Category Archives: Arizona Golf Blog

The 5 Stages of Coping in Golf

Golf Writer, Jim Corbett, takes a synonymous, tongue-in-cheek look the 5 stages of grief and how they apply to “mediocre” golfers.

brain pic 2The human brain is complex. One of its characteristics is its ability to process, catalogue and adjust to life experiences. It allows us to cope with difficult and challenging experiences in our lives. Psychoanalytic experts have identified five specific stages people go through when faced with difficult circumstances like the loss of a loved one, or a fatal illness. Noted psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross identified the five stages of grief and noted them in her book, Death and Dying, while working with terminally ill patients. Kubler-Ross found that given time to transition through all of the stages, the pattern consisted of five stages of coping: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally to the stage of acceptance.
Those stages are consistent when we deal with any information or situation that would, otherwise, be difficult to accept. Ever wonder why teenagers engage in high risk activities and believe they are invincible and invulnerable? It’s because they live in the denial stage. What about people who purchase products they think will make them look younger or more virile or that they believe will buy them friends? It’s because they are living in the bargaining phase of their lives. You get the idea.
So what do the five stages have to do with golf? Well, everything. Anyone who’s golfed for any length of time has experienced at least one of the five stages, most without even knowing it. The group most likely to exhibit the five stages of coping are mediocre golfers. Of the world’s 50 million golfers about 49 million are mediocre golfers. The remaining million consist of approximately 150 good golfers and a lot of really terrible golfers. Don’t quote me on these stats, but you know what I mean.
In order to understand, and perhaps assist the mediocre golfer, as he moves through the process, it is important to be able to recognize and distinguish the various stages. Let us explore the stages and some of the typical symptoms that accompany each.
Most mediocre golfers spend a long time in the denial stage. Some, in fact, never transition out of this phase and spend their whole lives believing that if they can just make a few small adjustments to their swing, or their short game, they may have a shot at the tour.
brain pic 23They may appear incredulous about a bad shot or a bad round. You may hear a lot of, “Now, how did that happen? I was aiming over there.” Or, “I can’t believe that I just hit my third shot in a row into the lake.” Or even, “Well, anybody could mistake a 6 iron for a 9 iron. I’ll bet that happens to the pros all the time.”
brain pic 6Denial may, from time to time, lead the mediocre golfer to play the wrong ball in a match — “No, no. I’m sure I was playing the Pro-V-I that’s on the green. That xxx’d-out Maxi-Mondo-Pro-Distance-Tour-Trajectory ball that’s in the trap must be yours.”
Mediocre golfers in denial will be inclined to take all day to actually hit their shot. They’ll squat down and line up the shot from both sides of the cup, pace off the distance to the exact inch, check the grain of the grass, and remove the slightest particles of debris out their paths — and this is for shots in the fairway. They’re even worse on the greens!
brain pic 4The reason for this elaborate ritual of preparation is clear. It’s because the mediocre golfer can do these things very well. He can walk around with a serious expression as well as any pro golfer, he can canvass the area for loose impediment and use his putter as a plumb bob — he just can’t use it as a putter. But by taking a long time before each shot, the mediocre golfer is delaying the inevitable — actually hitting the ball. Once he swings the club, the charade is over.
Another trait that is common among mediocre golfers in denial is the tendency to stretch the truth a bit regarding his score. “I generally hit in the high 80’s, but on a good day I’ll card an 80-85.” What he “cards” may bear no relationship at all to the number of strokes actually taken, since he really hits about 120 if forced to take only one Mulligan per hole and to refrain from using the “shoe wedge.”
