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Golfers: Go easy on yourselves!

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Heres a fact for you: nearly half of all golfers will never break 100, according to the National Golf Foundation. Less than that will ever break 90, and only five percent will ever break 80. Golf is not an easy game, so you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it. Period.

I’m not here to go all Zen golf on you; I can only speak from personal experience, but the moment you accept that, regardless of your ability to score, you can have a lot of fun, the more you will truly enjoy the game of golf.

When I first learned to play, like many, I was not very good. Everyone I played with was way better than me, and although I don’t remember a lot of those early rounds, I can remember moments of feeling embarrassed for my play. It wasn’t because of the people I was playing with, they were all very helpful and patient, but for some reason, I knew that I was not helping the group. It is those memories that allow me to make sure no matter who I play with now, I make them feel welcome on the course and help them any chance I can.

We all started somewhere, and regardless of how many rounds we have played or how low our handicaps have gotten, we need to be accepting that anyone that takes the time to try and play golf should be afforded the opportunity to learn and enjoy the game.

Even with my current level of play, the insecurities of being a newbie creep in from time to time, I never want to feel like I am the reason my group is being slow—although I must admit that with my normal pace of play that’s not usually an issue. I played a round very earlier in the year during a trip to Florida where I was paired with what I would call very regular golfers, players who generally break 100, but struggle with aspects of their game. Even then, just like when I was 10 years old, I was having a hard time out of a bunker one the second hole and after blading one into the pond on my second attempt (give me a break, it was my first round in four months), I just walked to the green, tended the flag, and told them I’d take my ESC (equitable stroke control) number for the hole. Thas describes my golf game, and I’m OK with that.

Too many golfers get caught up in how the pros play—from the tips, bombing drivers, expecting to make six birdies a round. Players on the PGA Tour are like the aliens from Space Jam (I just seriously dated myself) the Monstars. They have every skill imaginable, and get to do this for a living—you better believe they are going to be good at it. There is NO reason as a 10-15 handicap you should be slamming clubs and stomping your feet for missing a green from 150 yards. It’s just part of the game. Heck, even Rory McIlroy misses greens from time to time. Do you ever hit it like Rory?

Expectations are part of the human ego, and if we don’t manage them properly, we will always feel like we are inadequate. In reality, we should approach every challenge (even something as simple as golf) with the idea that today I have the opportunity to be great, but there is also the equal chance I will fail. We learn from failure, we improve after failure, and it’s not something we should be scared of.

No matter your score, make it fun, enjoy the day, embrace the challenge. Your expectations can make or break what to take from every round of golf you play, and if you think for a second this is the worst golf ever played—trust me it’s not. It’s just one round of many bad rounds played every day, and the next round is your next challenge. Honestly, you’re not as bad as you think you are.

Go easy on yourself. Golf is a lot more enjoyable that way.

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Ryan Barath is part of the Digital Content Creation Team for GolfWRX. He hosts the "On Spec" Podcast on the GolfWRX Radio Network which focuses on discussing everything golf, including gear, technology, fitting, and course architecture. He is a club-fitter & master club builder with more than 17 years of experience working with golfers of all skill levels, including PGA Tour players. He is the former Build Shop Manager & Social Media Coordinator for Modern Golf. He now works independently from his home shop and is a member of advisory panels to a select number of golf equipment manufacturers. You can find Ryan on Twitter and Instagram where he's always willing to chat golf, and share his passion for club building, course architecture and wedge grinding.

22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. ChipNRun

    Sep 3, 2019 at 11:23 pm

    Reasons why people quit:
    * Unrealistic expectations.
    * Disappearance of “adult time” in USA society. With the prevalence of designer children, everyone wants to supervise their kids 365 a year so that the kids “reach their potential”. Sports travel teams, soccer season blending into little league baseball. Once these ambitious couples have their second child, it’s 20 years before they can play Sunday golf together again.

  2. Ashton

    Aug 21, 2019 at 9:55 am

    “Do you ever hit it like rory?”

    Yea…sometimes he putts like me

  3. John Burns

    Aug 18, 2019 at 11:15 pm

    I have found that by playing to a “personal par” the game is less stressful and more enjoyable. Keep track of your average score for a few rounds and then try and beat your average by 1-2 shots (you have played well and were under “your par”}. Mark up the scorecard to change the par on holes so it works out to your personal par score. Maybe your par is 88, so you try and make a bogey or better on 16 holes and a par on two easy holes you pick.

    It s a great way to measure improvement too. I see too many people shoot the round of their lives like a 77, or 87 or whatever and get mad when they can’t duplicate the best round of the season over and over again.

