Rage Golfs Emotional Response


I knew golf was difficult. Which, I also knew, was why it was so rewarding to a player who has just struck a golf ball sublimely or, even better, has just completed that magical and all-too-rare round where the game--at least for a day--seems easy.
I knew golf was seductive, beguiling, addictive, mesmerizing and capable of making a person forget 100 bad shots for every one good one struck.
What I didn't know was how dangerous golf is.
Until I read a recent article in the Toronto Star headlined, 'Golf is All the Rage.'
The article reprinted a chapter from a book written by that newspaper's Michael Clarkson. The book is called 'Pressure Golf' and Clarkson conducted hundreds of interviews with players, instructors and psychologists.
Have you heard about 'cart rage'?
One documented case occurred recently in Washington D.C., when a twosome 'hit into' a foursome ahead of them and motored forward. The ball nearly hit Richard Hutchinson, a member of the foursome. Hutchinson, a 55-year-old financial consultant, responded by knocking the offending pellet into the nearby woods.
The man driving in the cart roared toward Hutchinson. 'When he was a few feet away from me, I jumped up with my spikes and hit him in the chest and knocked him out of the cart,' Hutchinson said later. 'He was just in a rage.'
Hmmmmm. Whatever happened to 'cart paths only'?
Police took the cart driver away.
Golf instructor Fred Shoemaker told Clarkson, 'The fact that society's training counteracts that of golf is a problem. The calm and focused state of mind that is necessary for good golf is hard to develop nowadays. We live in a society in which the pursuit of comfort--and the avoidance of discomfort--is deemed a most valuable goal.'
In another instance, at the 1996 Rochester International, Lisa Walters smashed her hand on a portable leaderboard after a three-putt. 'Her hand was bloody, but it broke her anger and she laughed,' her caddie said.
This reminded me of John McEnroe, the tennis player. McEnroe always amazed me, mostly because his outbursts never seemed to affect his performance on the court. But a clinical psychologist named Ken Kaisch has told Clarkson otherwise.
'Psychologists used to think that the expression of anger was good, that it vented or released the pressure inside,' Kaisch said. 'But research shows it causes more problems than it solves...it cranks up your arousal level. So you think more obsessively about what happened and you get angrier. Pretty soon, Mount Vesuvius erupts.'
Well, it turns out Clarkson, bless him, has done his homework on both sides of the argument. Which is why I was so pleased when he balanced Kaisch's contention with this observation by the late Henry Longhurst, perhaps the greatest golf announcer ever to overlap his fingers around a microphone.
'The most exquisitely satisfying act in the world of golf is that of throwing a club,' Longhurst said. 'The full backswing, the delayed wrist action, the flowing follow through, followed by that unique whirring sound, reminiscent only of a passing flock of starlings, are without parallel in sport.'
Been there. Done that. Always made me feel better. Never helped my subsequent golf.