I’ve just moved jobs. I’ve gone to a fantastic new place, with a huge number of golfers of all ages and abilities. This has given me time to question why I do what I do. I feel very fortunate to be in a job that I honestly love. The truth is that I teach golf and build connections with my players because I truly believe the game of golf can teach us so much. To share this gift and do my part in improving people’s game thus increasing their enjoyment and having a positive impact on their outlook on life is my way of giving back.
With that in mind, this article is going to be about how you, the golfer, can have some more fun on the links. After all, if you really thought about it, isn’t that why you play the game? To have fun? To enjoy being outside with good company?
Just this week I taught a member who was considering leaving the game after a run of terrible rounds. Of course, as a golf professional and coach, my advice would be to get alongside your golf professional who can work with you to help you reach your goals but this article will give you other ways.
Play an appropriate length course
If you look at the average driving distances for PGA Tour professionals (compared to the length of course they play) and then compare that with your distances, you may realize how difficult reaching your goals are. Chances are the tees on the course you play are disproportionately long for the driving distance you have. If just playing with some friends, try this one out: Play from a forward set of tees, maybe even from the very forward tees and enjoy the feeling of driving close to the green of a par 4 or marking a birdie down on your card. It is fun hitting more greens in regulation too. After working with a lot of juniors this summer with Nike Junior Camps in Pebble Beach, I know how resistant they were to trying. When this was tried out though, the levels of fun shot up massively. Give it a go; it is also a fantastic way to build confidence and your comfort shooting lower scores.
Play some different formats
There are a whole heap of alternatives to typical stroke play, which can be a lot of fun to try. Rather than stroke play where each mistake is seen and attention drawn to it, have fun with a skins game or stableford round where you can move on quickly and not let a bad hole get you riled up. Away from the mistake-avoidance environment that stroke play often induces, you will have more opportunities to learn and discover new things while trying other formats. If you are playing with a group of friends, but not in a monthly medal, why not go out and try a Texas scramble competition. Or in a pair, allow yourself to play the hole, alternate shots, from the position of your best drive or, if you really want a challenge, from the worst ball. From personal experience, I can say that playing golf with friends who play much less than me, but within a fun format, can greatly increase enjoyment for all of you. If you find this one tough to do, perhaps start tracking a few stats and see how your improvements go. A few examples that will leave you focused on the positives rather than your score could be: number of solid drives hit/crisp irons hit/birdies or pars made.
Lose the scorecard
Every golfer is different, and there are many way to enjoy this great game. But, as a challenge, in the next round that you play just forget to pick up a scorecard and play a round without keeping track of your strokes. Less focus on your score frees you up to really enjoy the company, the surroundings and much more. As crazy as this idea sounds, give it a go. See what happens. You may even notice your level of play greatly improve.
Go play a different course
I’ve been fortunate enough to play a few courses that hold top professional events, and it is a great feeling to go out there, on holes you may recognize from TV, and see how you fare. This season, go try a few different courses and make a day of it. I can’t imagine you won’t enjoy it.
Practice with games
Rather than just treating some putting practice as something boring that you need to do to lower your score, bring a friend along and play some games at the same time. Sudden-death holing-out competitions starting from near the hole and getting farther away are sure to get interesting when the loser is paying for food in the clubhouse afterwards. On the driving range, experiment with different heights and curves of golf shots. Imagine golf holes out on the range that you hit toward, or create nearest-the-pin competitions. I imagine your practice will suddenly become more interesting.
For those of you who don’t want to throw away the scorecard, move away from your current golf course and the back tees or deviate from playing stroke play, I have one final idea that may help:
You know that strange phenomenon where you have nine great holes and then nine terrible holes? Or you start awful only to finish it off with a great back nine and end up finishing somewhere near your handicap? My suggestion is this; next time you go to play, split your scorecard into six rounds of three holes instead of one round of 18 or two halves of nine each. This simple change in mindset often allows you to let go of previous bad holes a lot more easily than having to wait till the back nine for a new start. It also helps you stay in the present, not getting nervous/excited/ahead of yourself when on for a career best round after 12 holes, before it all falls apart.
I hope to hear from you soon, and that you have some more fun out on the course. I imagine you have even more ideas too; please feel free to leave them in the comments below. Remember as a great coaching friend of mine, Sara, says on Twitter: #golfisfun