The story of two golfers…

Two golfing buddies play every week. They are the same age, work in similar jobs and have three children. They’re both ambitious and have a strong competitive streak.

Twelve months ago Steve was playing off 20. Without working on his swing or changing his technique, he has manged to drop his handicap to 12. His only significant change has been playing more regularly, once or twice a week, compared to a monthly game.

His mate Dave is a different story. He plays off ten, and has so for years now. But he’s stuck there – despite weekly lessons, new clubs and 3 rounds per week. He works constantly on his game, tries hard but can’t seem to improve.

Steve walks off the golf course feeling energised and alive. Dave usually walks off feeling frustrated, tired and angry. Steve feels he is getter better while Dave hasn’t played to his handicap in the last 10 rounds and is talking about giving up.

Worse for Dave is that he hasn’t beaten Steve in three months. This is not easy for him to take. He hadn’t lost to Steve since they were juniors and was considered the “golfing guy” amongst their friends – now Steve has taken over while everyone is wondering what has happened to Dave.

What’s the main difference here?

Steve has learned to play golf. He is able to swing the club naturally and powerfully. He’s not overly concerned about mechanics, positions or style. He simply swings the club freely and without self-doubt. Dave on the other hand is a student of the game. He reads the golf magazines and is constantly tinkering with his swing and equipment. His mind is full of technical thoughts and he is striving for the perfect golf swing. Dave used to play golf, but now he is more worried about his style and doing things correctly.

Dave has lost the magic. While Dave spends most of the day searching for that elusive “perfect” swing, Steve keeps hitting better shots and having a good time. When Dave hits a poor shot (which is happening more of the time) he needs to have five practise swings and explain the fault to anyone that will listen. When Steve hits a bad shot (occasionally) he shrugs his shoulders and gets the ball back into play. He realises that golf can be difficult and indifferent shots are part of the game.

Their most recent game highlighted the difference perfectly.

Dave played the first hole well, making birdie. Steve three putted for a bogey.

On the second, Dave tried to replicate his opening drive from the first and made an unnatural and over-controlled swing. The ball barely stayed in bounds, coming to rest in deep rough. Steve stepped up to his ball and made his usual swing, an aggressive one without care or concern. Although Steve plays with a fade, he hits the ball deceptively long. His ball found the right side of the fairway.

Dave’s ball was in thick rough. Instead of playing a conservative shot, he went for the green with his hybrid wood. With his mind still concerned about the previous shot, he made another bad swing. The ball went straight left, over the fence and into a neighbour’s swimming pool. After taking his penalty drop, he hacked the ball onto the fairway and then watched Steve make a “fuss free” swing that ended on the front of the green.

Dave managed to eventually get his ball onto the green and made seven. Steve, his mind free of concern from the previous three-putt, safely two-putted for par. He felt good about his game and looked forward to the rest of the round. Dave was not doing so well. Despite making a birdie on the first hole, he was worried about his swing and not sure what to do about it.

Steve was having the round of his life. He parred most holes, had two birdies with the odd bogey on the tougher holes. Poor Dave was having a nightmare game. After losing another ball on the ninth he gave up. He stopped trying and thought about walking in. Steve convinced him to continue and consoled him with the thought that even bad golf was better than going to work …

When they putted out on the 18th Steve has broken 80 for the first time. He had scored a career best 76.

Despite having a horrible front nine Dave had managed to play better for the remainder. With a more relaxed attitude his swing became more powerful and accurate. He hit the par five 16th in two shots for the first time and discovered the elusive “perfect swing” he had been searching for. His last drive travelled over 300 metres, leaving him a short approach shot to the green. He left the green feeling good about his game.

Over a beer at the 19th hole Dave quizzed Steve about his fine form. Dave was certain that Steve had been having lessons or had found the a magic formula. Steve laughed, and told Dave that there were no such things as magical formulas and he hadn’t been seeing a golf pro.

Steve explained that Dave had the necessary talent to play great golf. But by trying so hard and attempting to play perfect shots he made the game more difficult that it needs to be. He went on to say that Dave had inadvertently discovered the perfect mindset for golf over the back nine. He had let go, and stopped trying and was rewarded with the golf shots he had long been searching for.

A light went off in Dave’s head. He realised instantly that he didn’t perform any other activity like he had been playing golf. He drove his car, rode a bike and played tennis instinctively and naturally. Those tasks didn’t cause him any grief or frustration.

Those last nine holes had given him an insight into how good he could be and a chance to rediscover his best form. He had tried everything to improve his play and nothing had worked consistently. It was now time to put trust in himself and forget all those other rules and regulations that had been holding him back.

It was now time to play golf.

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