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The secret to golf happiness? Put enjoyment ahead of achievement

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Sometimes things get fuzzy in golf and a reset is exactly what you need.

Very often my phone will ring, or I’ll get an “emergency” text and a player-client will be in a funk. Their focus unconsciously shifts to the many distractions around them. It’s often about things they have no control over. They’re worried about an outcome, their enjoyment disappears, everything seems difficult and the game becomes tedious. This starts the inevitable downward spiral.

In my business, it’s all about achievement — reaching higher and getting to the next level. If I don’t generate the results for a client, and help them find the potential within themselves, I’m out of a job. And, that’s the way it should be. I’m in the high-performance business and performers want results.

The tricky part here is that, humorously enough, focusing on the achievement is not the best way to go about elevating achievement.

In order to get to a high level of performance and reach set goals, there are two primary areas that are important to elevate performance and sustain it. I always refer to enjoyment as the first cog in the wheel and achievement as the second cog. The order is quite important because enjoyment is always a key to sustainable high performance. Can you succeed without it? Yes, for a short period. But, over time, when enjoyment is not at the center of performance, I get the call like the one I mentioned above.

From a young age, many golfers pursue achievement so aggressively and persistently that they actually forget about the enjoyment part. They assume that if they seek achievement — and get it — enjoyment will just follow automatically, but it’s not quite that simple.

I was a direct victim of the enjoyment vs achievement phenomena when I played professional golf. I would practice as hard and long as I could to get better, continually pursuing golf perfection that I thought was needed to play professional golf, and I slowly slipped into a state of misery, not knowing that enjoyment might be important in having a sustainable professional golf career. In retrospect, if I focused more on seeking enjoyment in the game and really enjoyed the journey, and put a central focus on the real reason why I was playing the game (because I loved it and it was fun) and created a plan around that, my career results may have been significantly different. I blindly pursued achievement, but forgot about enjoyment.

So what does that mean for you?

You might consider your perspective of enjoyment and achievement and try shifting the enjoyment to the forefront of your golf experience — no matter what your level. Think about why you play. Is it to enjoy the game or achieve something, or both? For almost all of us it is both. If it is for you, remember the order of importance; enjoyment will support achievement, not the other way around. Making enjoyment a priority will help you in your pursuit of achievement and reaching your potential in the game. Putting achievement first may not help you maximize your golf experience and could put you on a path where your original purpose (your love of the game) may get lost in the shuffle.

So, go ahead and achieve something in the game. Have a plan, work hard and make progress. But don’t lose sight of enjoying the game and your purpose for playing it. If you focus on this balance, sustainable achievement will be possible and you’ll maximize your time in the game.

This is transferable to everything you do. The more you enjoy something, often the better and more consistent you’ll be!

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John Haime is the President of New Edge Performance. He's a Human Performance Coach who prepares performers to be the their best by helping them tap into the elusive 10 percent of their abilities that will get them to the top. This is something that anyone with a goal craves, and John Haime knows how to get performers there. John closes the gap for performers in sports and business by taking them from where they currently are to where they want to go.  The best in the world trust John. They choose him because he doesn’t just talk about the world of high performance – he has lived it and lives in it everyday. He is a former Tournament Professional Golfer with professional wins. He has a best-selling book, “You are a Contender,” which is widely read by world-class athletes, coaches and business performers.  He has worked around the globe for some of the world’s leading companies. Athlete clients include performers who regularly rank in the Top-50 in their respective sports. John has the rare ability to work as seamlessly in the world of professional sports as he does in the world of corporate performance. His primary ambition writing for GolfWRX is to help you become the golfer you'd like to be. See www.johnhaime.com for more. Email: john@newedgeperformance.org

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. more than one way to skin a cat.....

    Apr 21, 2016 at 9:30 pm

    Your not shooting the lowest round of your life, try to shoot the best you have ever on the next hole. Or play for good shots and take score outta mental equation if not for money or in tourney. Don’t beat yourself up! Botttom line, you’re on the course. Many others aren’t that wish they could be, and are not for one reason or another. I’m never going on the tour. My index is there for a reference in competitive golf matches. In the end, we all play good sometimes, and bad sometimes. Your golfing, find enjoyment somewhere while at what I consider my home away from home. There is always a way to make it fun, may be the worst round you ever had, but if you keep playing that may be the day your scorecard showing all of your 3-putts, has a hole-in-one is hanging in the proshop proving to you and others you should never give up or let it get to you.

