Have you ever played Golf alone? This is an interesting question which I’ve asked many of my clients to answer. Surprisingly few have ever tried it or even had the inclination.
There are a few really important things that I’ve noticed whilst playing Golf by myself versus playing in a group and I feel that understanding these might go some way to helping us improve as golfers.
At the end of my day at the Golf Club, I would sometimes play a few holes with the Back shop guys or the other Assistant Pro. Other times, I found myself playing down the first hole on my own.
I was struck by the vastly different experience you have from playing the same game, differently. I’m sure there are few other games that people play that offer such a diverse numbers of internal and external experiences.
Obviously, when playing alone, it’s quiet. Very, very quiet!
The chatter from your playing partners is gone. The nervousness, agitation, worry, panic and downright fear and anger coming from all three of them, is gone. It’s just YOU and your thoughts and your demons and your fragility and all your stuff. Some people would imagine that this might be a boring way to play. Some may even think that it’s a scary way to play. “I don’t want to be here alone with my own voices”. Someone once said that to me in a lesson.
Personally and from a coaches’ point of view, I think it’s a fantastic way to play the game. It can be a scary place at times but that’s only by virtue of what you are saying to yourself. I’ve found that it can be a massive learning opportunity.
With the obvious level of peace and quiet you experience, on your own, you can really get a sense of what’s going on in your head. What’s your internal level of chatter like, what are you saying to yourself? Is it constructive or destructive? Are you able to focus over shots or does your mind wander?
Just noticing what you are saying is the first step to making dramatic changes to your game. Controlling and guiding this internal voice is a secret of the game’s best players, but you can use this secret too. Just by developing a better language process in your head allows for better swings and better results.
It’s very clear that there is only one game being played, one ball, one player, so I’ve found that without the constant commentary and input from other players, you can get really connected to your own game. What’s common is that people feel less rushed and can play with more freedom when playing as a single. They don’t get caught up in the banter and “yipping” that commonly goes on and causes distraction.
What’s great about it is that you can tune into the environment around you and truly, “walk and smell the roses”. A walk in nature has been proven to boost mood and help to calm and restore you.
I know that a number of golfers thrive in a competitive environment and in your four-ball you may feel that this inspires and brings the best out of you. But, I urge you to try a few holes, solo. You’ll be amazed how truly different it is.
What’s also missing is the continuous questioning of your choices. “What club did you use? Oh, I used a 7 and you’re using a 6… Ha ha, weakling”… etc. etc. Alone, there’s no chatter, no comment, no interference, other than that which you do to yourself. There’s no sense of external competition, rivalry and ego to clutter your mind or upset your rhythm. You can just walk, breathe and enjoy your time. It can be almost meditative.
From a learning point of view, you can really assess what’s going on in your swing. I’ve found that I can become very aware of how I’m moving and whether I can stay balanced or not and focused on the target for the entire swing. All of these are almost impossible when in your usual four-ball.
Now I’m not suggesting that you should stop playing with your friends or playing partners. This should be used across the golf season as a learning experience or as a relaxation.
What can improve this dramatically from a learning standpoint is to take a notebook with you. Writing down the things you notice can really add to the experience. You can learn things about the game that you never even thought of. Take notes on what was really fun or what really grabbed your attention.
You might find that you get to understand the golf course a little better too. By yourself, you can take a few moments to study a tee-shot or look at a green from a few spots and hit putts and chips to different areas of the green. As long as you’re not holding people up, this can be invaluable.
Both you and I know that negative energy in a group can rapidly destroy everyone’s games and experience of the day. Just one grumpy soul in a group can lead to the entire group stomping off the 18th in disgust at themselves and each other. I would like to think that this would happen less if at all, alone.
So this year, try to schedule a couple of rounds or even 9 holes at a quiet part of the day and go it alone.