My first game of golf…

 

My first game of golf…

 

My first game of golf was above all a major mental obstacle to be overcome.

 

Given my perfectionist tendencies, for a long time I’d been tempted not to play competitive golf until I felt myself “fully ready”. But as I said in the first article (“Why to play golf”), no one is ever really “fully ready” for anything… So at a certain point I decided tackle the matter head on, and signed up for three consecutive games.

 

The preparations were pretty intense (and in retrospect pretty ridiculous): every Sunday morning I’d set my alarm-clock for six-thirty and go out “to get to know” the golf course. I’d taken a series of lessons on the rules of the game quite a while before and I’d forgotten just about everything, so I could imagine how many times I was going to come up against the various complicated rules about unplayable balls, penalties and drops. Still, my worst worry was “will I be able to have a pee if I feel the urge coming on?”

 

I counted the clubs in my bag, to work out whether I’d need to sacrifice one of my travelling companions or not… and was greatly relieved to find that I was well within the limits. I also went to buy some new balls, all religiously marked with lines that could be used to help taking aim towards the green. I tried changing the grip on my putter three times, to see which seemed the best, and then I bought the best set of tees I could find. I made sure my T-shirt was freshly washed, along with my cap and favourite shorts (i.e. the ones that made me feel “strongest”), and then stocked up my bag with vitamin pills, sweets and small bottles of water (it was a torrid summer).
All I was missing was a propitiatory dance or two!

 

Actually, it had occurred to me to try something of that kind, but the thought of someone catching sight of me in mid-performance soon deterred me.

 

And finally, the long-awaited day arrived…

 

Having lodged my request, and then seen that I had been allotted a time, a day and some playing partners, I waited for them at the first hole (obviously, all my practicing had taken place on holes 10 to 18). When my companions in adventure arrived, I strode off towards the wrong tee… I begged their pardon, confessing that this was my first match, and asked them to be patient with me, because for the moment I was a bundle of nerves. I took my first shot, and my ball soared off into a nearby wood. What were all these trees doing there?
Why not a nice flat moor?

 

To cut a long story short, I confess that I made a complete mess of the first hole, playing far below my worst, BUT – and this is the amazing part – I did NOT collapse into depression or explode into rage, I simply attributed this to the fact that I was extremely agitated, and so, having marked my card with a transcendental X and freed myself from the burden of “The Curse of the First Hole”, I started on the second hole without a care in the world, and it was wonderful, liberating and enormously enjoyable.

 

From then on, I made various mistakes but also hit some astonishingly good shots, always comforted by the awareness that if one shot turned out badly the next would be a different matter and might easily turn out to be excellent. I managed to keep this fundamental truth in mind: that each shot is a separate event, not influenced by the previous one or influencing the next one.

 

I was lucky enough to be playing with two extremely kind and friendly opponents, both much more expert than me. I can say without a shadow of doubt that the event which I had feared might be riddled with problems and moments of embarrassment or humiliation actually turned out to be a happy few hours in a beautiful landscape with pleasant companions and a sporting challenge that I found exciting and fun.

 

How can this kind of experience improve our professional lives?

 

By broadening our outlook and our way of thinking. We are often tempted to “play on our own”, and so risk losing a crucial resource, namely the cultural knowledge and experience of the people working in the same team as us. Playing golf with others is basically similar to a challenging new project for a team to deal with. There’s a goal, a timetable to be respected, rules, obstacles and players.

 

Each player’s experience and preparation may be very different, but the participants’ collective strength lies in its togetherness and teamwork. So that when faced with problems or unforeseen difficulties (like the ‘bad shots’ in golf) the team players help one another not to be discouraged but to face the challenge positively. And when – as always happens in the end – the problems are finally solved and the goals achieved, the winning moment is important to each individual who has contributed personally to the result, but it also reinforces the team’s group identity and builds confidence in exchanging opinions and sharing skills to encourage the emergence of new ideas and creative solutions. This reinforces the team, and helps work become not only an obligation but also a challenge and even – thanks to the pact of harmony – a pleasure.

 

The thing I advise, and which certain companies with long-range vision are carrying out, is to organise certain days when its personnel go golfing together, to help create an atmosphere of positive competition/collaboration, which will undoubtedly benefit long-term professional results.

 

 

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