I play golf because I love the game and everything that comes along with playing it — time with friends/family, exercise, challenge, purpose, and a post-round beer, to name only a few things. This doesn’t mean there aren’t sporadic feelings of frustration and betrayal.
Most of us who play the game, in some ways, will experience the emotions of being in a lopsided relationship. It feels at times as though we love golf more than golf loves us. We put so much into it and at times get nothing back on the scorecard. When it feels like golf is betraying us, we swear coming off the 18th green that we need to take a break, just to wake up the next morning with renewed optimism, that our next effort or tweak will convince golf to be more faithful to us.
When I set goals for this season, a big focus was on my mindset. Mainly, to have fun and not give a f**k. Not in a completely careless way, just in a way that allows me to be less affected by things I can’t control. In a way that keeps things in perspective and reminds myself why I’m out there — for the love of the game and the great things that come with it.
My mindset got tested this past weekend in my first competitive match of the season, a best-ball match in the Calgary Golf Association Riley’s Best Ball tournament. Unfortunately, I lost sight of my mindset goals during this match.
To make a long story short, we outplayed our opponents from the tee and walking off the majority of tee boxes it felt like we had a significant advantage. I was hitting my driver pretty well, but they struggled. I mean, really struggled. However, golf was kind to them on this day. Their drives were blessed with many good bounces out of the trees back into the middle of the fairway, or they’d be graced with a line to the pin from the wrong fairway.
This was something I could not control, yet I let it wear me down mentally. Much credit to our opponents, who did a marvelous job of taking advantage of their good breaks and converted several of them into birdies and wins on those holes. They did what they were supposed to do in that situation. I got agitated and overly focused on results, rather than focusing on my own game and why I’m out there — to have fun playing the game I love and embrace the thrill of competition.
We ended up losing the match on the 17th hole. While all of our games showed signs of early season rust, something as simple as an improved mindset and resilience to things I could not control could have easily tipped the scales the other way in a match that was so close.
As a competitor, it’s easy to lose perspective in the heat of the moment, and it’s not until we look back that we can gain our perspective back. Everyone wants to win, so it’s easy to let our desire for an end result distract us from the process required to get there.
In retrospect, the dynamics and momentum swings of this match were fascinating and entertaining. We didn’t halve a hole until the 14th. It was a textbook example of why you never give up on a hole, and why you should always assume your opponent is going to get a good break or play a miraculous recovery shot. If you’re not prepared for it, it’ll wear you down. In fact, I’m willing to go as far as to say that we shouldn’t categorize anything that happens on the golf course as good or bad breaks. It’s all just golf. There’s no place for an asterisk on the scorecard because your ball got a good or bad bounce off a tree.
On that particular day, I let myself believe golf was betraying me for someone else. Of course, this isn’t actually true. Golf just takes the tough love approach. If we think too much about the end result, become complacent, entitled, or lose sight of why we’re out there, golf doesn’t hesitate to smack us upside the head.
Not to discourage us.
To encourage us to come back stronger next time.
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