For the Love of the Game

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.

Storey Creek Golf

Happy golfing

-Josh

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10 thoughts on “For the Love of the Game

  1. Sorry to hear you guys lost the match. Good to hear you have taken a positive lesson or learning experience away from it. Which means you still won. Congrats, and good luck on your next match.

    1. Hey Daniel,

      You bet. I think anyone who plays the game regularly (especially competitively) goes through these things…to be successful is not to avoid them completely but to learn from them and become better in the long run as a result. Good luck this season!

      Cheers
      Josh

  2. Josh, it’s tough not to confuse effort with results especially when they diverge. Silly game. Better luck in your next match.

    Have fun out there!

    Brian

  3. Good lesson to learn! It’s hard to stay in the right mindset, hitting great drives and being in Position A throughout the day sometimes gives you more pressure. Striking it bad off the tee and getting a good bounce and clear line to the hole is almost like playing with the house’s money, you know you shouldn’t win the hole with a tee shot like that but given he break, you are relaxed and then step up and hit a great approach. I always tell my students its “How Many?” at the end of each hole not “How?” That’s why I love guys like Spieth who can grind out a round. He can hit a ball 60 yards off line (13th at the Open) but still feel like he is going to win the tournament and knows one swing can swing the momentum back his way. Good lesson to learn Josh and glad you guys are playing golf in Calgary!

    1. Cyrus,

      That’s a good point…that could definitely free one up and make you feel like you’re playing with house money. Particularly in match play where the consequence of not pulling off a “recovery” shot isn’t quite the same as stroke play. I wonder if there’s a way to always get in the mindset of playing with house money…maybe a near death experience or something? Haha! As always, appreciate the positive words and perspective from you.

      Hope your season is going well so far.

      Cheers
      Josh

  4. Hey Josh,,
    Great insight on your experience and the things that make golf both so amazing yet infuriating at times. Sorry you got the silver medal that day, sounds like you deserved better. But a rich learning experience is worth much in its own right. Wishing you many W’s over the rest of the season. Play well and have fun!
    Cheers, Mike
    PS – I’ve had driving days like you wrote about, like I was living some charmed life!

    1. Hey Mike,

      Thanks my friend, the learning experience early in the season will surely serve me well for the rest of the year! Hope your season is off to a fun start.

      Cheers
      Josh

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