Anxiety in Golf

The Canadian Mental Health Association provides leadership in the education, awareness, research and treatment of mental health disorders facing Canadians.  On their website, they state the following about anxiety disorders,

“We all feel nervous or worried at times. This anxiety can be a helpful feeling when it motivates us or warns us of danger. An anxiety disorder, on the other hand, causes unexpected or unhelpful anxiety that seriously impacts our lives, including how we think, feel, and act.”

Perhaps we can all relate to the nerves off the first tee, a short putt to break a personal scoring record or a need to get up and down to win a match.  But what if it is more than that?  What if it hinders your basic abilities to perform and enjoy the game?

Recently, Canadian professional golfer Graham DeLaet withdrew from The Memorial Tournament, an event he loves, citing on Twitter “I’m dealing with incredible anxiety while chipping/pitching right now. It’s not fun. I needed to WD to get it sorted out and get back ASAP.”  Some people will gloss over the anxiety and focus on the pitching/chipping.  I understand; it’s a tough part of the game that can make the best player uncomfortable at times.   I choose to focus on the deliberate use of the word anxiety and appreciate its use here.  I’m glad he said this.  It helps shine a light on anxiety and its impact on people.  It also may help people to understand that anxiety disorders can be addressed, head on and with the right help.

I don’t pretend to know how serious of an issue this is for DeLaet.  But I appreciate his honest use of a term which seems appropriate.  His ability to deal with this may require more than just hitting 5000 chip shots.   It may require a more holistic program including meditation or even therapy to address its root causes.  We use the term ‘yips’ in golf often to describe the inability to perform in certain facets of the game.  I feel these are not interchangeable terms but there is a possible relationship between the yips and anxiety which could warrant some additional research, or perhaps more relevant, a strategy to connect existing research into the hands of coaches and players around the globe.

Golf is hard.  But it is also fun, relaxing and a healthy game to play.  I hope DeLaet can get back to the fun, relaxing and healthy aspects of the game and perform optimally again.  I’m an even bigger fan of DeLaet now as a result of his candor.  Addressing the anxiety can hopefully provide the foundation to progress in the short game and allow him to flourish and play his best golf ever.

Thanks for your honesty, Graham.