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Opinion & Analysis

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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Opinion & Analysis

Squares2Circles: Course strategy refined by a Ph.D.

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What do you get when you combine Division I-level golf talent, a Ph.D. in Mathematics, a passion for understanding how people process analytical information, and a knowledge of the psychology behind it? In short, you get Kevin Moore, but the long version of the story is much more interesting.

Kevin Moore attended the University of Akron on a golf scholarship from 2001-2005. Upon completing his tenure with the team, he found himself burned out on the game and promptly hung up his sticks. For a decade.

After completing his BS and MS degrees at the University of Akron, Kevin then went to Arizona State to pursue his Ph.D. Ultimately what drew him to the desert was the opportunity to research the psychology behind how people process analytical information. In his own words:

“My research in mathematics education is actually in the realm of student cognition (how students think and learn). From that, I’ve gained a deep understanding of developmental psychology in the mathematical world and also a general understanding of psychology as a whole; how our brains work, how we make decisions, and how we respond to results.”

In 2015, Kevin started to miss the game he loved. Now a professor of mathematics education at the University of Georgia, he dusted off his clubs and set a goal to play in USGA events. That’s when it all started to come together.

“I wanted to play some interesting courses for my satellite qualifiers and I wasn’t able to play practice rounds to be able to check them out in advance. So I modified a math program to let me do all the strategic planning ahead of time. I worked my way around the golf course, plotting out exactly how I wanted to hit  shot, and minimizing my expected score for each hole. I bundled that up into a report that I could study to prepare for the rounds.

“I’m not long enough to overpower a golf course, so I needed to find a way to make sure I was putting myself in the best positions possible to minimize my score. There might be a pin position on a certain green where purposely hitting an 8-iron to 25 feet is the best strategy for me. I’ll let the rest of the field take on that pin and make a mistake even if they’re only hitting wedge. I know that playing intelligently aggressive to the right spot is going to allow me to pick up fractions of strokes here and there.”

His plan worked, too. Kevin made it to the USGA Mid-Amateur at Charlotte Country Club in September of 2018 using this preparation method for his events just three years after taking a decade off of golf. In case you missed the implied sentiment, that’s extremely impressive. When Kevin showed his reports to some friends that played on the Web.com Tour and the Mackenzie Tour, they were so impressed they asked him to think about generating them for other people. The first group he approached was the coaching staff at the University of Georgia, who promptly enlisted his services to assist their team with course strategy in the spring of 2019. That’s when Squares2Circles really started to get some traction.

At that point, UGA hadn’t had a team win in over two seasons. They also hadn’t had an individual winner in over one season and had missed out on Nationals the previous two seasons. In the spring of 2019, they had three team wins (including winning Regionals to advance to Nationals) and two individual wins (including Davis Thompson’s win at Regionals). Obviously, the credit ultimately belongs to the players on the team, but suffice it to say it appears as though Kevin’s involvement with the team was decidedly useful.

“One of the things we really focused in on was par 3 scoring. They finished 3rd, 2nd, 4th, and 3rd in the field as a team in their spring tournaments. Then at the SEC’s they struggled a bit and finished 6th in the field. At Regionals, they turned it around and finished 1st in the field with a score of +6 across 60 scores (186 total on 60 par 3’s, an average of 3.10).”

Sample Squares2Circles layout for the 18th hole at Muirfield Village. Advanced data redacted.

Kevin is available outside of his work with UGA and has been employed by other D-I teams (including his alma mater of Akron), Mackenzie Tour players, Web.com Tour players, and competitive juniors as well. Using his modified math program, he can generate generic course guides based on assumed shot dispersions, but having more specific Trackman data for the individual allows him to take things to a new level. This allows him to show the player exactly what their options are with their exact carry numbers and shot dispersions.

“Everything I do is ultimately based off of strokes gained data. I don’t reinvent the wheel there and I don’t use any real new statistics (at least not yet), but I see my role as interpreting that data. Let’s say a certain player is an average of -2.1 on strokes gained approach over the last 10 rounds. That says something about his game, but it doesn’t say if it’s strategy or execution. And it doesn’t help you come up with a practice plan either. I love to help players go deeper than just the raw data to help them understand why they’re seeing what they’re seeing. That’s where the good stuff is. Not just the data, but the story the data tells and the psychology behind it. How do we get ourselves in the right mindset to play golf and think through a round and commit to what we’re doing?”

“Even if you’re able to play practice rounds, this level of preparation turns those practice rounds into more of an experiment than a game plan session. You go into your practice round already knowing the golf course and already having a plan of attack. This allows you to use that practice round to test that game plan before the competition starts. You may decide to tweak a few things during your practice round based on course conditions or an elevation change here and there, but for the most part it’s like you’ve gained a free practice round. It allows you to be more comfortable and just let it fly a lot earlier.”

Kevin is in the process of building his website, but follow @squares2circles on Twitter for more information and insight.

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Podcasts

The Gear Dive: Mike Yagley and Chad DeHart of Cobra Golf

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In this episode of The Gear Dive, Johnny chats with Mike Yagley and Chad DeHart of Cobra Golf Innovation on Cobra Connect, new ways to evaluate good play, and the future of golf improvement.

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

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Mondays Off: U.S. Open wrap-up | Steve plays against the new assistant pro

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Would Woodland have won the U.S. Open if he had to hit driver on the 18th hole? Knudson doesn’t think so. Steve loved the U.S. Open, but he didn’t really love the commentator crew. Also, Steve tees it up with the new second assistant pro at the club, how did he do?

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

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