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When Golf Isn’t Fun Anymore

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I was just finishing a lesson with one of my most talented junior players, a 12-year-old girl who has won most every tournament she’s entered. She posed a question that I could not answer on the spot.

This game is supposed to be fun, right?” she asked. “I don’t feel like I’m having fun anymore.”

“Let me give that some thought,” I said. “When you come back for your next lesson, I’ll have an answer for you.”

When she returned the following week, I had written down my thoughts on a piece of paper. We sat down on a nearby bench.

“I’d like to read to you,” I said. “Are you ready?” She nodded enthusiastically.

“First, I think that as you started to win, what you would previously defined as FUN was replaced by SATISFACTION,” I told her. “This is what great players feel when they have reached an achievement. What happens is that as players move from beginner to expert, they define their experience differently.” I leaned over and showed her the graphic that I had drawn.

SCORES

100    90     80    75    70    65

FUN——TO——S-A-T-I-S-F-A-C-T-I-O-N

“Do you see that at a certain point fun is replaced by satisfaction?” I said.

“Yes,” she replied.

“What happens is there is a cross-over point in the mind of players,” I said. “As they become more serious about the game, their expectations increase. Second, beginners have no expectations when it comes to score. They are simply playing the game for entertainment. Beginning players may have fun because they have no expectation for performance. Third… and here is the last point. Perfection is not achievable. The vast majority of the shots you will hit in a round are serviceable misses. There are only one or two perfect shots per round. A player who insists on perfection can’t enjoy the game.” I paused for a moment to let the final point sink in.

“What do you enjoy about the game, “ she asked.

“That’s a fair question,” I said. “I enjoy the feeling of a solid shot as it strikes the club face; I enjoy the company of the other players in the group; I enjoy the sights and sounds of nature; I enjoy the fresh air and exercise. I could name more, but that’s a good start.”

I continued on: “I’m thinking that you have been so focused on improving your score and winning that you have lost sight of the more enjoyable parts of the game. You might find you are having more fun when you change your approach.

She corrected me: “You mean enjoyment?”

“Yes, thank you,” I said. “I meant to say enjoyment.”

“Did I succeed in answering your question?” I asked.

“You did,” she said. “Thank you.”

“Great,” I said. “Now let’s get back to work.”

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As a teacher, Rod Lidenberg reached the pinnacle of his career when he was named to GOLF Magazine's "Top 100" Teachers in America. The PGA Master Professional and three-time Minnesota PGA "Teacher of the Year" has over his forty-five year career, worked with a variety of players from beginners to tour professionals. He especially enjoys training elite junior players, many who have gone on to earn scholarships at top colleges around the country, in addition to winning several national amateur championships. Lidenberg maintains an active schedule teaching at Bluff Creek Golf Course Chanhassen, Minnesota, in the summer and The Golf Zone, Chaska, Minnesota, in the winter months. As a player, he competed in two USGA Public Links Championships; the first in Dallas, Texas, and the second in Phoenix, Arizona, where he finished among the top 40. He also entertained thousands of fans playing in a series of three exhibition matches beginning in 1972, at his home course, Edgewood G.C. in Fargo, North Dakota, where he played consecutive years with Doug Sanders, Lee Trevino and Laura Baugh. As an author, he has a number of books in various stages of development, the first of which will be published this fall entitled "I Knew Patty Berg." In Fall 2017, he will be launching a new Phoenix-based instruction business that will feature first-time-ever TREATMENT OF THE YIPS.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. David

    Feb 26, 2018 at 2:17 pm

    Really Really good article! Same predicament with my son. So hard to teach kids to find their enjoyment in certain things. For me, the enjoyment always came from “the idea of the possible”. Which is why I love golf. It is “possible” I can step on the course and shoot in the 70’s. It is “possible” I can knock this 6 iron from 190 out within 10 feet. It is possible I can bomb this drive 300 dead center… It is possible……

    Granted I fail more than I succeed but the idea of the possible is what I love about sports.

  2. Bob Jones

    Feb 26, 2018 at 1:11 pm

    You could ask her when golf was fun, what were the fun parts? Maybe you just forgot about them and you can go back to having fun in those ways. Or maybe she could think of new ways to have fun. Have her play a round with three clubs and a putter. Or play a round with the fewest putts she can (Hint: deliberately miss greens and get up and downs). Etc. Does she ever play a round just to enjoy it, or is playing always part of an improvement project?

    • laura

      Feb 26, 2018 at 4:54 pm

      … or is he grooming her to be a LPGA player so he can brag about his success?!!

  3. Jack

    Feb 25, 2018 at 9:10 pm

    No matter how you put it through rose colored glasses, it’s still a job. When it becomes more like a job it’s less fun for more people. But, when they realize they get to play what they love (there’s pressure to perform in every profession, though less than pro sports in most jobs). It’s usually the pressure to perform (and thus author’s spot on analysis of the chase of perfection) that gets to golfers.

  4. James Makkyla

    Feb 25, 2018 at 5:38 pm

    Totally unbelievably in my experience and self serving. Particularly you choice of getting back “to work”. Fail

  5. Kevin

    Feb 25, 2018 at 3:32 pm

    And you handeled that situation with a “perfect shot” sir. Sometimes this game can be very mean in many ways but the overall fulfillment outweighs the negative. Im sure you created a lifelong golfer by showing her there is way more to the game then just the score. Great work coach!!

    • DF

      Feb 25, 2018 at 8:32 pm

      She wanted continuous “fun” to satisfy her desire to be perfect. When she flubbed a shot she felt unhappy and that’s not fun.
      What Lidenburg didn’t know was Dr. Freud’s “Pleasure Principle”as it applies to children.
      In Freudian psychoanalysis, the pleasure principle is the instinctive seeking of pleasure and avoiding of pain in order to satisfy biological and psychological needs. It’s also called “instant gratification”.
      What he did was attempt to suppress the child’s natural instincts thus creating a neurotic condition in her innocent mind. Her natural mind is warped by an adult.
      “performance” occurs during the game and the “satisfaction” is delayed and even denied any
      “pleasure”.
      Competitive adults can deny “fun” gratification until the end of the competition. Watch tour pros suffering as they close in on the final back nine. They only take pleasure when they win.

      • CB

        Feb 26, 2018 at 1:08 pm

        No, that’s not it.
        At first, it’s the sheer joy of being slap-happy, just hitting balls. And then you wake up one day and realize, “I have to score?”
        Then the rules set in.
        Then you realize, to score Par, and then go low, you have to put more time in, and it’s not just about being slap-happy any more.
        It has nothing to do with satisfaction. It’s about not getting the results in a game that actually has rules, a game that has a scoring system that requires every ounce of your skills to get at that score, which is a very difficult thing to do, and overcoming that difficulty is hard, and hard is never fun.
        Until, you finally overcome that, and it feels OK for a second – and then you realize you have to beat everybody else at it, than just beating the scorecard, and that’s even harder.
        And for some, if that doesn’t come easy, then it’s not fun.

  6. Mj

    Feb 25, 2018 at 3:31 pm

    Score matters to everyone who is competitive

  7. farmer

    Feb 25, 2018 at 1:34 pm

    “Great, I said. Now let’s get back to work.” Maybe a better response would be, “Great, let’s go PLAY some golf.”.

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