I hate it when this happens

Yesterday I was ready to play my best golf. Wanted to play freely and without fear of results. This little mission was partly because I know this is how I play well and in part due to the following I received on Friday night (from a regular reader),

Really looking forward to my Saturday morning comp tomorrow. More so than usual because tomorrow I play without giving a toss. Really. I don’t care and I’m just going to “hit” all day – off the tees, on the fairways, out of the rough and on the greens. All care will be taken to select the best shot (the one I know I can play), I will get a strong sense of what its going to feel like to actually hit the shot and then I will literally just walk up and tonk it. There will be no hovering over the ball. Its all going to be smooth and flowing. Walk up, hit, walk on. It will be almost like one motion. Score is going to be irrelevant. I’m going to play like that all day and whatever number is on the score card at the end of the day I’m really not interested. I know I can play this way all day if want to. I just haven’t really wanted to until now. But I REALLY do now. Because its relaxing and calming and suits my nature. I truly don’t care any more what anyone else thinks. This is all I want to do on a golf course. I’m going to watch everyone else huffing and puffing with quiet amusement. Good luck to ’em if that’s how they like to spend their Saturday mornings! If I end up getting bored with the game played this way that’s fine. I’ll quit and do something else. I’m seriously over “trying hard” on golf courses. Life is just too short. I don’t need it.

So I set out to really play the game with the above carefree attitude. I was determined to be,

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  • Free from unrealistic expectations
  • Free from distractions
  • Have an open mind and willingness to learn
  • Fully present and in the moment

Things started a little shaky. I made two early bogeys and could feel the frustration growing. I soldered on, not overly bothered.

I hit a nice shot into the 4th, only to see the ball spin away from the flag, leaving a tricky putt. Arrgh.

Pesky: That was unfair. You hit a better shot than that. Don’t 3 putt now or you’ll be really annoyed.

I managed a par and moved to the 5th (par 5). Here I hit a nice drive and a second shot that was a 9 out of 10. It looked like it was going to find the green only to come up a fraction short in the bunker.

Pesky: This is crap. It’s unfair. That was an awesome shot – if the ball flew a metre more you’d have a good look at an eagle. You’re playing well but not getting rewarded.

I wasn’t too concerned because I thought I’d make a good showing of the bunker shot. When I reached the sand there were two balls in the bunker, one was on a peachy lie, sitting up nicely and just begging to be hit. The other had kicked off the lip to the right. It had found a hole and because it had bounced so far to the right meant the angle wasn’t that easy. It was a tough shot.

I walked up to the first ball thinking it was mine. It wasn’t. I was stuck with the horrible position.

Pesky: Bullshit! You hit this great shot and now you’re punished with this. Why isn’t the other ball yours? You’ve got no chance of getting that one close. You can’t make birdie. You’re not having any luck here. If you don’t get this shot onto the green you’re going to ruin your score.

It only took 5 holes for my mission to come unstuck. I lacked discipline and any mental strength to get it together. I became so concerned about my score that I stopped playing the game. When this happens I almost always get sloppy and waste a series of shots.

I played the ball out – quite a good shot and had a decent look at a birdie. I was distracted on the putt and didn’t give it my full attention. It was never going in and I wandered up to tap it in. It was only a foot or so and should have been regulation. It wasn’t. Somehow I pulled the putt to the right and the ball lipped out. Ouch! Taken 4 shots from the edge of the green. Bigger ouch and a serious dent to the ego.

Pesky: This is so unfair. You didn’t deserve this. Your approach was so good. The game is not nice. It’s not going to be your day.

By now my goal of playing freely was lost. The next tee shot lacked any class – it was an ugly hook and is all I deserved. I was getting mad and frustrated. I wanted to yell and scream.

Pesky: Why don’t you walk off? You could leave after nine holes. Let’s think of an excuse to get outta here.

My recovery found the bunker and from there I can’t remember much (normally I have a good recollection of all the shots I play). After all the BS I was left with a 15 footer for par.

