Ahh, the game of golf. Games are fun, right?! Well, as you know (maybe all too well!)—golf is not always fun. In fact, sometimes it’s just plain frustrating. And for most of us, that frustration usually comes when we’re not playing well.

Shanking balls, landing in water, hitting above your normal stroke count, and anything else that tells you that you’re not playing well can be a golfer’s nightmare.

But—what if there’s more to golf than playing well? Instinctually, you probably know that’s true, but in reality, playing the game well is probably what you’re going for.

It’s way too easy to lose site of the fact that golf is a game and should be fun because we also want to improve, learn, and be “successful.” In golf, ideally there is a balance: playing well matters, but not always.

Sometimes golf should just be fun

Think about kids playing golf for the first time. They usually love getting out there, where they get permission to swing hard and whack a ball. A lot of them laugh at themselves when they miss. Sure, at some point they get annoyed, but those newbie golfers are usually just having fun.

Why is that?

Because they’re not bogged down by pressure, expectations, or beliefs about their abilities. They’re just enjoying the moment and have low expectations about what will happen.

With this idea in mind, take some time to get back to the mentality of being a “new golfer” and enjoy the experience with fresh eyes and no expectations for how well you do.

Golf is what you do, not who you are

As you play more, become more competitive, and start caring about how you play, the game becomes less about having fun and more about how you perform. This shift can lead to you connecting how you feel about yourself with how you play.

Ever had a bad round and then felt down about yourself after? Of course—you’re human! But, allowing this to happen on a regular basis means that you’re no longer in complete control of how you feel about yourself and your self-worth may suffer.

Good or bad play, playing a friendly foursome or in a fierce competition, it’s important to remember that golf is what you do, it’s not who you are. Yes, you can identify yourself as a golfer, but that’s not all you are, and it’s important that when we feel upset about how golf goes, that we don’t let it make us feel badly about ourselves.

Think about kids again. If they struggle to hit the ball straight, should they feel badly about themselves as people? Nope! If they keep hitting to the bunker, should they beat themselves up so that their self-esteem goes down? Of course not! So why would we let ourselves fall into these traps?

Remember that golf is a game, and you are a strong, athletic, intelligent, [fill in the blank] person who plays that game. Sometimes you play the game well. Sometimes you don’t. No matter what the outcome is, you are still a strong, athletic, intelligent, [fill in the blank] person. You might have also had a good or bad golf day.

If playing well matters, make sure you also have fun

It’s normal to stop having fun and to focus solely on how you’re playing from time-to-time. But when this happens, we run the risk of wrapping up our self-worth with how we play. Additionally, when we take things too seriously, we may see our performance declining. You know what it’s like to over-try, over-grip, and under-perform.

Playing well can be important to you, but make sure it doesn’t become what is most important all the time. Remember to enjoy your surroundings, be thankful you get to play (remember those early COVID-19 months where we couldn’t get onto the course?!), and that golf is, at its core, a game that is meant to be fun!

Enjoy it!