All Beginnings 14: My Most Difficult Opponent

Published on   2022-05-30 by Kai

But the longer I play on the courses in my area, the more often I can be found on the greens, the more it crystallizes that I am often no match for a particular opponent.

Let me say up front: I play golf with passion. I love the fact that in the trunk of my car my golf equipment is always at the ready.

Unfortunately, I don't make it out to the round as often as I would like. But when the time comes, it's like Christmas.

Nothing relaxes me more than putting the ball on the tee, addressing it, concentrating and watching it fly after a successful tee shot. Then - as I'm sure I've already mentioned - nothing else matters. The rigors of everyday life fall away from me, are immediately forgotten.

The joy of competition

I enjoy nature and the game, look forward to the little competition with my regular playing partner, even if he usually ends up with fewer strokes on the scorecard than I do.

But there's another guy I'm always up against, and it's not unusual for me to lose, not be able to overcome him, and have to admit defeat. For example, he always gives me a hard time with shots over water. But even in the bunker I can rarely defy him. He is often simply overpowering.

Who am I writing about here? I'm sure that many other golfers know him, too, and that he always wants to spoil their game and try to influence them. It is the little devil on my shoulder, my psyche. I myself am my most difficult opponent.

Sometimes it works

Now and then I manage to shake off this devil. There are moments when I'm standing on the tee with the driver in my hand and I know that the shot will be successful. I just know it, without being able to say where this certainty comes from in those seconds. Then everything is perfect, nothing can upset me. It works.

But these moments, even though they are becoming more frequent as my own little golf career progresses, are still rather rare. And the more I try to bring them about and throw off the little devil, the harder the battle becomes.

Nuances between good and bad

The great difficulty in golf lies in the fact that it is only nuances that distinguish the good shot from the bad. There are too many imponderables, too many factors that matter. And I'm only talking about technique right now. The psyche is a completely different matter.

Basically, I consider myself to be a real average person, I'm relatively well-balanced, I can think reasonably clearly and I'm not otherwise out of the ordinary. On the golf course, too, I'm one of many, not overly talented, but certainly not a hopeless case at the club.

And I don't stand out when it comes to self-confidence either, I know the "today a king" feeling as well as the self-doubt. And I think this is where golf divides opinion.

Or what else could it be that I regularly fail to hit a tee shot that is supposed to bring the ball 50 meters across a body of water, but the "normal" shot over the same distance on the fairway is actually no problem?

What happens in my head that I have to hear the splash of the lost ball so often, although the conditions have not changed compared to the previous tee shot? Here, at the water hazard, I can't make the 50 meters, at the hole before, 100 meters was no problem.

I should keep statistics, write down how often I fail at the water and how often I bring the ball dry into the landing zone. I am actually sure that my impression is wrong, that I am successful a bit more often than I think in retrospect.

Two problems

So those are the two problems that complicate this situation: On the one hand, I'm probably better at the water hazard than I think I am. On the other hand, I make this tee shot a difficulty for myself in advance, because even on the way from the previous hole to the water tee I think, "Now it's going to be difficult again."

It's the same with bunker shots. Okay, the requirement not to put the club down or touch the sand when addressing the ball is certainly a handicap compared to hitting the fairway. But this handicap does not make the shot as difficult as the little devil on my shoulder would have me believe.

And there's a third situation that I often can't handle: playing with strangers or in front of spectators. I can't really switch off and concentrate as well as I should. And then another shot goes wrong.

Lack of sportsman's composure

Often, I'm at odds with myself because I know that the mistake wasn't necessary and that I could have executed the shot safely. And the next shot is ruined. I don't have the sportsman's composure to be able to concentrate on the next game, the next shot, and forget about the previous one.

About Tiger Woods - with whom I really have neither the talent, nor the skill, nor the chutzpah to compare myself - I could read earlier that his father used to deliberately disturb him during practice. Interjections were there just as usual as balls, which rolled suddenly between the feet and so the concentration phase should interrupt.

This was certainly also a big problem for the tiger in the beginning. But over time, he learned to tune it all out. It was not least this mental strength that led this exceptional golfer to his great successes.

Spontaneous reflection

And perhaps this can also be groundbreaking for me, I am thinking as I write these lines. In addition to training the technique, the right swing, perhaps I should not ignore the mental component.

Again, I'm not comparing myself to Woods. Between him and me on the course are worlds, whole universes. But still: somehow there must be a way to deal with the little devil on my shoulder. And maybe I can take an example from the American.

And at that moment, the little devil is back again and asks: Can I really learn this mental strength? Can I train it? Can I forget about the water or the bunker as an obstacle or even the spectators, or can I take it more calmly and avoid many a bad shot? It would depend on the attempt. Maybe I will report about it here in due time.

Previous article in the series: All beginnings 13: Golfing is like driving a car

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