Dealing with an Overly-Competitive Partner

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Dealing with an Overly-Competitive Partner

When you’re golfing with someone who puts more emphasis on competition than you’d like, this can strain your relationship and your round. Here are 3 tips to deal
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Written By:

Sara Robinson

Sara is a Mental Skills Coach specializing in work with athletes. She received her M.A. in Sports Psychology from John F. Kennedy University and did her undergraduate work at New York University. Sara also helps support busy working moms develop their mental skills and create more balance at getmombalanced.com.

At some point, you might find yourself playing golf with someone who is more competitive than you are, or puts an emphasis on the competitive aspect of your outing more than you’d like. This can be frustrating for golfers who are on the course to have fun and enjoy the experience. Or, if you’re someone who likes competition, but an individual in your foursome is overly so, this can potentially ruin the experience and the relationship. By understanding that you can only control yourself (but also what you might be able to do to help the situation), you can have a better experience with players who are more competitive than you.

 

What to do when someone is more competitive than you’d like:

 

Tip 1: Nicely shift the conversation away from competition

If someone you’re playing with regularly points out how well they’re playing, or how they’re doing better than you, it can be a good approach to change the subject. Try to acknowledge what they say, but then move onto another topic. Here are three ways to do that:

  1. Change the subject, for example, “Yes, you did hit that really well. Did you see that the club is having an event next week?”
  2. Shift the focus to the process, not the outcome: “Great job! What did you work on with the pro to help you do that?”
  3. Acknowledge what you’re focusing on and that it’s not about the score or who’s doing best, for example: “You are doing well this round! I’m focused on my mechanics today.”

By nicely changing the subject, you’ll hopefully engage in a different topic for a while, but you may need to shift the conversation more than once.

 

Tip 2: Stay focused on yourself

It can be hard when you’re playing with someone who continues, on and on, about competition, so you’ll want to work on focusing on yourself. Essentially, tune out the parts of the playing relationship that don’t work for you. First off, remember you can only control yourself: You can’t change your partner (though check out the next point for how to talk to the person about it, which could lead to change), so shift your focus to yourself. Start to pay more attention to what you’re thinking, working to change negative or distracting thoughts to more positive and helpful ones. Setting goals is also useful: decide what you want to work on, how you’ll get there, and then stay focused on that when you play with your competitive partner.

 

Tip 3: Address the issue head on

As a Mental Skills Coach, I work with athletes quite a bit on how to be effective communicators. In some situations, you can use the above tips, but communicating about what’s happening may bring a better resolution overall. To start with, talk with this person, away from the course, as opposed to in the moment when it’s happening. You’ll both be in a better space, mentally and emotionally, to talk about what’s happening. When you do talk about it with her, focus on how you’re feeling as opposed to pointing fingers at what she’s doing. The next time you play, if she starts to get competitive, gently remind her that you’d prefer a friendlier round- it may help if you can do this in a light tone, as opposed to a stern reminder. Ultimately, if nothing changes and the other tips aren’t working, then maybe you don’t play with her as much moving forward and perhaps you can suggest another player who is better-matched with her preferred level of focus on the competition.

 

As a golfer, you’ll play with many types of players, some will be more competitive than you, and others less so. While there doesn’t have to be a perfect match, if you find you’re frustrated by the level of competitiveness, these tips can help you manage the situation more effectively.

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