  4. joro

    Aug 18, 2019 at 9:31 am

    Very true. The fact that we who once played great have a different game at 80. But as I always say, the memories are still there and we have to realize they are only memories. We are lucky to be able to play.

  5. TTidey

    Aug 17, 2019 at 7:36 pm

    Well said Ryan!! I was just pouting over a bad round, one week before my club championship. Isin’t there an automatic invite to Augusta if you win your CC? 🙂

  6. David Harris

    Aug 17, 2019 at 5:55 pm

    Why don’t we make the hole bigger-from 4 inches to 8 inches-for amateurs

  7. Ed in NM

    Aug 17, 2019 at 5:14 pm

    Your stats put things in perspective including that only 5% of golfers will ever break 80. I wonder if the false expectations of many amateur golfers who think they should be playing like the pros is a big reason why some people quit the game in frustration.

  8. Dennis Rubery

    Aug 17, 2019 at 3:05 pm

    Over the years i have lost alot of good guys who have passed away and golf was there life.
    Now i apreciate im here to play the game im grateful …

  9. Bogeyman

    Aug 17, 2019 at 12:49 pm

    Totally agree. I tell new golfers that no one cares how well you play – only how quickly you play. Be ready to play your shot and be still and quiet when others are shooting and you will never lack for playing partners.

    • Dennis Rubery

      Aug 17, 2019 at 3:04 pm

      Over the years i have lost alot of good guys who have passed away and golf was there life.
      Now i apreciate im here to play the game im grateful …

    • Bill

      Sep 3, 2019 at 1:49 pm

      great point, Bogieman.
      I’ve played with people that throw clubs, cuss and scream at their shots and basically make it uncomfortable for everyone they play with (usually only play with them once, if possible). Being able to laugh at your mistakes and keep them in perspective is the only way you can enjoy this game long term.
      It’s a hard game. The hardest, actually. You never master it, you only have varying degrees of success. Because of this, it’s also the best character builder of all the sports.
      The ego is a funny thing, but this is true for all. We ALL have a talent ceiling. Accepting that helps you keep the bad rounds and shots in perspective as well as the great shots and rounds. That’s when you fall in love with the game. We can raise that ceiling a bit with lessons and practice, but everyone has a ceiling. Be grateful for the days you get a glimpse above your normal ceiling and have a beer or family to enjoy when you shoot average or less.

  10. Kelly fitzgerald

    Aug 17, 2019 at 11:51 am

    Totally agree. I am trying not to be too hard on myself. Used to average a 79 or 80 now at 59 I average around 85. Just need to realize I can’t play like I used to. Golf should be fun not stressful. I’m trying real hard!

  11. Acemandrake

    Aug 17, 2019 at 10:56 am

    Play once in a while without keeping score. It will reduce the anxiety of playing with expectations.

    You’ll want to do it more often.

  12. Tom Duckworth

    Aug 17, 2019 at 10:29 am

    When I watch golf on TV its interesting to me to see how the top twenty change from week to week. It just highlights to me how up and down their game can be.

  13. bosshog919

    Aug 16, 2019 at 1:06 pm

    Usually playing with better players often motivates some to put in the work and get better as well. At least that’s how it worked out for me. Most ONLY see the results of a lot of practice and time on the course and think it will just come….well that’s DEFINITELY not the case for most. Although, if/when I am on the course my expectations are always to play well, but I have to keep in mind that if I’m only playing twice a month, those expectations have to be adjusted and just enjoy the time out on the course.

  14. Distance Compression Dude

    Aug 16, 2019 at 12:30 pm

    If more golfers invested on some lessons and applied what they learned, they might just break 100 (maybe even 90 and 80).

    The problem is that a lot of “golfers” think that they can just pick up a set of clubs and expect to play well. That’s not how it works.

    If you’re a hack, then keep hacking away. However, if you wish to play better, see your local PGA Pro and practice.

  15. trwaggo

    Aug 16, 2019 at 11:52 am

    Watching PGA Tour Live has made me a much more patient and happy golfer. When you just watch on the weekends you’re seeing the best players in the world with the their A games – because they’re leading.

    Watching a guy on Thursday shoot 75 is pretty informative. The number of times I’ve watched pros miss the green from inside 125 yards is too high for me to count, the number of 3 putts and duffed chips and balls left in the bunker…pros are aliens but even they have bad days and/or bad stretches and they certainly hit bad shots.

    Im still hard on myself – but it’s in a much more positive way than it used to be.

