Improve Your Golf
I don’t know many golfers who aren’t interested in improving. Perhaps that shouldn’t be a surprise. The people who come for coaching have self-selected as not being happy with their game as it is. But even when I’m playing socially, or just chatting to golfers around the golf club, it’s rare to meet one who isn’t ‘working’ on their game in one form or another.
Why Do You Want to Get Better?
When a golfer and I begin a coaching conversation, one of the questions I often ask is
‘Why do you want to improve?’
Most people are somewhat taken aback by the question. It is almost a given that every golfer has the expectation that for them to enjoy the game to its fullest, they need to become a better player than they are now.
But is that the case? Is it possible to just enjoy your golf playing to the standard you do at present? What will be different about the experience if you become the golfer you want to be? Do you know anyone who just plays the game for fun, with no expectations of improving? Is enjoyment of the game just about your scores or your handicap or winning matches?
These may seem to be awkward or irrelevant questions, but I urge you to give them some thought. After all, there is no guarantee that trying to change your game will lead to the improvements you were hoping for, as numerous Tour Players have found when they decided to change or ‘improve’ their swings.
The Joy of Learning
Now, I’m not for one minute saying you should or shouldn’t try to get better. I’ve long since gone past thinking that I know what’s best for other people. But I have been around the game for long enough to see that some reasons for wanting to improve are more conducive to learning and enjoying the game than others.
In any endeavour where we choose to challenge ourselves, and golf is one of the most challenging games of all, there is an inherent satisfaction in learning and improvement. The Aha! moment that we all have had at some point in our golfing lives, where something just clicked and the difficult became easy is one of the most enjoyable and satisfying experiences any golfer can have.
If your motivation for improvement is to have more of those Aha! moments, and you are not too rigid in your beliefs about what those realisations should be, then you are on the right path
If however, you want to improve for external reasons, for reasons based on particular outcome or result such as shooting a certain score or getting a particular handicap, some caution might be in order. The sense of enhancement or pride in achievement or attainment is an addictive drug, but the effects are short lived. Soon after you have achieved the goal, your ego will be telling you that you need another hit.
Golf is the perfect vehicle for your ego to inflict damage on your mental wellbeing if you let it.
Feeding The Monster
The golf industry feeds on this ego driven pursuit of success and achievement. It is constantly touting the idea that you should and indeed need to be better than you already are. The prevailing narrative is that you will be happier and enjoy your golf more when you are a better player than you are now. That suffering, getting worse before you get better will be worth it in the long run.
What they don’t shout quite so loudly is that their business model relies on golfers being unhappy with their game. No sooner do you reach one goal, then another one is hung up there, just out of reach. And notice how it isn’t the intrinsic satisfaction of learning for learning’s sake that is promoted, but the achievement, attainment or recognition from others.
Your Learning Priority
When we think about learning or improvement in golf, we usually think about some sort of technical or physical change. Something you can see or measure. But as alluded to above, for me and many of the golfers I talk to, there is another form of learning that the game is the perfect vehicle for.
I believe that the primary purpose of golf and all games is to explore the nature of your own experience and better understand yourself. To my mind, this should be the starting point for learning. If you don’t understand the nature of the window you are looking through, you don’t really understand the view. If you don’t understand the nature of who or what is learning, how do you evaluate what is being learned?
As many of us have found, the game of golf is endless. You will never complete it, or learn every detail or nuance. But learning about yourself is actually much simpler. And it is the key to having the experience of the game that we are all searching for.
I hope this essay has been helpful. I applaud your desire to learn and improve and to realise your potential as a golfer. But please don’t lose sight of the fact that the purpose of the game is to enjoy playing it. Too many golfers sacrifice that enjoyment in the quest to reach a goal and turn the game into another form of work.
In short, if practicing and learning is enjoyable and brings you happiness, keep going. If on the other hand it feels like an arduous process, punctuated occasionally by brief highlights of relief, then please get in touch for a chat.
It isn’t your game that needs a fresh look, it might well be your beliefs about yourself.