brain pic 8Another indication of a mediocre golfer in denial is the tendency to believe he is actually improving. After a round of golf you may hear him say something to the effect of, “You know, I kind of struggled out there a little today, but around the 18th hole I think I finally figured out what I was doing wrong. Next time I’ll probably shave a good 10 strokes off my game.”
When denial is no longer a viable option, the mediocre golfer evolves into the anger stage. Chances are you may have personally observed someone who was demonstrating the classic signs of a mediocre golfer in the anger phase without even realizing it. The signs are very subtle.
If you’ve heard the vulgar language, seen the equipment being broken and been there when the fists started flying, don’t jump to conclusions. That may have simply been a social gathering in the brain pic 20clubhouse. The real action takes place out on the course.
Once I was playing golf with a friend of mine who clearly demonstrated the characteristics of a mediocre golfer in the anger phase. He is a former U.S. Marine Drill Sergeant who did several tours of duty in service to his country. He now works as a long-haul truck driver and part-time construction worker. After yet another disappointing shot, he exclaimed in a loud voice, “Oh, golly” (or words to the effect), “that’s the fifth time today I’ve missed a 4-foot putt.” I could really sense brain pic 13that his frustration was building as I watched him twist the flagstick into the shape of a pretzel. After all, we were only on the second hole.
Sometimes, identifying which stage is being displayed can be tricky and requires a seasoned professional to know for sure. Once I witnessed an episode on the course that was both frightening and confusing. I was a guest at an exclusive club and saw a golfer in a screaming rage throw his clubs brain pic 10and bag into the lake. Then, in went his golf hat, golf glove and golf shoes — his caddie barely escaped. As the Emergency Medical Technicians were wheeling that distraught golfer away, it was difficult to tell from his mutterings whether he was in the anger stage or so deeply in denial that he wanted to remove all traces of the game from his life.
In any event, it was a shocking display — all the more shocking for me since that was the guy who had sponsored me for the day at his private club. I was quite concerned for a while, but everything turned out okay — no one seemed to mind that I finished out my round without him.
It is pretty clear when a mediocre golfer enters the bargaining phase of his development. In the bargaining phase the mediocre golfer places a great deal of faith in the idea that some new technology will be developed to fix the exact thing that is wrong with him — even though he usually doesn’t have any idea of what that is. Consequently, a great deal of money can be spent on new equipment with features that are designed to give you greater distance and greater accuracy regardless of how you swing the club.
The devil’s bargain becomes: the more money spent, the greater the likelihood of hitting the ball straight and far. It doesn’t always work that way, but it doesn’t really matter since once the $250.00 is spent, there is a much greater perception that the ball is going straighter and farther. brain pic 11This syndrome could be referred to as “The Emperor’s New Golf Clubs.”
But technology is not the only area in which mediocre golfers are inclined to bargain. In fact, there is no area in which they will not bargain. If bargaining with the equipment manufacturers fails and bargaining with the instructors fails and bargaining with the other members of the foursome fails, the mediocre golfer will even seek supernatural help.
brain pic 25Praying, meditating, channeling — these are all quite common on the golf course. There have even been episodes of ritual sacrifice out on the links. This behavior is not to be encouraged though, since it can really slow down play.
As usual though, when one is dealing with a supernatural power, great care must be taken to be specific about your requests. I once went through a period of time when I brain pic 22was playing very erratically. I’d make one good shot and then a few bad ones, one bad shot and then a few good ones. So I prayed that I would play with some consistency. I guess you could say that my prayers were answered, because my shots became consistently bad.