    • Bill

      Aug 17, 2019 at 9:44 am

      This guy gets it. I don’t have PGA live now, but at one point I did. Only watching the leaders on the weekend creates a false reality. Those golfers leading are playing at their very best on the weekend, which is hardly their reality 100% of the time. It’s important to be able to see those 75 score rounds and all of the frankly bad shots out on tour. Most recently I recall Henrik Stenson’s glorious shank. That was good to see and certainly softened up my expectations.

      • GotThaRight

        Aug 17, 2019 at 3:24 pm

        I noticed that too when watching The Masters on their website. They had it where you could see almost every shot. And yes those guys are really good though even they arent the robots that are shown come sat and sun afternoon. What CBS and NBC show us during that coverage is the best of the best at their very best.

        • 3rd times a charm

          Aug 17, 2019 at 3:28 pm

          I think what seperates the pros from very good/elite amateurs is that pros quickly get over a bad shot and only focus on what they can do next. Not what has already happened.

  16. chris pottle

    Aug 16, 2019 at 11:31 am

    Everyone was much better than I or I was – not me

    • Tom

      Aug 19, 2019 at 8:34 am

      Love it when someone tries to play grammar police and it turns out they’re wrong.

      “Everyone was much better than me” is grammatically correct. Easy way to test? Substitute in the third person:

      “Everyone was much better than him”, not “Everyone was much better than he”.
      “Everyone was much better than Chris”.
      “Everyone was much better than you”.

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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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The Wedge Guy: The 5 indisputable rules of bunker play

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I received a particularly interesting question this week from Art S., who said he has read all the tips about how to hit different sand shots, from different sand conditions, but it would be helpful to know why. Specifically, here’s what Art had to say:

“I recently found myself in a few sand traps in multiple lies and multiple degrees of wetness. I tried remembering all of the “rules” of how to stand, how much to open my club, how much weight to shift forward or back, etc. based on the Golf Channel but was hoping that you might be able to do a blog on the ‘why’ of sand play so that we can understand it rather than memorizing what to do. Is there any way you can discuss what the club is doing and why you open the club, open your stance, what you’re aiming for when you open up, and any other tips?”

Well, Art, you asked a very good question, so let’s try to cover the basics of sand play–the “geometry and physics” at work in the bunkers–and see if we can make all of this more clear for you.

First of all, I think bunkers are among the toughest of places to find your ball. We see the tour players hit these spectacular bunker shots every week, but realize that they are playing courses where the bunkers are maintained to PGA Tour standards, so they are pretty much the same every hole and every week. This helps the players to produce the “product” the tour is trying to deliver–excitement. Of course, those guys also practice bunker play every day.

All of us, on the other hand, play courses where the bunkers are different from one another. This one is a little firmer, that one a little softer. So, let me see if I can shed a little light on the “whys and wherefores” of bunker play.

The sand wedge has a sole with a downward/backward angle built into it – we call that bounce. It’s sole (no pun intended) function is to provide a measure of “rejection” force or lift when the club makes contact with the sand. The more bounce that is built into the sole of the wedge, the more this rejection force is applied. And when we open the face of the wedge, we increase the effective bounce so that this force is increased as well.

The most basic thing you have to assess when you step into a bunker is the firmness of the sand. It stands to reason that the firmer the texture, the more it will reject the digging effect of the wedge. That “rejection quotient” also determines the most desirable swing path for the shot at hand. Firmer sand will reject the club more, so you can hit the shot with a slightly more descending clubhead path. Conversely, softer or fluffier sand will provide less rejection force, so you need to hit the shot with a shallower clubhead path so that you don’t dig a trench.

So, with these basic principles at work, it makes sense to remember these “Five Indisputable Rules of Bunker Play”

  1. Firmer sand will provide more rejection force – open the club less and play the ball back a little to steepen the bottom of the clubhead path.
  2. Softer sand will provide less rejection force – open the club more and play the ball slighter further forward in your stance to create a flatter clubhead path through the impact zone.
  3. The ball will come out on a path roughly halfway between the alignment of your body and the direction the face is pointing – the more you open the face, the further left your body should be aligned.
  4. On downslope or upslope lies, try to set your body at right angles to the lie, so that your swing path can be as close to parallel with the ground as possible, so this geometry can still work. Remember that downhill slopes reduce the loft of the club and uphill slopes increase the loft.
  5. Most recreational golfers are going to hit better shots from the rough than the bunkers, so play away from them when possible (unless bunker play is your strength).

So, there you go, Art. I hope this gives you the basics you were seeking.

As always, I invite all of you to send in your questions to be considered for a future article. It can be about anything related to golf equipment or playing the game–just send it in. You can’t win if you don’t ask!

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Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Task to target

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