  2. digitalbroccoli

    Apr 21, 2016 at 3:46 pm

    If you can’t laugh at you own bad shots, you’re playing for the wrong reasons. Until we start making a living shooting lower scores, just enjoy the game.

    • John Haime

      Apr 21, 2016 at 5:15 pm

      Hi DB …

      Professionals also need to pay attention to the enjoyment. Perspective can spiral quickly if priorities are not in the right order. This really does apply as much to those making a living playing golf.

      Thanks for the comment!

  3. MRC

    Apr 20, 2016 at 5:28 pm

    Enjoyed your article John. Eight months ago I set a goal to lower my index the best way I knew how to….Hard work and dedication. In three months, my index went from an eight to a five.
    I was on on cloud 9 so I thought. To play golf consistently at this level wasn’t going to happen. I found myself getting upset on the course rather than enjoying my time playing golf. The fun dried up and I wanted to quite playing this awful time consuming sport. Your article put everything into perspective. I’m playing tomorrow and putting enjoyment ahead of achievement!
    Thanks again!

    • John Haime

      Apr 21, 2016 at 9:52 am

      Great comment and I think alot of people feel the same way MRC. Congrats on the drop of the index – but that can be challenging when more time and effort is required to keep getting better. We’re all trying to achieve and get better – but I think the message of the article – putting enjoyment first – insures people will maximize their time in the game, stay with it and improve their level of play with a great attitude toward their game. If the fun dries up, time to change something!

  4. Shallowface

    Apr 20, 2016 at 3:16 pm

    Agree. There is NOTHING enjoyable about bad golf.

  5. Headcase

    Apr 20, 2016 at 2:37 pm

    Actually, this article makes perfect sense. Normally when I hit a few bad shots, the wheels come off the bus and I’ve got no way to right the ship (mixing metaphors, but you get the point). It’s a vicious circle; I’m unhappy with my play which leads to more bad shots, which leads to more unhappiness, etc

    I was fortunate enough to play TPC Sawgrass last Sunday. It was a thoroughly enjoyable round, despite the howling wind. I hit a series of pretty loose shots early on the back 9, but was able to convince myself that it was a nice day and a nice course (in pretty good condition, but not quite ready for primetime yet). After a few holes that were trending the wrong direction, I took a few deep breaths, reminded myself that it’s a good day and a fun game. I even managed to play the 3 finishing holes in 1 over (pretty good, for me!).

  6. timbleking

    Apr 20, 2016 at 1:18 am

    What if your enjoyment IS actually achievement while playing golf?

    • John Haime

      Apr 20, 2016 at 1:45 pm

      This is a big problem with many golfers. If they don’t achieve what they expect – they don’t enjoy themselves. Fine to enjoy and appreciate good play – but carefully prioritize enjoyment and achievement. As you know, you won’t play well everyday – and hit alot of bad shots – so enjoy the journey – good and bad – reflect – and keep building your game.

  7. rory

    Apr 19, 2016 at 8:34 pm

    why not enjoy it anyways….or sell your clubs and stop playin cause obviously you missed every point Haime made…..ijs

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Podcasts

The Gear Dive WITB Edition: Ping Tour rep Kenton Oates talks Viktor Hovland

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In this WITB Edition of The Gear Dive, Johnny chats with Ping Tour rep Kenton Oates on the ins and outs of Puerto Rico Open Champion Viktor Hovland’s golf bag.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

They also cover Jim Wells Putters and the legendary Ping Eye 2 wedge.

Viktor Hovland WITB

Driver: Ping G410 LST (9 degrees @ 8.5; flat standard, CG shifter in draw)
Shaft: Project X HZURDUS Black 6.5 (44.5 inches, D3 swing weight)

3-wood: TaylorMade M5 (15 degrees @ 14.5)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei Blue AV 85 TX

Irons: Callaway X Forged UT (21 degrees), Ping i210 (4-PW)
Shafts: Graphite Design Tour AD DI-85 X Hybrid (21), KBS Tour 120 X (4-PW)

  • Standard length, .5 degrees flat, D2+

Wedges: Ping Glide 3.0 (50-SS, 56-SS @ 55, 60-TS)

