Harbour Town and Aristotle

by Matt Cuccaro, Ed.M.

The PGA TOUR is in my backyard this week at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island, SC.  Harbour Town is a unique venue.  The course is not long, the rough is not “rough”, and the greens are not heavily undulated.  The course is extremely tight with trouble lurking on every hole, however.  Magnificent trees form fairways that look like slender, meandering bowling lanes.  Approach shots into the greens require pinpoint accuracy as treacherous bunkers, water hazards (including the breathtaking Calibogue Sound) and seemingly endless outstretched tree limbs protect the smallest greens on the PGA TOUR.  A power game typically does not prevail.  This place is suited for golfers who manage their games and themselves with precision.

Golf is not a game which requires world-class physical conditioning to attain success. It is, however, a game which requires a high level of mental and emotional conditioning to endure the many challenges it brings.  Aristotle put it best in The Nichomachean Ethics by saying, “Anyone can become angry – that is easy.  But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and the right way – that is not easy”.  From a mental perspective, anger causes attention to narrow which hinders decision-making.  From a physical perspective, anger causes increased tension and a lack of body awareness. None of these qualities lend themselves to quality golf, especially at Harbour Town.

This course will likely bring about its fair share of anger from competitors who unexpectedly catch an outstretched tree limb, find a lingering hazard, or watch a ball deflect off of a railway tie which rests only feet from the one place the ball is intended to finish.  The victor will likely be the individual who manages himself and channels his emotions appropriately from the tree-lined chute on #1 tee to the expansive (yet typically wind-blown) 18th fairway.  On Sunday afternoon the tartan jacket will be placed on the shoulders of the man whose mind and body work in unison, allowing him to execute with precision under the exciting, challenging and uncertain conditions of the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links.

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