The depression stage is certainly the most difficult for the mediocre golfer to endure.

illustrator-Clifford Harper
illustrator-Clifford Harper

It is during this phase that the mediocre golfer first realizes the situation is probably not going to get a whole lot better than what he sees right now. (Gee, that is depressing.)
Mediocre golfers may indicate they are in this stage when they stop keeping score.



They may say things like, “It’s not the score that counts, I just play for the exercise.” Perhaps you’ve heard someone say they just play golf because they enjoy the people they meet out on the course — this is someone who is deeply depressed.
The depression stage can be brought on by a wide variety of factors. There have been many instances in which mediocre golfers have been sent into the depression stage simply by watching video tapes of their own swing. It has also happened to some after they lost a round to their kids — this is quite common if the kids are still in elementary school.
I have a friend who was sadly driven over the edge when I carelessly mentioned that I had read about a national blind golfers’ league in which some of the better players carry handicaps under 18. That was enough to make him hang up his spikes for over two years. I felt terrible.
Someone who is in the depression phase must be handled very carefully. You never know what extreme course of action they may take. I once had a close friend who was demonstrating some of the subtle signs of being in the depression stage, but being in denial myself, I didn’t pick up on the clues at all. At one point he told me he was quitting. He had played his last game and now he was checking out.
I assumed that if he had a little time away from the game he’d soon be back in his usual high spirits. But a few days later I learned that he had tried to do himself in. brain pic 21He went to the local driving range and was riding back and forth in an open golf cart a little past the 150-yard markers just laughing and laughing … and laughing.
If a mediocre golfer has the stamina and enough of a support system to weather the depression stage, he may finally emerge into acceptance. The acceptance stage is not to be confused with a happy time, necessarily. It is merely the phase in which the golfer comes to terms with who he is — a mediocre golfer.
It is a time of mediocrity with dignity. Gone is the need to alter the score. Gone the need to improve one’s lie — or to lie at all. Gone, too, is the need to buy expensive equipment in the futile hope of gaining a few paltry yards.
brain pic 16All of that is replaced by a simple appreciation of the game. It is during the acceptance stage that the mediocre golfer begins to truly sense the beauty and joy of the game. The pressure to perform to external expectations is supplanted with a relishing of the journey rather than any particular destination.
A mediocre golfer in the acceptance stage can enjoy a lifetime of golf without the anguish that is the constant companion of golfers in other stages. For this golfer, the brain pic 19statement, “I play golf to relax,” has a ring of credibility. In fact, by playing a more relaxed game of golf, the mediocre golfer in acceptance may, indeed, find that his game improves. But be careful! Don’t improve too much or you’ll quickly find yourself back in the denial stage!
There is nothing you can do to change how a person progresses through the stages of coping. Nor should you try. This is a natural process that must proceed at a pace dictated by the needs of the mediocre golfers themselves. However, if we are sensitive and understanding as Brain pic 17their journey unfolds, perhaps we can assist them in accepting their mediocrity with all of the most positive connotations of the word.

Editor’s Note: Jim Corbett has been writing about golf for over 20 years. This article was previously published on his site, Mr. Golf Etiquette.  We thought it merited a new life. Do you know anyone in any of the 5 stages of coping in golf?



Golfers of the PGA Champions Tour will descend upon Tucson in March, giving golf aficionados the opportunity to play in a Champions Tour Pro-Am, rub shoulders with the pros and hit the shots with the game’s best.

Tucson, Arizona–Every golfer can share this unforgettable experience thanks to Omni Tucson National Resort, which is offering a unique “stay and play” package Omni Tuscon-Exterior_cropduring the inaugural Tucson Conquistadores Classic, a Champions Tour event held on the Catalina Course at the famed southern Arizona resort.

Catalina Course Hole 9
Catalina Course Hole 9


The Omni Champions Tour Pro-Am Package includes three nights of luxury accommodations (for two) in a Mountain Vista room and features one amateur playing position in either of the Conquistadores Classic Pro-Am events on Wednesday, March 18, or Thursday, March 19, plus invitations to the Pro-Am parties and much more.

Both the Wednesday Champions Tour Pro-Am Package and the Thursday Champions Tour Pro-Am Package include:
• Two (2) invitations to Tuesday’s exclusive Pro-Am Pairings Party
• Two (2) invitations to Thursday’s Pro-Am Awards Party
• One (1) Pro-Am participant credential providing special access on Wednesday to dine with the pros in VIP Pro-Am Hospitality Area
• Two (2) grounds tickets for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday
• Custom deluxe Pro-Am gift package – a minimum value of $500
• Souvenir autographed team photo and commemorative scorecard
• Art of Breakfast Buffet daily in Fiesta (based on double occupancy)
• $100 resort credit to be used in The Spa, also valid for dining in Bob's Steak House and Legends TerraceLegends Bar & Grill, or Bob’s Steak & Chop House
• Food and beverage provided on course on selected Pro-Am day
• VIP parking
Each package is priced at $4,500.

