As I sat down to write today’s article, I was reflecting on a few conversations that I had this week with a few golfers, both adults and juniors. We talked about their golf and what they were trying to achieve with their games. What hit me was how we all tend to gloss over the fact that golf is a hard, a relentless game under the most benign circumstances, let alone under competition, or harder yet, when it is your livelihood. Why is golf so relentlessly hard? Well first it requires a player to not only have a high level of skills physically, but also the mental skills to handle the bad breaks you get when hitting good shots or while you are having to recover from a bad hole. Golf is a game that is not played on the same “field” each time like basketball, tennis, or football. Every shot taken is truly a new shot, one that you have never had before. Now I know you are thinking but, when I practice, I can hit the shots well. Ok, I’ll give you that one. Having the skill to hit a golf ball is good, but the skill to hit a golf shot while in competition and under stress is not the same shot. It is the hard thing about the hard thing of golf, you don’t get to practice this until you are in the moment. Golfers tend to minimize this and get upset when they are unable to pull off a shot, for example: a drive that requires you to thread the needle to a fairway surrounded by OB left and drop off the cliff right, with two holes to play, with a good round going leading you to possibly qualify for a significant tournament, or even to win an event. This is not an easy task until you have gained the knowledge of knowing what this feels like multiple times and have had success doing it. This is the essence of the steps of learning: 1. Gain knowledge of, 2. Practice with knowledge and feedback, 3. Play with practiced skills, knowledge, feedback 4. Compete with practiced skills, gain more knowledge, feedback, 5. Repeat the process with gained experience and knowledge, feedback.
If you can have a growth mindset perspective while playing golf and/or playing golf at a high level as an ever evolving learning process, it may be less stressful to you while you play in tournaments. If each event you play in is for learning or testing your abilities, and not something to be viewed just as winning or losing. Golf is a game to be played, not conquered. You can’t beat golf, but you can play the heck out of it. It is why even the best players in the world are challenged by the game. Tiger or Rory can shoot 63 one day and on the same course the next day shoot a 73. As you may have heard in a recent interview after Rory’s victory, a great round; “I stuck with my process, didn’t let my mind get ahead of me, hit each shot as the most important shot, if something happened, golf is a hard game, I was able to manage my mistakes, I just tried to execute on each shot, got a couple of lucky breaks and was able to bring it in and win.”
Golf is freakin’ hard! It requires your attention and presence to play well consistently. It is a game to be played from start to finish. Here is a great quote from Lloyd Magrum that sums it up well, “Golf is the only sport I know of where a player pays for every mistake. A person can muff a serve in tennis, miss a strike in baseball and throw an incomplete pass in football and still have another chance to square himself or herself. In golf, every swing counts against you.” And this is a reason why golfers love and hate the game, every swing matters. This is the hard thing about golf, mono-a mono, you against you!
Enjoy your journey!