The Effect of Alcohol Upon Your Golf

How long is a piece of string? I have a friend who plays off a handicap of five and swears by two and three quarter pints at lunchtime whenever he’s in a 36 hole competition – and generally shoots a sub-par round when adhering to this regime. I’m not sure how it would affect my game, but doubt it would create such a positive result.

What happens to your golf when you’ve been out and had a bit (or a lot) too much the night before? I remember dropping off someone one morning for a Sunday round at 8am and seeing another gentleman attempting to step out of the passenger seat of the car, wobbling a bit, and nearly falling into the trunk as he tried to lift out his clubs. I later discovered he only lasted half the round before having to walk in. What a shame to ruin what should be a nice relaxing morning playing golf with your mates simply because of drinking to such an excess you no longer know your own name. We have all seen similar spectacles I’m sure.

How does alcohol affect your golf? The answer is that it depends on the person. Are you the sort of person who gets happy, relaxed and comfortable when drinking? Or are you the type of person who gets morose? Or angry? We are all unique and individual and you play golf from the platform of you, the person. Most people find that one or two drinks will relax them, and more will have a rather different effect.

If you are the type of person who is so laid back that you are almost horizontal, to have a couple of drinks and relax further will probably mean that you will lose your focus, lose your attention and your golf will suffer. If, on the other hand, you are a slightly anxious person, one or two drinks are likely to relax you and rub off the edge of anxiety and allow you to focus clearly and pay attention to the task in hand; hence your golf will benefit.

To play your best golf an optimum level of arousal is required. If you are too relaxed, attention and focus will fade, and if you are too aroused your logical, thinking part of the brain is bypassed and your ability to make good strategy decisions will be temporarily put on hold. Over-arousal in effect makes you “stupid” – you cannot think straight; you cannot think logically and clearly.

It is a known and proven fact that when you get angry or when you get over aroused, this clouds your judgment and makes you more likely to react with only your lower brain functions – it denies access to higher brain functions – it inhibits the cortical regions of the brain, and so problem solving is hampered, reaction speeds and co-ordination are impaired, and you cannot think as clearly. Thus decisions are less effective, listening skills are impaired, and creativity is obstructed. Not the best recipe for good golf.

Any exaggerated emotional state (which of course alcohol induces) is accompanied by physiological and biological changes – your heart rate increases, blood pressure rises, adrenaline is secreted at a greater level. Not very helpful when you are trying to play a game which requires a state of relaxed concentration in order to be able to put your best swing on the golf ball.

And if that isn’t enough your ability to learn is also affected by exaggerated emotional states. Our emotional state is critical to what we learn and how well we recall and apply what we have learned. The amygdale in the emotional brain can hijack the intellectual processes when over-arousal is experienced.

Effectively, too much alcohol can trigger hormones which induce tension and anxiety, bad decisions, unclear planning, jerky movements, and rushed tempo; you simply cannot think clearly. And everything in life starts with a thought, including your golf. You have to think clearly, make good strategy decisions, you have to be creative and see the shot you plan to make; and after you have made these decisions you need to execute the planned shot, which requires relaxed muscles, good hand-eye co-ordination, and good co-ordination in general and, of course, good balance and a feeling of groundedness.

What are the chances of this combination of requirements when you have been on a bender the night before? The outcome will vary from one person to another. Some people find that their golf improves with alcohol, their co-ordination is better, their focus clearer and the result far more pleasing – their slice miraculously disappears and they sink every putt; This may be due to the fact that they simply don’t care, that they feel so ill and hung over they want to get every shot out of the way as quickly as possible so that they can go home and nurse their sore head on the sofa (or get into the 19th and have a hair of the dog!). If you are the sort of person who thinks and worries too much about their golf, alcohol may have this effect on you – making you “get out of your own way” and just hit the ball.

If, on the other hand, you are generally a calm, focused and positive thinking golfer, alcohol will hi-jack your logical thought process and reduce your ability to make good shot choices whilst on the course.

In summary, alcohol consumption will affect each person’s golf in a different way from the mental perspective. For some, it will help (in small quantities), whilst for others it will inhibit. In large quantities, very few people are positively affected. From a physical, mechanical perspective, lack of co-ordination and a problem with balance are never going to help anyone’s game of golf!

Best to save the alcohol for the 19th, unless you know yourself well enough to be sure that it will have a positive effect.

Roseanna Leaton, specialist in golf hypnosis cds and hypnosis mp3 downloads.