  • 50SS (35.25 inches, 1-degree flat, D3, “Half Moon” Grind)
  • 56SS (35 inches, 1.5-degree flat, D3+)
  • 60TS (34.75 inches, 2-degrees flat, D4)

Shafts: KBS Tour-V 130 X

Putter: Ping PLD Prototype “Hovi”

  • 36″, 20-degree lie, 2.5-degree loft, stepped shaft

Ball: Titleist Pro V1

Grips: Golf Pride MCC White/Black 58R

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Realistic expectations

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(Today’s post is one I actually wrote nearly eight years ago, but I’m using it to start a series about “thinking your way to better golf.” I hope you enjoy the next few weeks.)

One of the great regrets of my life is that I missed the fatherhood experience, never having had children of my own. As I get older, I find that I gravitate to the younger folks, and offer my help whenever I can, whether on the golf course, on the water fishing, or just life in general. One of my joys is working with younger kids on their golf. That includes instruction, of course, but what I think is more important for them in the developmental stages is to learn to manage
their expectations. Actually, we all could benefit from that bit of advice.

On Sunday, I had the joy of playing with the 16-year-old son of one of our partners at SCOR Golf. Kyle is a tremendously talented young man who I’ve worked with quite a bit, but he really hasn’t committed himself to golf yet. I’m talking about the kind of commitment that keeps him working hard at it as long as there is daylight. He might not ever get that, and that’s OK, but he hasn’t figured out yet that your expectations can only rise from your achievements, and not from your desires.

On a core level, Kyle has great strength but hasn’t learned to harness it yet. He wants to choose his clubs based on his maximum distance with that club—if everything falls exactly into place. Like most golfers, and especially young ones,
he’s enamored with the power game. When we play, I show him that throttling back and controlling the shot is much more reliable.

What I discovered Sunday is that Kyle has very unrealistic expectations about what a round of golf should really be like. He, like most of us, expects all the shots to be struck solidly and fly like he imagined. So I explained that he hasn’t
earned the right to have such expectations yet. His scores average around 90-95 and his best ever is an 85.

So, here’s my point (finally)

Kyle was off to a good start with three pars and two bogeys in his first five holes. He kind of “fat-pulled” a 4-iron approach on a 200-plus yard par three. His shot left him only 10-15 yards short and left of the green, but he wheeled around, dropped his club and expressed his disgust with the shot. And I got on him about it. “What’s wrong with that? It’s a difficult par-3 with a 20 mph crosswind and you are in good position to get up and down or at least make no worse than bogey on one of the hardest holes on the course.”

I went on to explain that he was only two pars away from tying his best round ever, and if he just played for bogeys – and stay excited—he would probably make twice that many or more. And I seemed to get through to him of the reality
of golf, or his golf at least. He stayed in the moment, with only a little more cajoling from me, and shot an 86—one shot off his best ever! And I MADE him congratulate himself on his accomplishments. Instead of focusing on those few
shots that were bad, and the 2-3 doubles he made, I told him to focus on the good that came out of that round.

So, here’s my point (or points) for managing your expectations, too.

  1. If you are a low single-digit player, you’ll still only hit 2-3 shots a round just like you wanted.
  2. If you play to a 12 or higher, any shot that keeps you in the game isn’t really all that bad.
  3. Regardless of your skill level, there is no such thing as a “birdie hole” when you are standing on the tee. A “birdie hole” can only be claimed when you have executed an approach to makeable putt range.
  4. If you are a 12-15 handicap player, you only need to make 3-6 pars to beat your handicap, as long as you don’t chop up any holes. Bogeys are good scores unless you regularly shoot in the 70s!

So, the next time you are on the golf course, try to set and manage realistic expectations. Your golf will be better for it, and you’ll have a ton more fun.

NOTE: I read a great article this morning by Geoff Ogilvy about the quality of golf being played on the PGA Tour. It reflects what I’ve often said about how the modern tour professional plays the game. Here it is.

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Mondays Off

Mondays Off: Does Viktor Hovland deserve a Masters invite for his win?

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Viktor Hovland won a side event in Puerto Rico against a limited field, so does he deserve the Masters invite? We can’t have a show without talking about Partick Reed. He got a huge win at the WGC Mexico and was it a revenge win against the media? Knudson was out on the range testing some new gear.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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