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Discover the secrets of 'perfect' happiness

ARE you having fun every time you play golf? Like, r-e-a-l fun? I know we hear Tour pros, particularly Americans, often say "let's have fun out there" and "I had fun out there today".

Problem is, all too often their body language, their grimaces at missed putts, their gritted teeth when a drive lands in the rough and the occasional swear word that's caught by the microphones suggests these guys don't have too much fun at all on the golf course.

The late, great comedian Bob Hope hit the nail on the head regarding golf when he said: "It's silly to let the game get to you. When I miss a shot I just think what a beautiful day it is and what pure fresh air I'm breathing. Then I take a deep breath. I have to do that. That's what gives me the strength to break the club!"

A study has even been done in England on the mood of golfers before and after competition. The psychologist concerned was surprised to find that most golfers were in a very good mood prior to competing, but when re-tested immediately after playing the 18th, their mood had dropped considerably.

I probably could have told her that myself, but it's interesting to see that the experience of feeling rightly p***ed off after a game of golf is a fairly widespread experience. So much for recreation, eh?

That little nugget is contained in an informative book written by Sport Psychologist Dr Betty Cody called 'The Road to Perfect Golf, Seven Secrets of Success.'

Dr Cody was a regular contributor on golf psychology in our golf supplement and her book is the outcome of many years of study and working with golfers and other sportspeople.

In the book, discussing the findings about the mood swings between first tee and 18th green, she says: "What is happening to put golfers in a good mood before a round and a drop of mood by the time the round is completed?

"It is likely that as they begin the journey, they glow in the anticipation of winning a prize. It is like waiting for the lottery when there are millions to be won. Many of us have already spent the money before the draw takes place.

"The reason I believe that golfers are generally unhappy on the 18th is that they are unrealistic in their expectations. They had set out with the hope of breaking standard scratch and winning a prize.

"I am all in favour of arriving in a joyous mood to the first tee. What I want, however, is for you to stay up-beat right through to the 18th. By being more realistic in your expectations you can more easily accept what each day brings."

The theme of the book is all about helping golfers to manage their expectations and their mentality when out playing golf and to "reach a level of golf that you are happy to achieve". Dr Cody is realistic enough to know that not every golfer wishes to invest time in quality practice, but there's enough material in the book to help even the laziest player to find something that can help their game sufficiently.

"The title of this book is 'The Road to Perfect Golf'. It does not ask you to be a perfectionist, it just asks you to aspire to what is, for you, perfect golf. You may dream the dream but, as you walk the walk, you alone must decide the distance you choose to travel," she says.

The chapter headings include: 'Use your personality to improve performance', 'Body sense, imagery and relaxation', 'The art and craft of putting under pressure' and 'Stay confident and positive on the golf course.'

There is also a section on 'Understanding team golf' which is highly relevant as team managers are being selected for the 2012 season.

"Most of the members of the European Ryder Cup team are picked on performance but a few are still the captain's pick," she writes. "So whether it is at international level, or in your club, do the best players always get selected?

"For club committees there are two issues involved in this regard. Firstly, who do the committee select as team manager for each team? Secondly, will the team manager have the ability to pick the best 'match-play' competitors in the club? It's a hard call and one that I believe club committees need to look at a bit more carefully before choosing a team captain."

Cody makes the point that leadership style has a bearing. In general, most leaders fall into the category of 'task-oriented' or 'socio-emotional' leaders, with Bernhard Langer an example of the former, and Sam Torrance falling into the second category.

Both were successful Ryder Cup captains, but they had assistants around them who balanced their leadership style. Teams need a carrot (the happy families leader as epitomised by Torrance) and stick -- 'get the job done' as in Langer's style.

Ideally a team manager and a second-in-command would bring these general styles to the job, but it can be difficult to get volunteers in clubs, particularly for the No 2 slot.

Dr Cody says: "The socio-emotional leader is more likely to feel comfortable with people they like and get along with. These leaders are likely to pick their friends. The task leader, on the other hand, can on occasion get so worked up with team preparation and organisation that she (or he) can forget that those playing on the team are people and not robots.

"It is therefore important for committee members to pick a team captain who knows his or her own strengths and crucially who will also recognise their own non-strength areas."

So now you know -- the skipper who omitted you from the team wasn't engaging in cronyism, he was just a "socio-emotional" type of leader.

Does that ease your pain?

Irish Independent