Finding an element of control over my golfing mind has been a powerful thing. Golf for so many years was about the score, the outcome and the competition with myself and the course. Over the last few years, I have found my attentions have turned to looking for the next golfing adventure and that bucket list ticking memory. This ever increasing obsession seemed to creep up on me and before I knew it, it was enveloping my conscious thoughts and subconscious meanderings.
Reading fellow golf daydreamer Tom Coyne’s ‘A Course Called Scotland’, I found myself nodding away and relating to so much of what Tom has to say. His enthusiasm and sheer drive is infectious and and this book made me realise that my own ever increasing obsession was being driven by something completely different to what I had thought. I had always loved golf from the age of 4 or 5, but this was something different. This was a mission, a conveyor belt of plans and dreams. But what was feeding that fire?
My epiphany came when reading of Tom’s trip to Askernish and his findings, that in his search for the secret of the game, he had found that it is golf’s ability to place you in the present that is its truest gift. My father died when I was 15 years old and my mother, just under 5 years ago. My quest for golfing adventure accelerated markedly in the years directly after my mums death and I now know that this constant zest for planning and doing has been a coping mechanism for me to deal with a culmination of collective grief.
I think, unless you know what you are looking for, the present can be hard to find and define. You can’t see it or touch it, but with some guidance, you can be guided towards where to discover it. Grief can lead you to looking endlessly backwards and with me always having been a projector and a planner, in my case, my reminiscing would become interspersed with thoughts toward the future and what it may hold. I spent very little time in the present moment and subsequently, felt little satisfaction doing anything at a time when I had so much to be thankful for.
What I had inadvertently found in my golfing travails was a tonic so simple and powerful, yet I hadn’t been able to put my finger on exactly what it was or why it worked. Thanks to Tom, I have now been able to identify that medicine as presence. The feeling of being present in the moment on a beautiful and far flung golf course, allowed me to stop and feel what it was like to take in your surroundings. And in doing so, I was able to somehow feel at my closest with my parents, without feeling sadness or regret and subsequently, take that feeling off the golf course and in to day to day life.
This realisation is, in many ways, what lead me to Golf Guru. I remember using the app the first few times; I discovered a myriad of sessions and guidance designed to help calm my mind and take in what was around me - exactly what I was looking for. The themes of presence, calmness, taking in your surroundings and being thankful were things that kept resonating with me, the perfect maintenance accompaniment to my new found ability to connect with the present. Because the app is designed in a flexible way, it slots in so well to my life and has allowed me to find a routine that works well for me to listen and get the most from its sessions, normally on my commute or while away with work. It has become part of my every day routine off the course, improving the time I spend on it.
I’m no psychologist and no professional golfer. However, having spent years chasing a better handicap and lower scores, it feels uplifting that those things have become less important in recent times. Ironically, my scores and my standard of play haven’t suffered for caring less about the outcome and I genuinely think, if you are able to disconnect the results of your golf from your enjoyment of the game, you will fall even more in love with it.
In life, we all have our different troubles but one thing I think golf can unite us on is its ability to take us away from those worries, and even for the briefest moment, place us in the present. Why is golf such a perfect antidote to the stresses of life? Well, the most crucial element for me is the fact that you can’t complete golf. The endlessness of this pastime is what makes it so perfect. With completion comes a sense of ‘what comes next?’. That will never happen to you with our wonderful game and that is why it can be a companion for life. If you learn to accept that inability to conquer it and manage how your mind reacts to the ups and downs, you might just enjoy the journey a little bit more.
To find out more about Alex and keep up to date on his travels as he plays some of the top courses in the world, head to his Instagram ElevationGolfingNation