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Sports Psychology: Addicted To Golf?

Posted by: Dr. Granat on May 15, 2006

Some years ago, I counseled a man who was one of the best amateur golfers

in his state. He had finished in second place and third place in his state’s annual amateur

tournaments in previous years.

This fellow loved golf. He enjoyed practicing, playing and competing.

He had played golf around the world with a number of professionals and he

enjoyed reminiscing about his favorite rounds.

Once when he called me on the phone to discuss the mental aspects of his game,

I heard a lot of noise in the background. I asked him if everything was

okay, at which point he remarked, “Yeah Doc, everything is fine. It’s just

that my wife and I had a bad argument last night and she has decided to

divorce me and is moving out right now. The noise you hear is the

furniture being taken out of the house. But that’s nothing too worry about. Let’s get

back to my golf game because that is what is most important.”

Several years ago, I me another fellow on a golf course who probably was addicted to

the game as well. I was teamed up with this fellow and met him on the first tee.

After I hit my first drive, I turned around in disbelief as I heard a baby crying.

At first, I thought this was impossible. When I looked over in the direction of

the crying, I realized that my golf partner has a very young baby in the basket

in the back of his cart. My partner looked at me sheepishly, smiled and said, “I hope

you like kids. You see, I love to play and I just had to get to the course today

for nine holes. I told my wife I was taking the baby to the park.”

Miraculously, the baby was very quiet for most of the nine holes. My

partner and new father was a nice fellow. Obviously, he was hooked on golf.

What is it about golf that makes it so attractive to so many people?

First, golf is a game which allows us to make contact with nature. Many

golf courses are located in some of the most beautiful spots around the world.

so, you get to take in some fantastic scenery while you play and while you

tour the course. It’s a great way to get away from stress.

Second, golf is a very challenging and difficult game. The average player

may only hit two or three pure shots per round. Psychologists know that situations

which reward us intermittently can sometimes become quite attractive and

for some addictive. If you hit great shots all the time, the game would probably

be less appealing.

It’s a little like fishing or gambling. You may go fishing ten times and catch

nothing, but the one day that you catch a large fish, keeps you coming back

to the lake. Likewise, you may lose on ten trips to the casino, but winning some

money one time can compel you to return to the gaming tables again and again.

Golf is also a game in which you never hit the same shot twice. Every time

you step up to the ball the lie is different, the wind has changed and the distance

from your target has been modified in some way. This variety adds to the physical

and psychological challenges that the game offers. To be a great golfer,

you have to master many clubs and a wide range of shots.

The complexity of the game gives rise to new equipment and technology.

Golfers who are “gadget-oriented” are always eager to experiment with

the latest innovations in equipment in their never ending quest for a lower score.

In addition, golf is a game for a lifetime, since you can continue to play as you

grow older and as your injuries from other sports begin to restrict some of

your physical abilities.

Golf is also a great day away which can include kibitzing around with your

friends, a few friendly wagers, a couple of cocktails, lunch, dinner and a game of gin,

poker or pinochle. A day on the golf course can feel like a mini vacation.

Some golfers also love watching golf on television. They vicariously

place themselves in the golf spikes of their favorite players as they

watch the competition imagine themselves sinking long putts to win

the championship.

So, you can see why it is so appealing and why it can become an addiction

for some people.

While I am writing this article, I periodically get up to practice my putting

and I gaze over at the television to catch up on The Masters Tournament.

I guess there are worse things that you can be hooked on…….

Jay P. Granat, Ph.D. is a Psychotherapist in Bergen County, NJ

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