Golf

My love for the game of golf began when I was 40, and has increased exponentially ever since. When I was first introduced to golf in my childhood, I thought the game was ridiculous and wondered who would want to play a game that involved hitting a stupid little ball into a round hole. When I became interested in golf, out of necessity (it was part of my job description as president of a clothing manufacturing company) my competitive juices began to flow.
What started out as taking a few lessons began to become an addiction for me. I would steal time away from work, family outings, and would lie to my wife about whether I was playing or not. It became the most important thing in my life. When I was 45 and my back went out I was devastated. What was I going to do now? Thank God my back healed and I was able to return playing again, I assumed. There was only one problem. My higher power was going to hit me with the biggest driver (the golf club that is used to hit the ball the farthest) he could find, send me into orbit around the universe, and drop me right into the murkiest lake he could find. I was to awake in the abyss of a mental hospital. I was a broken man who was diagnosed with a mental illness by the doctors.
The doctors who treated me decided to put me on all kinds of psychotropic. These drugs had severe side effects on my overall well-being, and particularly my motor skills. Immediately after discharge, I went and took my clubs to the golf course, and stood on the first tee ready to launch my ball onto the fairway, only to miss the golf ball entirely. I tried repeatedly with not much more success. After 15 minutes I began to realize that the medications I was taking would not allow my body to perform the way my mind envisioned. I was distraught, depressed, and beaten. I assumed I was not going to play golf anymore.
I decided to try golf again after a few years had passed. By that time, I had changed my medications, and the side effects were not as pronounced as they were early in my recovery. I was extremely nervous standing on the same tee box where I had stood years earlier. This time I was able to hit the ball with a fair amount of precision and distance. I was back. I decided I was going to judge my recovery in direct correlation with my improvement in the game of golf. I began to practice the game with the thought of relaxing my mind, and not for the competition of the game. I focused on the beauty of the environment I played in, rather than my score.
I started walking the golf course instead of renting a golf cart. To keep my mind from racing, I began to train my thoughts to be positive and to focus on the task of simply hitting each stoke, one at a time. In a few months of practicing my new philosophy, I was capable of pushing out any negative thoughts and just enjoying myself. When my ex-wife abandoned me when we got divorced, golf became the foundation of my recovery.
I was able to find an apartment that had a golf course so I could play more often. For the next three years I would take advantage of my free time, (having no job, very few friends, living alone, limited financial resources, and lack of interest for other activities) playing golf almost every day for free on the course where I live. Everything was going great, I thought. My ego started to take over and I lost purpose and direction with my life. Once again my higher power decided to interfere with my life’s course and unleashed another swing at my soul. This time the effect of the hit was deeper, darker, and more devastating than before. I would be hospitalized for 15 days. I came to a point that I started to accept the fact I had a chemical imbalance and I prayed for my higher power to help in my recovery, and to pull me up out of the deep-dark hole I was in. I started to read books on addiction and mental illness, attend various support groups, and most importantly focus on helping others.
I volunteered with different agencies, became a spokesperson for NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness), and did a lot of research to find a career that could utilize my strengths to help others like myself. I decided to study Psychosocial Rehabilitation UMDNJ (The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey), and registered for the fall semester of 2010. I also registered for a 5 day “Wellness Coaching” seminar to further my education. I learned a lot about helping myself and others by means of looking at eight key dimensions of overall wellness: physical, spiritual, environmental, emotional, financial, intellectual, social, and occupational.
Shortly after completing the Wellness Coaching seminar, I was given an assignment by my English composition professor to choose a hobby, activity, or interest I pursue, describe the activity, explain how it has influenced my life. I decided to reflect on how golf has benefited me in my recovery over the years. Physical-Golf provides ease of access and a variety of physical activity for cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, and endurance. I found that golf provided all of these benefits. In New Jersey you can play golf 9-12 months a year. You can walk the entire course (four to seven miles depending on how straight you hit the ball), carry a twenty to fifty pound golf bag the same distance, and vigorously swing at the golf ball (70-100 times depending on proficiency).
Carrying up to a fifty pound golf bag can build strength in your shoulders, back, and legs, and gripping and swinging of golf clubs builds arm and hand strength. Walking an estimated 6 miles with varying degrees of inclines can be a great way for to do an effective cardio workout while enjoying the activity. Spiritual-When I look at the broader concept of what the word spiritual means to me (represents one’s personal beliefs and values), there is no other sport that I can think of that would reflect that true essence. The game itself is often referred to as the “Gentlemen’s” game. This phrase is used to denote the use of the honor system to properly play the game. There are over 34 rules and 2,000 explanatory decisions, which give golf the honor of having the most rules of any game.
