I recently offered a survey to all of my newsletter subscribers.
I was looking to get some feedback from golfers for the new book I’m writing.
There were a number of interesting points which arose from the responses.
The question ‘what is most important to you when you play’ provided some revealing insights.
The three options were performance, enjoyment and learning.
- 13% of respondents said learning.
- 48% said enjoyment.
- 39% said performance.
Many people commented that enjoyment and performance were equally important to them, but that they struggled to reconcile the two, especially when they were playing in competitions.
The question I asked some people who said performance was more important was
‘What feeling do you get from a good performance?’
It seems that all golfers are looking for a good feeling. They might call that feeling enjoyment, satisfaction, happiness or whatever.
But when you accept the belief that those feelings are conditional on achieving or attaining something, you put yourself under pressure.
It makes balancing performance and enjoyment in golf more difficult.
Are You Getting in Your Own Way?
There’s nothing wrong with having expectations, or with regarding golf as a challenge to be overcome. If that’s what the game means to you and you can ride the ups and downs, then fine.
But it was interesting that many golfers who said that performance was the most important thing to them, also responded that the biggest challenge they faced was overcoming anxiety.
Can you see the connection here?
Many golfers, (and I did this for years) are playing the game trying to get somewhere. Or to become something in the belief that doing so will lead to them feeling better about themselves.
This belief inevitably brings some worries about not playing well, which leads to feelings of anxiety. So, then they start looking for ways to stop feeling anxious and insecure.
They are searching for a solution to a problem that has nothing to do with the game of golf.
Wouldn’t it just make sense to not make happiness conditional on your performance in the first place?
Play Golf Like a Child
We didn’t do this to ourselves when we first started playing.
We hit some good shots. We hit some bad ones. We teed up another ball and had another swing. It didn’t mean anything beyond the playing of the game itself. It wasn’t personal.
When we play Monopoly we don’t believe that winning means we are now property developers, or that losing the game means we are financially destitute.
The board and the pieces go back in the box and the game is forgotten.
But for many people, golf is more than a game. There is a story about it, and they are the central character in that story. There is an emotional value in the time and money they have spent on improving.
They see it as an investment, rather than the price they would happily pay for an enjoyable experience. They feel that they need something back from the game, that golf owes them a return.
And if they don’t get one, at least sometimes, then they won’t get the payoff in terms of the feelings they desire.
And therefore, they feel anxious, insecure and unhappy when they play.
Balancing Performance and Enjoyment in Golf
Maybe it’s the challenge of the game that does it for you?
If enduring periods of struggle and stress for the rewards of relief when you play well is what you want your golf experience to be, then nobody has the right to contradict you.
If however, you are playing golf like this because you think it’s the only way to play, or maybe you are tired of feeling frustrated and exhausted when you walk off the course.
I just want to let you know two things:
One, you are not alone. Most golfers struggle to balance the challenge with enjoying the game.
And secondly, there is a way out.
Many golfers have had insights which enabled them to get the game back into perspective.
They have seen through the story and returned to playing golf like they did when they first started playing.
Hit it. Find it. Hit it again.
This is golf. The story isn’t.
Questions to Consider:
Check in with your own beliefs. Do you believe there is a causal relationship between playing well and enjoyment of the game. How could you test whether this belief is really true?
If the answer is yes, what feelings might you have when you begin a round, or when things don’t go the way you would like them to?
Is it possible that your feelings are coming from the belief identified above, rather than from the game itself? How could you find out?
Take a bit of time to consider the questions. If you would like to explore them further, you can follow this link to book a discovery call.
If you would like to read another article about playing your best golf under pressure, follow this link.
If you would like to read an article about enjoying the game, follow this link.