Golf is hard.
Watching The Open at Hoylake last weekend was a treat. It was fabulous to see Rory McIlroy win, and Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia battle it out for second place, on such a marvellous golf course. If you’ve never played links golf, you really should try sometime soon.
It was also notable, though, how much some of the great stars of the game struggled, even when scoring conditions seemed good. Pretty good shots often found their way into trouble, and average shots were often severely punished.
A crucial part of being a good golfer is to respect the challenge of the game. Golf is hard, and appreciating this fact will improve your golf, and your enjoyment of this great game – good rounds will be so much more satisfying, and bad rounds can be used to learn, to improve, rather than be a reason for frustration and excuses.
So many golfers constantly beat themselves up for bad play, especially amateurs. Golfers who are regarded as true greats of the game struggled to score well last weekend, and yet you can’t forgive yourself a bad shot? A little perspective may be in order.
One of the most important skills in golf, one that will make you a far better golfer, is learning how to give yourself credit for taking on the significant challenge that is golf, and to forgive yourself for being a mere mortal. The alternative is self-loathing, not liking who you are out on the course, and no matter how good you are this will stop you from getting better, from becoming the golfer that you wish you could be.
You will improve much faster and perform better if you force yourself to be positive, even if this seems artificial.
Great golfers have very healthy egos, and a big part of this is that they respect themselves for taking on such a difficult challenge, enduring all of the obstacles that the game throws at them, and yet they still strive to improve every day. Every time that a golfer responds positively in the face of adversity, it makes him better – a better golfer, a stronger person.
This strength, reinforced every day by forcing yourself to respond positively to little things, is what will give you the power to succeed. It gives you the patience to know that all your practice and hard work will pay off, to understand that improvement often comes in plateaus rather than at a steady rate. It gives you faith in yourself, and believing in yourself will help you to perform well even when things go wrong, rather than panicking and losing your composure.
You should be proud to be a golfer, you’re doing something remarkably difficult, and it’s okay to play badly sometimes. When you play well, when you improve, it’s a credit to your strength of character.
Remember that the reason you took up this game was to have fun. Pause, take a step back, and appreciate all that golf has to offer. You’re in beautiful surroundings, playing a great game, with people who share your passion and are your friends. Love what you do, and carry yourself that way, you’ll perform far better.
This positive attitude is a powerful mental tool that provides real benefits out on the course. It will help you rebound from a bad shot or piece of misfortune, to quickly put it behind you and stay in the present, where you need to be in order to perform at your best for the next shot.
Remember that all of the good things in your life, the ones that gave you the most satisfaction, came through hard work and through overcoming adversity. In golf, as in life, it is the journey, not the destination, that must bring you satisfaction.
So many golfers are constantly complaining – about their misfortune, their swing, their equipment, the condition of the course, their playing partners. Such behaviour betrays a lack of confidence and a lack of self-respect. It’s ugly. These golfers are preparing themselves to lose by creating excuses in advance. They will never get better.
Do you want to be that kind of golfer? I don’t!