Ranked as one of the top 100 golf resorts by Conde Nast Traveler and one of the top 75 golf resorts in North America by Golf Digest, Omni Tucson National Resort is looking forward to welcoming back players who won here during their PGA Tour careers and who are now competing on the Champions Tour.

Senior Tour Players-omniPast champions include Kirk Triplett, Jeff Sluman, David Frost, Tom Watson, and Craig Stadler, all of whom are scheduled to appear.

Catalina Course Hole 5
Catalina Course Hole 5

The Catalina Course has long been the host course of the PGA Tour and is known for its magnificent views and traditional-style layout, with gentle contours and tree-lined fairways.


Designed by Robert Van Hagge and Bruce Devlin, the Catalina features eight sparkling lakes and 80 bunkers, providing a challenging but fair defense to players of every caliber.

Catalina Course Hole 18
Catalina Course Hole 18







The 18th hole is considered to be one of the finest and most challenging finishing holes on the PGA Tour.

The Omni Champions Tour Pro-Am Package must be booked directly through the resort. Contact Jennifer Hentzen at (520) 877–2351 and
About Omni Hotels & Resorts
Omni Hotels & Resorts creates genuine, authentic guest experiences at 60 distinct luxury hotels and resorts in leading business gateways and leisure destinations across North America. With over 20 world-class golf courses and award-winning spa retreats, to dynamic business settings, each Omni showcases the local flavor of the destination while featuring four-diamond services, signature restaurants, Wi-Fi connectivity and unique wellness options. Known for its distinguished, personalized service, Omni leaves a lasting impression with every customer interaction, with a heightened level of recognition and rewards delivered through its Select Guest loyalty program and the company’s “Power of One” associate empowerment program. The brand is frequently recognized by top consumer research organizations and travel publications. To get additional information or book accommodations, visit or call 1-800-The-Omni.

Molinari Aces 16th at Waste Management Phoenix Open

Earlier in the day, one of the announcers in the Golf Channel booth mentioned that it had been three years since the last hole-in-one on the 16th hole at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, and he predicted that we we’re going to see one today.  Francesco-Molinari-006Well….so be it.  Francesco Molinari successfully carded a ONE just about an hour later.

It’s one of the most coveted tickets in golf, and the loudest!  Fully enclosed, the 16th  hole at the TPC Stadium Course is reminiscent of Roman times, where gladiators competed for their lives in order to satiate the audience’s thirst for bloody spectacles of glory by the competitors.

Albeit a little less bloody, Tour pros at the 16th are subject to boos for missing the green, boos for missing a birdie putt, but they will also be treated to raucous roars of approval for landing close to the pin. In a sport where quiet is the operative word, the 16th at TPC Scottsdale serves as the antithesis to the norm.  A crowd of 15,000 spectators were on hand to watch Francesco Molinari as he took his turn on the 16th.  At 133 yards, the players can  practically throw the ball on the green.  A fluid swing turned into a watch-full eye of the ball’s flight.  The ball landed just a few feet right of the pin, did a little side-spin, and ever so slowly, inched its way to the center of the cup.  NICE!

Molinari reacted with a huge smile, and thrust his arms up in the air encouraging the roar of the celebration for his hat trick.  Beer cups immediately came flying out of the stands in approval, punctuating the landscape.  And, true to the sponsor of the event, Waste Management, the mess was quickly cleaned up in ready anticipation of perhaps another, calculated to be 2,500 to 1 odds, shot at the cup.

Crowd anticipation of what Molinari would do with the ball-keep it or throw it to the crowd-was heavy as he lifted it from the cup.  True to the fans, and typical of Molinari being a class act he did the right thing, and donated it to the fans.