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.
January 5, 2003
Andrew Penner is a longtime member of the Canadian PGA. Author of "One Flew Over the Caddyshack," he also writes for a number of magazines throughout Canada and the U.S.
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