Is Golf the Perfect Way to Learn EQ?

Last Updated Apr 30, 2009 9:18 PM EDT

I had the great fortune to attend the 2009 Masters tournament in Augusta. This is an event that should be on every golfer's bucket list. On the final day my wife and I were sitting in stands overlooking the 16th par 3 hole and the 15th green. The final pair of Angel Cabrera and Kenny Perry were hitting off the 16th tee. Cabrera had the honour but was two strokes down to Perry. His shot landed about four yards left and pin high. We had been sitting in these stands for the whole of the day and while many golfers had made the same distance put from the right hand side, very few had done so from the left.

Perry then hit what was probably the shot of the tournament, an eight iron to within six inches of the hole and a certain tap-in birdie. The roar of the crowd was unbelievable; not only for the shot, but also for the likelihood that Perry would go 3 up with two holes to play.

If the first two steps of EQ are defined as first understanding your emotions and then learning to control them, golf must be one of the best ways of learning emotional intelligence. Imagine what must have been going through Cabrera's head as he walked up to the 16th green with the cheers and applause ringing out for Perry, knowing that if he missed his putt, his chance to wear the green jacket would be over.

They say in golf that the most important six inches are those between your ears. While most ball sports require eye-hand coordination and timing to hit, kick or catch a moving ball, golf is different. The ball is stationary but the slightest variation in swing or body posture magnifies the miss. Putting in particular is fiendishly difficult, particularly under pressure. Tiger Woods is probably the best clutch putter the world has ever seen. His discipline is phenomenal. He always takes 17 seconds over a putt and he "freezes" his body just before the stroke.

Cabrera, showing incredible discipline over his emotions, drained the putt. You could sense the momentum swing; Perry made his birdie but inside his head would be the thought that all golfers know. The worst position in match-play is to be two up with two holes to play. You should win the match but deep down you know if you lose the next hole the game is over. So it came to pass.

Many people ask me what is the best way of achieving self-control and resilience. I always say if you are really serious about it, take up golf.