Where's your head at?

As golfers, good or bad, we can wallow under a black cloud after a terrible round and yet the wellbeing benefits still make the next game worthwhile.

Watching Andrew ‘Beefy’ Johnston walk off the course at July’s British Masters, after just nine holes of his opening round, was a distressing sight. Here was one of the game’s most likeable characters struggling to deal with the pressures of Covid-19. He stated later that he was uneasy about Covid-19 and that being confined to his hotel room felt like a new type of lockdown.

This comes a year after his honest and open blog on the European Tour website. Behind that big smile and relaxed appearance is a guy struggling with the pressures of the game and the fame that comes with success. In his blog he wrote:

“I came off the course on Sunday at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in November and couldn't even bring myself to go get my clubs from the locker. I just left them. I went straight back to the hotel and just cried.

“I nearly walked off the course at the Australian PGA Championship a few weeks later. It was the end of last year on the Gold Coast, I hit two bad shots, and I couldn't mentally handle it at all. I had no idea what was going on. I was so angry, so wound up, which is really unlike me. I came off there and cried. I knew then that something wasn’t right.” The full blog is here: https://www.europeantour.com/european-tour/news/articles/detail/player-blog-andrew-johnston-x4269/

Stories crop up in the media all the time about sports stars who have suffered from depression, anxiety or other mental health issues. It emphasises that fame, celebrity and money guarantee you nothing. They may be sports professionals but they are human, too, and struggle with these challenges just like everybody else.

On the flip side, in the amateur game, golfing organisations continue to emphasise the mental health benefits of playing golf. We know the physical ones – walking seven miles a round, keeping the heart rate up, burning calories, and improving your vision – but the mental wellbeing benefits are just as important… and they are often overlooked. Given what is happening during these difficult times, such benefits have taken on increased significance.

In the snappily titled ‘2018 International Consensus Statement on Golf and Health to guide action by people, policymakers and the golf industry’ (a study conducted by 25 European doctors and international experts), it stated that golf, as a moderate physical activity, is associated with reduced anxiety and depression. When you’re next out in the open air – rain or shine – take a deep breath as you stand over your ball, look around you and enjoy the moment. Those few seconds are good for your mind, body and soul.

As amateurs we never have to put ourselves under the kind of pressure that Professionals experience. Be grateful for that.