Pesky: I don’t care now. I’m going to give this putt a real go. I don’t care if it goes a way by.

Sure enough I smacked the putt. It just missed but left a really tricky downhill putt for a bogey. I broke my regular routine and tried to ram it in the back of the hole. It missed again. My putt for 6 was hit so hard that it nearly bounced out of the hole, somehow it stayed in.

Pesky: I hate this game. You’re playing pretty well and now you’re 5 over your handicap. Let’s get out of here – it’s just not fair.

At this stage I was able to stop myself from all of the internal garbage and remind myself to “play the game”. I stopped thinking like a loser and managed to play half decently. The annoying this was if I hadn’t carried on like a DH I would have scored decently. I hate it when that happens. It’s annoying to let a moment of weakness ruin your day. What’s more of an issue is the mental instability to not follow-through on your goal. And it comes about because we get overly concerned about our score – it’s an ego thing.

By entering the arena we sign up for the good and the bad. If you’re not prepared for some bad bounces then you shouldn’t play. If you think Automatic Golf is a guarantee you’ll always play well then you’ll always be disappointed.

But the lesson here is this…

If you can suspend your expectations for the duration of the round you’ll do way better. Pesky will have limited influence and you’ll get the most out of each game you play. I know all this sounds obvious, but how many of us can say they actually do this? How many have the courage to try?

Golf’s great success is that you can’t buy courage. It’s not going to turn up with new clubs or a different swing. Nope, you’ve gotta earn it and it starts from your very next shot.

Another thing. You’re always learning and probably never can truly master the game (scorewise at least). When complacency sets in so does all that horrible stuff and I certainly learnt a valuable lesson.

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  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply August 13, 2012

    “If you can suspend your expectations for the duration of the round you’ll do way better…”

    I think is a huge part of it. I’m fast coming to the conclusion that most of just have WAY unrealistic expectations and are just setting ourselves up to fail every weekend. I was reading Jack Nicklaus’s book again today where he says something like “no one ever got good at this game without LOTS of practice”. And that pretty much rules out 95% of us who play once a week and don’t do much else. Wasn’t it Ben Hogan who said he EXPECTED to make 7 or 8 bad shots a round so wasn’t concerned when they happened. This was at the height of his career as the best golfer in the world. That mean you, me and the mid-handicappers out there are going to make LOTS of bad shots every round – it simply can’t be avoided. The question becomes how are we going to process these? What are we going to make of them? And are we able to actually a enjoy a game that MUST include lots of bad shots? If we can’t somehow reconcile this we’re better off doing something else or we are just destined for endless frustration. Thats where my thinking’s at at present anyway. Will be interested to hear what some of you other long time players think.

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply August 14, 2012

      GP: I think you’re right. Even though we know we should play our ego kicks in and starts worrying about the score etc. It’s all really annoying and something we can’t get away from. Also pretty sure that the best players only his a handful (at best) of perfectly pure shots each game. It’s definitely not a game of perfect.

      It’s probably a lifelong mission and lots of bad scores, shots and frustration are part of the journey.

      In saying all of that, auto golf has given me plenty more highs and enjoyment from the alternative. Thinking about technique and trying to master the swing almost drove me to the point of insanity. When I’m on and truly playing, nothing comes close. Thanks again for sharing.


  • Lukey

    Reply Reply August 13, 2012

    Played in a 2 man Ambrose on Saturday with my best mate (old school not auto)and I told him as we were heading to golf that we were going to play without expectation and accept whatever happened.Now whilst we didn’t set the world on fire we did end up shooting 5 bogie’s 5 birdies and the rest were pars for a par round (really enjoyable).So this post emphasises if we forget about score and don’t have huge expectation you can play good golf.
    Cheers Lukey

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply August 14, 2012

      Lukey: I reckon you’ve highlighted things perfectly. Rarely will you have that complete shocker round and it will be somewhere between good and brilliant. The brilliant stuff happens when the putts drop and you get a bit lucky. For the most part we can all deal with good >> really good.

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