Playing the game of golf can be nerve racking. In his books and essays, the great Bobby Jones says more than once that he never played well if he wasn’t nervous on the first tee.
In everyday life, we generally have routines and procedures. In a lot of ways routines and procedures can help us. If you always put your keys down in the same place when you get home, you will always find them in the morning. This example doesn’t seem so important, but it is just a microcosm for larger events- anyway I hope it makes the point. What routines and procedures can lack is spontaneity and excitement. If you enjoy the game of golf, you realize that two things not lacking are spontaneity and excitement. When top players are playing, they carefully incorporate routines to help deal with the pressures of golf. I am not advocating the elimination of these routines, rather, I want to deal with the philosophical points of being nervous.
So why should I not avoid being nervous?
1. It won’t work
If your goal is to avoid getting nervous, it will not work. If you want to work on something, pick something that you can actually accomplish. It’s usually pretty easy to spot someone trying to avoid getting nervous. You can see a little panic in their demeanor; their arms get tense and confined close to the body, and they start perspiring. It can actually make the person that is observing uncomfortable. If this is you, I would recommend trying to take deep breaths, swing your arms around like a windmill, and shake your body about to cope with the feelings. Try anything to reset if panic sets in, because this is close to shutdown and it is a tough place to be. And from now on don’t try to avoid being nervous, try to enjoy it.
2. Enjoy the RUSH!
I am an adrenaline addict. I believe it comes from playing professional golf. Playing golf, I was nervous all the time. When people would watch me play they would ask, “How do you stay so calm”? The answer is that I was never calm; even when playing a $2 nassau my hands would shake. The reason I looked calm, though, was because I loved it. It is very hard for me to get that feeling any other time in life. Generally speaking, it is easy to be happy, angry, tired, etc., but quite difficult to get excited to the point that your whole body comes alive. I absolutely love this feeling, and without golf it takes for me something like a roller coaster, skiing, heights, etc. to achieve the same effect. It may seem like a more difficult task to enjoy nerves than avoid them- and maybe it is- but, if you manage to achieve this, you just turned something you may dread into a great pleasure.
3. If you’re nervous it is important to you.
If your goal is to avoid getting nervous, and you actually manage to accomplish it, then you will probably no longer enjoy the game. You have probably dulled down your emotions so much, that you no longer care how well you play. This is a tougher place to be than actually shutting down from nerves. I do not recommend this, because next you’ll have to go find another activity that you can learn not to care about.
Bobby Jones was one of the most clutch players in the history of golf and yet he felt it IMPORTANT to be nervous. The game of golf is wonderful for many reasons. You get to challenge yourself against an objective opponent (the course),and a not so objective opponent (yourself). You get to meet new people and enjoy great friendships; you can create business opportunities; and you might even play it for a living. Here’s the kicker: you can have all of these positives, but in addition you can enjoy these incredible feelings throughout your entire body that come with being nervous. I hope this brings a fun perspective to these feelings, and I hope your enjoyment of the game of golf is increased!
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