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Enjoying Golf – Performance


It’s great that you are enjoying your golf at the moment. My aim is to help you realise your potential as a golfer without detracting from or diminishing that enjoyment.

Not every golfer maintains their enthusiasm for the game as they improve. As you might be aware, the prevailing Culture of Golf and Golfers asserts that your happiness and enjoyment of the game are largely based on a single element of it:

Your performance – measured by your score.

Think about it. When was the last time you played a round of golf without keeping at least a mental note of how the round was progressing against par or your handicap?

The judgement you made about the quality of your experience – whether you enjoyed the game or not – was probably influenced by the numbers written down on the scorecard.

This was certainly my experience of the game for many years.

Is Focussing On Performance Helpful?

The golf instruction industry thrives on and in many ways perpetuates this culture. Think about this for a moment too. How much money is there to be made from golfers who are happy and enjoy their game, regardless of how they play?

How many lessons, training aids and new drivers are you likely to buy if you don’t think there is somewhere better to get to? Something you need to become in order to feel more OK about yourself and about the game?

And what happens when you do experience success? How long does the feeling of achievement and fulfilment last before the little voice in the back of your head starts suggesting you need to set more goals in order to maintain your enjoyment?

Golf is the game you can never perfect. So if you are deeply caught in this misunderstanding, your experience of the game is likely to be long periods of seeking and wanting, punctuated by brief spells of relief when a goal is attained.

Having been part of the golf instruction establishment for a few years, I have seen it from both sides. I have been a client of the industry, and been part of it. The key problem is this:
Your performance over a period of time isn’t in your control in the way that you might have been led to believe that it is.

Your golfing performance is a symptom of other things. The result of many external and internal elements all working together. When you make your happiness and wellbeing conditional on something that is outside of your control, you are at the top of a long and slippery slope.

A Vicious Circle

The Performance, Enjoyment and Learning triangle described in my first book was the brainchild of Tim Gallwey, author and architect of the well known ‘Inner Game’ coaching model. Performance sits at the top of the triangle, supported by enjoyment and learning.

In my experience working in other sports especially with young people, the reason for conceptualising it in this way has become clear.

Performance is the natural result or outcome when someone is enjoying their sport, and is learning from their experiences. If either enjoyment or learning is absent, performance declines.

Yet so many golfers I meet are confused. They innocently make enjoyment dependent on their performance. This is where a dip in form can become a slump.

If you stop enjoying the game, you lose your enthusiasm. If you lose your enthusiasm you stop being open minded and curious.You become frustrated and bored when things aren’t going well and other ways of spending your free time become more interesting.

You play worse when you do get out on the course, which makes enjoyment even more elusive and the downward spiral gains momentum.

Enjoying the Game if Performance Dips

Many golfers come across my work because they want to play better. Often in seeking to improve, they have gone in the opposite direction. So, if and when your form deserts you, you need to have courage.

Take a deep breath and acknowledge the discomfort and anxiety of not playing well. As all the major philosophies and spiritual traditions suggest, suffering is for a reason. It is telling us something.

Unfortunately, Western culture has led us to believe that the route out of suffering is to achieve more. To attain more. To do more. This is the opposite of the truth. As you might have noticed in your own golf, trying harder doesn’t often lead to better results. And the happiness we feel from achievement or attainment is short lived. It often leads to more wanting, more seeking, more suffering.

When it comes to golf, what suffering is really telling us is that we have lost our way. We have forgotten that happiness doesn’t come from achievements or success, it comes from playing the game for its own sake. Young children play as an expression of freedom, not as a route to freedom. They do not place conditions on their own happiness.

Escaping the Trap

The moment that you realise that your enjoyment of the game does not depend on your performance, you are on the path to liberation. And maintaining your enjoyment even if things aren’t going well becomes much easier. This is a big leap of faith for many golfers. The grip of our golfing culture is strong.

But think about it logically. At some point you fell in love with the game. You probably performed less well back then than you do now, yet you enjoyed it. Why else would you have continued to play? Even if the game was a challenge, you enjoyed that challenge. You embraced it.

The game doesn’t change. The only thing that might change are your expectations, innocently placing conditions on your own enjoyment. If your enjoyment of the game fades at some point in the future, check in with your own experience. Notice the inner story. Have you bought into a belief that you can only enjoy golf if it unfolds in a certain way?

Who is telling that story?


The biggest leap forward in my own enjoyment of the game came when I saw that the story I was making up about how golf had to be wasn’t reality. It was fiction, not fact. I stopped playing the game to try to become happy. I realised I was happy just to be playing. In that moment all the pressure I was putting on myself evaporated. Golf was fun again. And I played better.

Understanding that enjoyment leads to performance, rather than the other way round is the key to realising your potential as a golfer. Giving yourself permission to question the common belief that it does is the first step.


Questions to consider:

When was the last time you played a significant round and weren’t aware of your score?

Think back to when you last had a good round, or maybe won a competition or a tournament. How long did the feelings of satisfaction last for?

Be honest with yourself. Would you still be enjoying the game if you weren’t playing well? What would you do to try to regain your enthusiasm?

If you’d like to have a chat about any of these questions, please use this links to book a discovery call.

If you aren’t ready for a conversation, you might find one of the following articles interesting and useful.

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