By Alex Nicolson, PGA, Premium Golf Founder (First published in Golf Monthly 2013)
Golf, more than any other sport, is synonymous with frustration. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is that the default pair of specs handed out to golfers, the NHS freebies if you will, have in them a pair of “performance lenses” - “If I played better, I’ll be happier”. It is how the majority of golfers see the game. Whilst seemingly logical, and reinforced by the majority of the golf industry, I believe it is self-defeating. In the quest for enhanced enjoyment, my colleagues and I spend a large amount of coaching time dealing with the fundamentals of set-up and swing. However, these are just tactics in a bigger scheme. The real breakthroughs often come from a deeper force at work – a shift in perspective.
We are emotional creatures and our reaction to events, both within and outside our control, is heavily determined by our perspective. Our perspective colours our experience of the game as it happens, but it also influences how we learn from our mistakes and affects future choices. Take a step back from your golf, and discover what really determines whether you return home from a round cart-wheeling or cat-kicking.
Taking a Trip
I’d like to invite you on a metaphorical hot air balloon ride. There will be good views, peace and quiet, and probably a bottle of bubbly as well. If you get up above the clouds, the best bit of the journey is that you can leave the world behind for a few hours, enjoy the panorama and bask in the sun’s rays. A few checks are required before you head off. You, the balloonist, are in charge of making decisions and choices about the journey.
Balloon - Ignoring the fluctuations of form, this is your underlying ability to play the game.
Fuel - These are the ingredients, specific to you, that contribute to your enjoyment. As we will explore in future articles, these are both the performance and non-performance aspects of the game that, if present, inflate your mood and keep you coming back for more. Anything from long drives, to great views or good banter; the fuel will take you up towards the experience you crave. The ascent will be made easier if you can shed some baggage...
Sandbags - These can be any aspect of your golfing experience that is holding you down. We find that many golfers are unaware of what their heaviest sandbags are. They might cite a slice or the number of putts they take, but these are simply performance outcomes. The trick is to identify the source. If the slice tends to rear its head when you’re playing in certain situations or with certain people, then perhaps its source isn’t ‘technical’ after all. There may be a belief or habit that is holding you back, which can be cut free from your game and replaced with something that supports your enjoyment.
Basket - This represents the strategies and habits you employ to carry you round the course. The more consistent they are with each other and the reasons you play, the more tightly woven your basket is and the more likely you are to endure the occasional gust of wind. The golfing ether is full of thousands of things we apparently “should” do. The trick to truly enjoyable golf is to concern yourself with only those things which support the real reasons you play.
Clouds - These represent your standards in the areas that are important to you – the minimum level you feel you should get. Although rarely discussed, they influence whether you interpret your round as pleasing or not. They are the reason that two golfers of similar ability might react differently to the same score, or why a four and half hour round is acceptable to one golfer, but has his playing partner pacing furiously on each tee. Regardless of how good the results are, you will only feel the warmth of the sun’s rays if you break through the clouds. The questions are; are you aware what your standards are, how much are they grounded in reality, and do they enhance or detract from your enjoyment? Understanding this lies at the heart of getting more enjoyment from your golf game.
Why Look at it this Way?
Being a ‘better’ golfer doesn’t mean you’re having a better time - ask any pro at Tour School. However, enjoying yourself is surely a pre-requisite of leisure time. Moreover, it’s also an essential ingredient to improvement. If you have ever abandoned a course of lessons or stopped going to the range for a bit, the chances it’s because the fun factor had dropped.
The First Step
The place to start is to reflect on your most enjoyable golfing experiences and consider the real reasons you play. What is it you want to feel during and after a round of golf? You can get a taster by taking part in the online survey we are running with Golf Monthly and using your next game to think about it. In the following articles we will be sharing ways in which you can elegantly arrange the game of golf to meet your needs and truly float your balloon.