Having Fun Playing Golf?

(Collaborative post by another author). Is playing golf fun? It can be if you want it to be. Is it a choice to have fun? The answer is a resounding yes, it is a choice to change your attitude and expectations. No doubt it has taken me a lifetime to transition to a much more relaxed attitude while playing golf, but I am having the most fun playing golf now than I ever have! And that is my choice.

Stock image from Canva Pro of a golf club about to hit a ball of a green golf course on a hazy sunny day


Choose to Have Fun

For the last twenty years I hadn’t played much golf when a good friend from work, who knew that I played golf in college, asked -- even insisted -- that we go play a public golf course near the ocean.  I resisted at first, but then I thought: why not? What do I have to lose? We did play golf together and it turns out my friend had a terrible swing and was a worse golfer. 

But he had something that I really had never encountered before: he had a great attitude. Nick loved the game and had a wonderful time on the course. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! How could such an awful golfer enjoy playing golf?  Seemed impossible to me, but there he was, hitting the ball all over the course, chunking chips and missing almost every putt he looked at. 

But the biggest difference in our games was that my friend was good humoured about his bad play and made light of his terrible shots, he laughed about it. And witnessing this really changed me. Maybe the problem all along was me.  In my early life I had developed a terrible attitude about golf. Could it be possible for me to play golf and have a good time regardless of how I played? 

Could it be that hitting a seven iron from 155 yards out and hitting it into a bunker is not the end of all life as we know it? Nick taught me that answer to that question was a resounding YES! It turns out that bad shots are not a reason to be angry, but an important part of golf and a way to get feedback to improve your game.

Why Do We Get Cranky?

The question of whether golf is a fun sport has been coming up in my golf group a lot lately.  Not sure why, but maybe because all of us are between the ages of 50 to 60 now. 

I guess as you get older, you tend to be a bit more reflective on how and why we do things with our time considering our families and other time-consuming activities we commit to on a weekly basis.  Some of my friends have been playing golf since they were kids, including myself (51 years and counting).  

Some of them started learning golf in middle-age and a few of my golf buddies started maybe around 10 years ago. In any event, playing golf seems to mean different things to different people and the level of fun they encounter while playing is tightly connected to that reason. 

For some golfers, they play to be competitive and just want to win!   For other golfers, they use golf as something to consume time with, as something to do on a sunny afternoon.  Still for other golfers, they play golf to be with their friends and just have fun. I had learned through competitive golf to be in the first category and that needed to change!

My Changing Goals Changed My Attitude

My adventure through golf from the time I started illustrates the different reasons I played, and the levels of fun that came along with these goals.  

I started to play golf when my father bought me a golf set for Christmas when I was nine years old. As I understand clearly now, our family was well-off and we had a membership to a beautiful golf course in Newport Beach, California.  My dad would take me down to the range and show me how to swing, strike golf balls and how to putt. It became the one thing my father enjoyed doing with me. 

I was immediately hooked on the sport of golf. Eventually, I’d play two rounds a day – for sheer fun! I really enjoyed playing golf and it made me happy to play with whoever I was paired with on the course. By the age of 16, I had become a scratch golfer at our home course and realised that I was better than just about any other golfer I played with. I had become more accomplished than my father was on the course, and I liked that there was something for which he was proud of me.

Competition

By then I was playing competitively in high school. I was working hard on my game and spending hours on practice and playing before and after school. 

My goals changed radically at that time as it all had become more serious. My attitude changed. My goal now was to be a great player and maybe become a pro someday. Having fun was not important anymore but being successful in competition was now the focus of my game, because it made my father happy. In hindsight, this caused me to be more nervous and uptight while playing. 

I remember once, after an important competition that I had lost, my father did not say a word to me on the long drive home. The fun was officially over, and I just didn’t enjoy playing golf anymore.  Sometimes I would play poorly, and I would get really upset with myself. Believe me, this did not help my golf one bit and my attitude just got worse because of it. 

After playing in college, I just wanted to do something different, do anything but golf. Even when I played for fun during those times with friends, some of them were getting very angry while they played, throwing clubs and having tantrums on the course. Trashing women passed for male bonding. I thought to myself, why am I even doing this? I stopped playing out of self-preservation and just wanted to get away from the toxic attitudes.

Keeping My Head In The Game

Nick taught me that my golf character is not based on success, but in how I deal with failure. It’s ok not to have to be perfect all the time. This took so much pressure off my golf game and finally allowed me to change my goal in golf to just having fun.

Some days I play well, some days I play poorly, and I have relaxed my expectations while playing, relaxed my body and attitude as well. 

Most interestingly, this change improved my golf game too. Last Summer, I played a difficult par 70 course in Henderson, Las Vegas and shot 68. For once, I played relaxed and enjoyed my round immensely. I knew during that round that if things fell apart on the backside that it would be ok and I still could just have fun. This was now my choice!

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