, head-seeking missiles at your playing partners, you have little confidence in the bunkers. In fact, prior to playing your "explosion," you normally request that the boys either a) put on protective headgear, or b) vacate the area. Believe it or not, these are signs that you are likely suffering from some degree of "negative self-talk." The most effective way to fix this problem is a simple two-step process. Step #1: Point to the sky and scream, "Guys! It's a UFO!!?" Step #2: Quickly grab the ball, along with a handful of sand, and hoist it onto the green.

Thinking negatively on the course will hurt your game. Take the necessary steps to rid yourself of this hideous disease. Remember, the statistics don't lie. For Barney, at least (who seems to dip into the 'swing lubricants' from time to time ), Golf is 65% mental, 11% physical, 2% luck, and 22% level of intoxicants in the system.

Andrew Penner is a freelance writer and photographer based in Calgary, Alberta. His work has appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout North America and Europe. You can see more of his work at www.andrewpenner.com.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Golf and Investing: Tin Cup Lessons

    Steve Selengut wrote on: May 27, 2009

    Benjamin Graham was an economist, financial analyst, and professional value investor. He was one of the first to advise investors to look beyond the media hype and confusion to find undervalued stocks that would become part of a diversified portfolio.
    Roy McAvoy is a fictional professional golfer (in the 1996 film "Tin Cup") whose pride, ego, and stubbornness combined to let the U. S. Open championship slip through his fingers.
    Graham developed his skills and understanding of the financial markets into a discipline that, most expert investors would agree, helps to minimize the risks associated with investing. McAvoy recklessly ignored the risks associated with visible hazards while he allowed his internal environment to bring a defeat he clearly had the skills to avoid.
    For an endless variety of reasons "tin cup" amateur investors bring on their own demise by failing to minimize risks using well known basic techniques that are thoroughly documented and supported by sand traps full of statistical evidence. They hit driver with every selection--- it's the only club in their bag.
    Institutional plus-handicappers defied the investment gods by developing derivative monstrosities. They now resemble depression era "tin cuppers", sitting crumpled by the curb, looking for government handouts to remove the snowmen from their investment product scorecards.
    Some of the mightiest institutions have fallen because they disrespected the BING (Basic INvestment Guidelines). The investment gods are ticked.
    In amateur golf, most of us are aware of the basic elements of the game and are all too familiar with our own personal, and seemingly unsolvable, shortcomings.
    I invariably take all but the shortest irons back too far. My biggest head problem is the focus destroying "ageda" of the rude group behind us either hitting to close or impatiently taking practice swings just fifty yards back--- thinking that they are speeding up play in the process.
    Knowing better, my course management often falls prey to McAvoyian exercises in futility--- the weekend's silly attempt at a Mickelson full swing flop shot over a palmetto guarded sand trap, for example, when a simple chip to the clear side of the green was so much more doable for a Sunday-15 handicapper.
    Given a choice between safe and risky, I seem to choose risky every time--- but only on the golf course! I've not learned that a clear and calm bogey-every-hole objective produces far more pars (and fewer "others") than a par-every-hole goal that makes each second shot a masochistic head shaker.
    I just don't play enough to master the safe approach--- something I've grown used to in investing because I do it every day. Knowing our own limitations should make things easier. Yeah, it should.
    Investing is not as easy to master as many non-professionals seem to think--- and as even more commissioned professionals would like them to think. It is likely that most golfers fail to break 100 ninety percent of the time. Equity investors eventually lose money on their selections most of the time--- and mostly because they forget to take profits. Now there's a double-bogey off a perfect drive!
    The most difficult aspects of golf and investing are similar: planning an asset allocation and investment course management, minimizing risk of loss with higher quality securities and taking hazards out of play by selecting the proper club, trajectory, or landing area, etc.
    Managing your emotions during the post-birdie tee-shot or in the throes of a triple-bogey is a microcosm of the emotional control needed to ride the roller coaster produced by market, interest rate, and economic cycles.
    Similarly, mastering the short game (where the most shots are wasted in chunks, skulls, and three-putts) is every bit as bottom-line relevant as fine tuning a trading strategy that operates realistically and profitably along side the short-term gyrations of the markets.
    The parallels between golf and investing are many--- risk management is just the most obvious. Fore!
    Steve Selengut
    PGA Village Golf Outing - Seminar October 2009
    Search - Kiawah Golf Investment Seminars
    Author of: "The Brainwashing of the American Investor: The Book that Wall Street Does Not Want YOU to Read", and "A Millionaire's Secret Investment Strategy"