Does Golf Help Your Health?
Game Brings Joy and Torture, Depending on How We Respond to It
I was moved by an article written by Anya Alvarez, who was a professional golfer for four years, before leaving the game for a writing career. Alvarez suggests that for her, the pressure of the professional game was akin to a “torrid love affair.” She gave all the effort to it that she could muster, and felt as if her investment was not reciprocated. The demands she made of herself sent her into an emotional spiral that was only resolved by bowing out of golf as a career.. Like many high-tension, fine motor control pursuits, a lot of joy can be in store, or the same ‘dream job’ can be threatening to one’s health, to the point of life or death.
I am unsure as to whether this affects the weekender in the same way it does a professional. The schedule, practice, and scrutiny are torturous in performance careers. And yet, part of one’s destiny in any undertaking is in the response to the ever-present anxiety. Forget about the theory of character flaw in all of this. It’s not one of those, but we are so highly individualistic that the same thing can cause ten different conditions in ten different people.
There is a blissful time in the youth of some performance artists where a certain air of invincibility helps you to soar through the opening months or years simply by not kowing any better. Not everyone gets that gift, but confidence is one of the two switches that can get thrown. When one stands up to execute his or her chosen task, one channel for the brain may say, “I’m the person who ought to be here. Why would I want to do anything else? This is great.” The other channel is just as real, and can appear as a surprise at just about any old time. This channel surveys the environment – people, clubs, layout of the course, prize money, etc., and considers within the space of one moment everything that can go wrong, and what is expected. Or, it can simply say, “I’d rather be somewhere else. This isn’t good for my health.”
To an onlooker, suggesting that a round of golf in a beautiful setting is not good for your health seems ludicrous, but it’s not. Every minute as a professional is spent under scrutiny, and it’s not a nice neighborly stroll around the golf course. Golf pros are well-dressed gladiators, and they get thrown in the ring every week. Above it all stands the unattainable bar of perfection. There is no way to reach it, and no one from junior member to leading pro will every experience it. The more serious you get, the more lopsided the relationship can be.
In short, the game of golf is great. It is, rather, perfection fever that can be so bad for your health. The obsession with perfection is the perfect thing to knock the enjoyment of your life’s precious moments right out of you. I once heard a performer from another profession sayt “It’s not about perfection, it’s about humanity.” It’s difficult to make that stick with golf, because your achievement, your score, can be quantified. It’s not abstract. Then you’re stuck with whatever label it puts on you.
Still, the sentiment isn’t entirely wrong. For the weekender and the pro, it’s always a good idea to remember why you loved this game so much in the first place, and don’t let that feeling get lost, ever again. I remember the early years of Tiger Woods, when switch #1 was in full control. I’m not sure now that he could recapture that, even if he reattained complete healing of the physical ailments. Golf, like many other beautiful ways to spend an afternoon can be spoiled by self-expectations or exterior pressure. Do the practicing, sure, but I can’t help but think that if you go out to the first tee in full awareness of what a beautiful day it is, the practice is going to bring better results. Likewise, you don’t owe anyone anything. If they want a 65, let them go shoot it.
While we play, let’s never forget to appreciate living. It will be really good for our health.