Awareness in Golf –
Staying Present During Your Round

originally published in Caribbean Golf magazine

Where do you go when you play golf? It sounds like a strange question, doesn’t it? The local public course, or the country club, may be answers that spring to mind, but I’m asking where your attention goes?

awareness in golf

I’ll give you an example. A number of years ago I spent a month on the Isle of Man, a lovely small island in the middle of the Irish Sea. Three mornings per week I played at Rowany Golf Club; a wonderful course with some breathtaking views over the heather-clad mountains and regular winds roaring in over the water.

The tenth is a par 5 hole that seemed to be eagerly waiting for me every time I came around. 7 times out of 10 I would slice the ball out of bounds into a neighbouring field of horses. After two weeks of watching this performance when I approached the tee box their look-out would give the signal for them to hide behind a wall! Who says animals have no intelligence?

So, when this hole came around deep inside there was a sense of deflation, almost trepidation. The thought, “Just get through it without too much damage” was like a whisper in my mind. Of course, nothing was more guaranteed to ensure that damage was inflicted!

here was just something about this hole! It was my jinx hole – just waiting to puncture any hopes I had of carding a spectacular round.

After suffering this for about three weeks I had a revelation. I realised that when I was playing this hole I was switched-off, not at home, call it what you will, but I was not on the 10th hole. I just wanted this hole to be over, to move onto the next one (also with OB on the right, but for some strange reason I always hit that fairway!). As a result of this I was hurrying, not focussing, and my scores revealed this.

So, what I needed was patience, not to be distracted, to simply play one shot at a time, regardless of the number that had preceded it. I had to maintain my alertness and be absolutely conscious of the entire shot – not endlessly thinking about every detail, but being fully present in that precise moment so that the shot had a opportunity to be played with intent and intelligence.

The result of this gentle vigilance? Well let’s just say the horses felt safer, and the 8’s and 9’s became 5s and 6’s, and although it was never my favourite hole, I had exorcised myself of the Hole 10 demons!

Perhaps you have a hole or two like this on the course you play? Ones where you “check-out” – probably quite unconsciously, but nonetheless significant. None of us enjoys unpleasant experiences and subconsciously we try to avoid them. So, some part of our mind comes to this hole, says, “Oh, oh. Here we go again” to itself and goes to sleep or starts thinking about other things. It’s a fairly normal functioning in the mind, but like many habits it doesn’t serve us.

To change this program requires a degree of commitment to do things differently; so being alert, not engaging with the thoughts and staying consistently present allows us to open up to a new experience. Having some guidance in the process can be helpful too, someone to remind us to be where we are, and not off on some unrelated or destructive train of thought.