Psyched Online

Subject: Having Fun With Golf
DATE: Wed, 28 Jul 2004 July 2005

Virtually every pro golfer (or professional athlete of any type) you talk to or read an interview with, plays because they think it is fun. But sports aren’t fun for me. Even though I have some ability and am physically capable, I end up trying so hard that I turn everything (golf, volleyball, speed skating, and track) into work. I’ll go to the range week after week rather than go to the golf course to actually play because I don’t think I belong anywhere near a course. I’ll train and train and train but never run in races because I’m ashamed that I’m not better or afraid that I won’t do well enough. How do I lower my standards so that being an “also ran” is OK? Is that what it takes to have fun? I don’t want to give up trying to do better because I really believe I can. I don’t get mad, I don’t throw clubs, but every bad shot destroys what meager self-confidence. I have. I don’t want to be a touring pro, I just want to play better and be able to have fun and be fun to play with. Right now…I’m not.


Response: I’d like to offer some thoughts that may be useful. Of course, playing a sport at a higher level can add enjoyment. If you are one of those type A’s who can never do it good enough, enjoyment will not come with better performance.

Here’s one suggestion. Break down a round of golf into single shots. Think of each shot as a round of golf itself. Stop counting number of shots per round or per hole. Let someone else keep track of shots if you need to know at the end of the round how you did. Put each shot taken behind you – whether it is a good one or a bad one. In between shots, look at the scene. Take in the trees, the grass, the shadows, etc. This might sound silly, but it is so important to feel grateful for the day. Maybe you are playing with friends – maybe they are new acquaintances. Connect with the entire experience. When it is time to take a shot, go through your pre-shot routine, take your swing, and go back to the entire circumstances. It is as much a part of the game as the flight of the ball. Experience the gratefulness of having the day.

Also, it is important to look at playing as a learning experience. You’re not supposed to know it all and perform the task perfectly. You play the course to learn to play the course. Confidence is an important attitude to have when coming to play. But, expectations of high performance can make an athlete less resilient to misplays and make recovery more difficult. It becomes more difficult to get these disappointing plays out of your mind when expectations are unreasonable or only positive. In a round of golf where athletes strike the ball somewhere between 70 and 110 times, the expectations of doing everything well, is a set up to lose composure and experience unhappiness. It would be helpful to view training and practice as much a part of the game as playing the round on the golf course. It’s all about learning and growing and part of learning is slipping and falling and picking your self up and trying again. This is the game. This is what it needs to be about for all athletes, professional and amateur alike.

Good Luck,

Paul Schienberg, Ph.D.