It’s great when someone gets in touch to say how much they are enjoying their golf. I know it might be hard to believe, but that isn’t always the case. For many – dare I say most golfers – enjoyment is fleeting and largely dependent on how they play.
Understanding why you play is probably the most important thing a golfer can do to help realise your potential.
‘Because I enjoy it’ is the best reason of all.
Everyone wants a satisfying, fulfilling and entertaining experience of the game.
When we were children, we played because we were happy, not in order to become happy. Unfortunately, that can change when we approach adulthood. This article will explore the reasons why that happens, and hopefully will help you keep enjoying your golf for many years to come.
Do You Need to Play Better?
So, you are currently enjoying the game. That’s a really good thing. But just check in with your experience for a moment. Are you enjoying the game simply because you are in a run of good form at the moment. Would you still enjoy the game if you weren’t playing so well?
As I mention on the homepage of my website, I generally assume that most golfers who get in touch aren’t happy with their game. Why else would you reach out to a golf coach? Most of these golfers have innocently fallen into the trap hidden in the marketing put out by the mainstream golf instruction industry. Namely that for you to really enjoy your golf, you always need to play better, to become a better golfer than you are now.
Many of these golfers were playing well and enjoying their game before they succumbed to this belief. But the game is inherently seductive. It always looks like you can save a shot here or there. Hit your irons closer, hit your drives longer, hole more putts. Golf is the perfect game for a hungry ego to feed upon. When it gets the taste we innocently start to put conditions on our own enjoyment. Conditions that weren’t there before.
The Expectations Game
Golf is a hard sport to play well. There are so many variables and facets to the game it’s almost impossible to have all of them going well at the same time. Especially if there are limits on the time you have available to play and practice. The main obstacle I see golfers putting in the way of their own enjoyment is with their anticipation or expectation of a certain outcome. They start making their enjoyment of the game conditional on a certain level of performance.
This tendency creeps in unnoticed. We have some success and enjoy the feelings that come with playing well. We assume a causal relationship between our achievements and those feelings. We forget that we started to play the game for its own sake, not because we were good at it. Expectations in a hard game like golf are especially corrosive. No sooner have you achieved a goal, then another one appears, then another, and another.
Expectations are inevitable. We all have hopes and aspirations. But you don’t need to turn your dreams into requirements. When you can see golf as a challenge to be enjoyed, rather than a problem to be conquered, you give yourself the best chance of playing to your potential and staying out of your own way.
Learning and Improving
So, how do you go about maintaining a healthy relationship with the game that allows you to enjoy it while giving you the best chance of finding out how well you can play?
Rather than looking forward to where you want to get to and making your happiness conditional on reaching a goal, try looking backwards at where you have come from. Are you a better golfer than you were yesterday, last week, last month?
If the answer is yes, then you are doing something right. Keep doing it! By looking at golf in this way, you are giving yourself little doses of positive reinforcement, rather than constantly chasing your goals towards a horizon that always moves away from you.
If It Isn’t Broken…
So, be aware when you are watching golf or reading golf magazines, that you aren’t getting your toes out on the slippery slope of creating expectations around the game. Remember, the game that you love now is the same game, whether you are shooting 65 or 95.
If you have a spell where the fun seems to have gone out of it, the first thing to do is stop and take stock. Make sure you aren’t trying to fix your feelings by fixing your game. In doing so you are chasing your tail.
This is where the golf instruction industry shares a lot of the blame for the struggles that golfers face. When you lose a bit of form, you are constantly told that the only way to enjoy golf again is to improve your skills or technique. But nothing in life is constant. Ebb and flow is the norm, not something to be concerned about or resisted.
As I mentioned earlier, the game hasn’t changed. You enjoyed it at some point, even when you began and were learning. The challenge is part of the fun. That’s why you still play. You were probably less competent then than you are now, yet you accepted the challenge and embraced it. The message from the big name instructors and YouTube gurus that the only way to enjoy golf is to set goals and to achieve them doesn’t stand up to the test of simple logic.
This is a trap that many golfers fall into even when they are enjoying themselves. Even at the professional level, a number of top players have tried to change their game to become even more successful and gone in the opposite direction.
The best reason for doing anything in life is as a celebration of life itself. Doing it simply because you enjoy it. If there is some challenge in what you are doing, if it doesn’t always go the way you would like or expect, you see that as a positive because of the opportunities for learning and growth that will come from facing that challenge.
There may be times when you struggle, but there is a calmness, even an enjoyment in the struggle. You haven’t attached your value or your wellbeing to a particular achievement or outcome.
Hopefully this article will confirm your approach and your feelings about the game. If so, feel free to get in touch. I enjoy talking to happy golfers as much as I enjoy talking to unhappy ones. And the best time to deepen your understanding of yourself and of the game, is when you have no pressing reason for doing so.
We learn best when we are curious about learning something for its own sake, rather than to become something or to try to escape suffering.