In most cases it is up to the individual to admit when they have broken one of the rules. When I play by myself and am keeping score to create my handicap (a system that refers to a numerical representation of a golfer’s playing ability), I have to be honest or I could influence my handicap thereby aiding my chances of winning a golf tournament or match. Finally, when I am immersed in the creations of my Higher Power, I have developed an appreciation for the depth and expanses of life and the natural forces that exist in the universe. When I look at the trees, birds, flowers, and the wild animals that run or graze on the course, I am constantly reminded of my own significance and how I should cherish it. Environmental-I believe the environment that we allow ourselves to live, work, or play in has a direct effect on our overall wellness. When we spend considerable time in smoky, dirty, or messy places, we are adversely affected by such negative environments.
Conversely, when we spend time among the tress, grass, fields, lakes, flowers, and other lush vegetation we are affected positively. When I tee off, I look forward to seeing where my ball lands, walking to it, and being absorbed in the new surroundings I have just uncovered. Every step and turn creates a new and exhilarating view. A good environment should promote learning, contemplation, and relaxation. For me golf accomplishes all three. Golf can be a game that anyone can constantly learn new techniques, observe their surroundings, and relax by immersing themselves in what Mother Nature provides.
Emotional-When I think of mental/emotional growth, I strongly believe golf encompasses an entire spectrum of features and benefits. Like many people, I find that golf helps me assess and accept my own limitations. Every year as the snow melts from the grassy slopes of the golf course I have aged another year, and some of my :”golf faculties” have declined a bit. I can turn these negative thoughts into positive ones by just tweaking them. I can focus on hitting the ball straighter instead of harder. Golf also teaches me to express my emotions in a healthy manner. Instead of expressing anger over miss-hitting a ball, I have learned to take deep breaths and realize it is just a learning experience.
In other words, golf helped me view difficult situations as learning experiences. I also find that golf helps me reduce stress. I love to play golf while listening to my I-pod, focusing on the sport instead of the thoughts in my mind, and socializing with other players. Financial- The financial aspect of golf can be very rewarding for a lot of players. It is known among the financial circles that golf is one of the best vehicles to close deals and network your business. Personally, as stated above, I had to take up golf as a requirement for my job. Intellectual-Golf can encourage people to acquire new knowledge and use the information effectively. People can read numerous books and magazines to teach them techniques and tools to improve their game. One book in particular improved my overall game by helping me focus just on the mental approach to the game. Golf also creates the need to use critical and creative thinking to almost every shot you take. What club length to use, how the putting green is sloped, and the position the body should be in. Social-When I first thought of the way in which golf is beneficial to overall wellness, I thought of it in terms of a social event, such as playing cards or watching football games. Once I focused on the aspect of investing my time and energy as a way to give back, reach out, and help others that I began to appreciate the true meaning of social consciousness through golf. It started when I was out playing by myself on the golf course and ran into a gentleman on the 9th tee. He looked sad and discouraged, which motivated me to begin a conversation with him. I asked him what was wrong and he responded by telling me he had Multiple Sclerosis, and that he was having trouble hitting the ball. I told him about my story and then began to help him with his game. He immediately began to hit the ball better and his face lit up every time he made a good shot. We began to communicate about our struggles and really had a very engaging experience. After we were done I began to think that I should take my teaching skills and apply it to people who needed to experience the game as I have. Golf not only has brought me great personal satisfaction from this experience, but immense pleasure in helping others. Occupational-I believe the personal satisfaction and enrichment in my life that is derived from participating in working with individuals with illnesses and disabilities has given me both pleasure and satisfaction. Thirty five years ago when I began my life’s journey in the fashion industry, I was mainly interested in making money, meeting women, and traveling the United States. There was not one minute that I thought of helping others or concerned with people less fortunate than myself. This extreme transformation has led me to believe that my higher power stepped in to change my life course, direct me to an occupation that was meaningful and of service to the greater good of humanity, and to find an occupation that I loved. The fact that my English professor assigned this paper at the same time I had chosen to attend the intensive five day “wellness coaching” seminar only reinforces my belief that my higher power has had a firm yet gentle grip on my path. Three weeks ago I was playing my final match to determine the winner of the annual championship at my golf club. My opponent was 27 years younger than me. I stood on the first tee, looking down the fairway, positioning my body in its correct alignment to the hole, noticing the calmness of my breathing, and creating positive thoughts in my head. In the brief moments before I stroked the ball, my mind was quiet, my body relaxed, and I was in perfect harmony with nature. My younger opponent beat me the first hole to take a lead in the match. I would not let it discourage me, nor would I let “the committee in my head” take control of my thoughts. The momentum began to change immediately. I was taking complete control of the match by the 11th hole. When my opponent shook my hand and congratulated me for playing a great game. Hopefully I will always appreciate the gift of being able to play the sport that I love. I look forward to more of the things I feel led to, golf, helping others through gold, wellness coaching, and educating the community about mental health recovery.

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