Monday, 3 December 2012

Expectations Versus Confidence

Last Saturday was a memorial day for me. For the first time in my golfing career, or my golf life persona, I played in a official golf tournament. It was MCOBA Masters, an annually held golf competition among us, the old boys. Actually, it is not really a competitive kind of tournament. The way we see it, it is more like a social gathering, a get together kind of outing in a golf course where the old ones meet the younger ones, and you know the rest :) It's my first tournament, and probably the most remembered ones for more to come in future endeavours.

But I am not writing about the tournament, the excitement, the networking, the feel and pride being part of the great MCOBA fraternity and such. I'm writing about my thousand and one failure during that particular round of golf. Let us just say, that I didn't have a good round that day. Certainly wasn't playing to my current potential. Well, I hit good drives but my short games were terrible. Duffed, I topped the ball on few occasions, I snapped during my putts, I didn't chip close to the hole like I used to do, and worst, I even shanked my pitch shots. You know, that sorts of silly but costly mistakes. By the time I reach the 9th hole, my score was already up to the target I've set earlier, with another 9 to go. Crazy.

So, what went wrong actually. Definitely I'm not that kind of player. I know I can do way better than that. I even score considerably good in my standard and potential on the same course, in a round of 18, 3 days earlier when I went for a dry run to get me well prepared. Which, makes it more unbearable. The frustration.

In the name of a game called golf, the mind plays a crucial role. The old sayings said, 90 percent of a round of golf, is played in the mind. Which I can never agree more and argue less. It is so crucial that it takes control of everything. Not just my swing, but my confidence, and definitely my pride.

So here I am, contemplating on what really happened last weekend. Was it the nerves? That rush of blood to the head? Pounding out, taking control over me and letting me down? Yes, but only in partial. It was the expectations that really killed me. The expectation is always considered by most to be working parallel with confidence. The higher the confidence is, automatically the expectation is sky high and vice versa. I beg to differ. In golf, the opposite is true. The higher the expectation we set in a round of golf, the more pressure we put on ourselves to hit great shots everytime. Which is a great recipe for failure, a cardinal's sin we call it in golf.

When I put certain expectations in this very first tournament, subconsciously I've put a certain target of score, or a particular level of play to be met during that round of golf. What happened was, when I hit a bad shot, my mind, my pre-frontal cortex ( the CEO of the brain, not the motor system that controls the body and muscles movement) quickly assessed my swing, to find the culprit, more like a fault finding process. And my mind breaks down my swing part by part to find the very mean of faultiness. When I thought that I've got the answer, subsequently I tried to correct it in "the level of my swing", not in the mind. Which resulted in doing more, or overdo, not less. Well, doing more or overly done in golf means disaster. In golf, less is more. As a result, there were worse shots, and I even missed a less than 12 inches putt. Bloody frustrating.

Why did I put too much pressure on myself? I don't know, maybe with all the preparations I've made, all the time and effort I've poured into, the equipment that I've upgraded, not to mention the apparel and garments that I've tried to match up everytime, I expected myself to put such a performance up to that "standard". But when I get too excited bout it, hence the silly mistakes, I only let myself further down, so low that I couldn't recover up to the last hole. Which is so not me. It felt like I was just started playing, like how I used to be 3 years ago. That showed how devastating it was for me.

So lesson is learnt. Now, I'm not just going to practice the swing itself, but the mental aspects as well. Recovery from a bad shot is part of the lesson plan :) You know, living in the moment, not in the future, and definitely not in the past. And try not to putt too much unnecessary pressure on myself. For a better score and the hopefully I will enjoy my golf tournament more in the future.

I know I can do better than how I performed last weekend. With the knowledge, the techniques, the equipment, the drive and with all the time and efforts I've put into, I even can play with a very low score of 88 actually. But I've to take it one step at a time. Next tournament, I better prepare myself not just in the swing perspectives, but in mind department also. Managing my expectations exponentially, maintaining my self confidence, controlling the nervous feeling, that sort of stuffs.

Golf, oh golf. I wonder, how on earth did I get so immersed into it in the first place?! Immersed and so etched that the game is shaping my personality, bit by bit :)