Success at golf is evasive. One moment you’re there and then, whatever you had, disappears. You don’t know why or how, all you know is you’re slashin’ and hashin’ and cursing and praying all in the same round. Enter the Seven Deadly Sins. You’ve heard of them but did you ever think that identifying and applying them to your golf game could be beneficial? Or perhaps, not applying them would be more appropriate.
SIN #1 – PRIDE: excessive belief in one’s virtues. Have you ever seen a prancing golfer so confident in his or her ability that you wish you could actually be around when they took the proverbial fall? Years ago I played a practice round for a national qualifier with a woman who afterwards decided she needed stronger competition than what I could provide, spurning my invitation for future golf. Surprised by her quasi-insult, I decided to let the actual qualifier tell the tale. It did. I was medalist at 74 and she shot 90-something, shooting herself out of qualifying for the national championship. I witnessed the pride – and the fall – though I wasn’t gleefully rejoicing in her misfortune because I knew she was embarrassed. Lesson: Don’t overestimate your abilities nor underestimate your opponents’. Other Lessons: Don’t play a course at tees beyond your capabilities and don’t claim a handicap lower than it is.
SIN #2 – ENVY: desire for others’ traits and abilities. It is impossible to excel at every aspect of the golf game. While it is OK to admire a player who can smash it 290, don’t let it consume you if your best drive never exceeds 210. Work on accuracy with the short game. A few years ago I played a Ryder Cup style event while still recovering from a shoulder injury. Swinging at half power I yearned to be down the fairway with the other gals. My opponents made the mistake of believing I could not compete with drives 50 – 75 yards short of where they were. It just wasn’t possible, so I quickly realized the need to rely on my short game. It worked and I won my matches. Lesson: Trying to achieve something you cannot master will lead to frustration and will ruin the game you do have. Play within your means – and with the game you brought that day.
SIN #3 – GLUTTONY: consuming more than one requires. Everyone loves to eat. And what is more difficult to resist than a banquet table laden with every kind of food imaginable? However, what and when you eat can kill a golf game faster than any swing flaw. Don’t think so? Eat a huge plate or two of those irresistible banana-pecan-cherry pancakes with whipped cream from the breakfast buffet before you play and see what happens. My coach from college, former Green Bay Packer Joel Mason once quipped that ‘eating pancakes before golf was like eating lead’. You’ll be so full and uncomfortable you won’t be able to move. One year I gained 15 pounds just by playing and partaking in all of the eat-fests at charity outings and invitationals. I quickly realized if I kept up that pace I’d be rolling down the fairways instead of my ball. Lesson: Lean is mean. Eat lightly or take a carry-out box with you and graze as you go.
SIN #4 – LUST: craving the carnal pleasures. I knew you were waiting for this one. Do you remember falling in love and the overpowering compulsion to spend every day – every moment – with your beloved? You couldn’t get enough. It is said that sports can often induce a similar euphoria and golf is no different. Once you have been lured by the Sirens’ song of the fairways, your lust will be thrown in a different direction: lowering your handicap. Go ahead and watch The Golf Channel 24/7; read every golf publication and article you can get your hands on and then follow every tip you receive. Buy every new club and gadget that comes out. Spend every waking moment at the course, the range, or the golf shop. Do all of this and you’ll be a basket case in no time. The up side of this is that it will probably cure you and send you running back home to your beloved. Lesson: Less is more and you can have too much of a good thing. Resist those lustful urges to have everything you see in the golf shop. Pace yourself and don’t buy too many putters!
SIN #5 – ANGER: spurning love and opting for fury or wrath. Oh, but this is a big one. Golf rounds are ruined by temper tantrums and anger, not saved by them. No one will be impressed by the anger you display over a missed shot. Anger causes stress. Stress increases tension and opens a whole host of physical changes which kill a golf swing. You’ll get worse instead of better. If you watched the Olympics All-Around Gymnastics competition in the Summer Games of 2004 you would have witnessed the finest display of self-control and anger management I believe I’ve ever seen. American Paul Hamm had just tanked on the Vault and everyone was discussing the post-mortems on his medal quest. Hamm most certainly was seething inside but instead remained focused, aced his remaining events, and watched his competitors mess up as well. He won Gold by the smallest margin ever in that event. Lesson: When anger creeps into your game, let the demon come but let it go away just as fast. No one is saying that you are perfect and can never get mad; just deal with it and make it work for you. Never, ever quit.
SIN #6 – GREED: too much desire for material wealth. Any casino dweller, real estate entrepreneur, or stock market watcher will tell you that being greedy will lead to huge losses. Golf is no different. The quest to win the big events and all the glory that comes with it is innate. We want that trophy. We want first prize. But sometimes wanting it too much leads to your downfall. Going for the green in two when the odds are poor, or trying to cut the dogleg when the trees are too high and the wind is against you will lead to disaster. How often have you hit risky shots and lost the gamble, only to find out that you would have won had you played smart and saved a shot or two? Lesson: Be hungry enough to want to win but don’t let greed consume you. Think of all the consequences before you play the shot.
SIN #7 – SLOTH: avoidance of work. Golf victories will not come to you just because you are a great person, want to win with all your heart, and are usually lucky. Those are wonderful qualities but the spoils usually go to the ones who work at it the hardest. When you have an important game coming up, practice. Even if it is only 15 – 30 minutes at a time, your mind will know that you labored. Do not discount mental practice and imaging because it is important as well. Some of my best rounds occurred because I practiced like a demon two weeks prior pondering swing thoughts and a game plan while driving to the course. Lesson: Remember PGA and Senior Tour star Gary Player’s famous quote when he holed out 3 sand shots in a row to win a bet: “The harder I practice the luckier I get.”