Having fun and golfing for some are not events that happen at the same time. As a recreational golfer who gets out several times a year or more often have you, at some point, wondered “should golf be fun?” or “am I supposed to be really serious, focused and not crack a joke?”. Perhaps you might have played with different people and some of those times your experience has resulted in you asking yourself “why do I bother to play golf?”, “Is golf fun for me?”.
So my question to you is, are you having fun golfing?
One definition of the word Recreational is:
- “relating to or denoting activity done for enjoyment when one is not working.”
Notice the word “enjoyment”. In other words, you take “pleasure” doing it. You enjoy it as a passion, a hobby or as a social activity or simply you enjoy the outdoors doing something healthy or spending time with good friends.
Compare that to Professional:
- “(of a person) engaged in a specified activity as one’s main paid occupation rather than as a pastime.”
This is a person who has invested in their game to the point they are serious about their equipment, their game and about playing according to the rules of the game as per the USGA.
But if you, like myself, are the everyday golfer who wants golf to be something fun and healthy to do then you should be having fun when you golf. At least you should enjoy it “most” of the time. I know it is easier said than done some days. But let it be your goal and I assure you that if you remind yourself of it you will have more good days on the course than bad days.
New and less experienced golfers worry too much about what others think.
This worrying takes away from the enjoyment you should be experiencing out on the golf course.
For example, you might stand ready to putt and the worry begins… “What if I miss this? How embarrassing will that be?” Or as you stand ready to hit a shot on the fairway, you might look around and see the others watching and worry “What if I hit a bad shot? Will they think I am a terrible golfer?” “I don’t want to let them down”… on and on and on we go. Those thoughts combined with the stress we put on ourselves to play to perfection only results in a less than enjoyable round. Our negative mental thoughts are worse than our bad shots.
When I was a less experienced golfer I used to stress whenever others joined us golfing. I would end up golfing even worse. The stress and the worry about meeting up to the standards of others took away from the fun I wanted to have.
But I came to realize that we all have traveled the same road in learning golf and figuring it out. Most people understand and are great at encouraging you to do your best and not worry.
How much do we or should we enjoy the game of golf?
We play golf regularly with people we know and many we have met and become good friends with. That being said, many of us are also very competitive.
However, no matter how competitive you are, make sure you are still having fun golfing. Nobody is getting rich off the winnings and nobody cares if Mickey beat Minnie by 2 strokes. We can only hope our egos aren’t that big and that we just enjoy each other’s company.
Now, of course, there are those moments when you play with someone who gets a bit too serious or is so super competitive. For example, they insist on you putting even a “tap in” putt. I mean a putt so short that if I sneezed it might just drop into the hole. That is when I start thinking how much fun it would it be if I marked my ball, cleaned it, walked around and studied the putt from all angles, placed it down then do the Camilo Villegas spiderman check.
Then look like I’m ready to putt but I back off and look again. You can never be too sure eh? Now I can almost bet that this would have some eyes rolling by now. Oh c’mon now, I know some of you have had that temptation when someone has told you with an attitude that you MUST putt that tiny putt in! Besides, what are we talking about here? Having fun! So relax and have fun with me as you read on.
Don’t get me wrong, I prefer to putt out every hole. After all, isn’t that the goal of Golf? To get that little white ball inside the hole! Especially the sound it makes as it drops in the cup, letting all those around that you sunk your putt! Yay!
Now, if you have some money on the line perhaps you want to consider following the rules as closely as possible. Ugh…yes, I just said that word – RULES!
To be clear, I don’t care what others do when there isn’t money on the line. Notice I said “no money on the line”. However, if you are playing for a few dollars don’t let it get the best of you either. In fact, certain rule-breaking helps speed up the game, and if you play in front of a group that is right on top of you then it is never a bad thing to help reduce the pressure and speed up play.
However, doing things to slow down the game like taking extra mulligans and practicing your putting during the round is not too good of an idea.
When my husband and I play golf together we don’t play for money.
However, being competitive as we are, part of the fun is keeping score relative to one another, and that’s not possible or much fun if each of us is playing by different rules so we make sure to play by the same rules. Whatever we decide and agree upon.
I actually find it more challenging and tend to focus better and have better results when he and I play match play. Match play is the lowest score per hole (of course he gives me a certain amount of strokes based on our handicaps). While I might not beat him on the overall score I can beat him on match play some of the times. It does wonders for our confidence ladies! Just don’t beat him too often though. (wink wink)
With all that said, where you are playing and who you are playing with determines how much of the golf rules you should be prepared to follow.
You might find yourself playing in a group with one or more “Rules Sticklers” that have played for many years and have very low handicaps (meaning they got really good) and they will check in and do their absolute best to make sure you and your group approaches the game with the same passionate fervor they do and follow the orders of the USGA.
Honestly, I find that those rules are buried in obsessive legalese, “the language used by lawyers that is difficult for most people to understand: legal jargon” and more complicated than they need to be for the everyday, recreational golfer, especially for newer golfers.
I play with many different groups throughout the golf season and I can honestly say that I go with the flow and I do not like to take the fun out of my game or anyone else’s by calling them out on an “illegal” shot because after all I am there to play my own game and unless we are playing for high stakes (which I never do ) I value my friendships above and beyond a few dollars on a game.
However, when keeping my score I do my very best to ensure it is accurate. If I took 7 shots I will not write down that I took a 6. I would just be fooling myself into thinking I am a better golfer than I really am. In fact, I always tell my husband, “I do not want a gimme because that 7 could have been an 8 and my total score would then be inaccurate. The handicap would show low but I KNOW it could be higher.”
Does that mean you should not take a gimme? Like I said, this is YOUR game. Do what is best for you to ensure you enjoy yourself.
If you are a brand new golfer don’t beat yourself up if you miscount your shots.
Try your best to find a way to remember your shots, whether it is using a counter or just learning to keep track or asking your partner for help in tracking your shots. I personally love to use my Sky Caddie to keep track of the number of shots and putts I take. It sure adds up scores better than I do some days.
Just one thought, counters, beads or any device to help you keep track of strokes can fail you. How easy is it to get caught up on 3 bad shots back to back and forget to move the beads for those shots. I have seen it happen to many newbies although I have not mentioned it because I know they do not do it on purpose. But my advice to you is: learn to remember every shot you took by where you were standing when you did. Eventually, it will become second nature.
But until you have mastered the game enough do not let anyone make you feel bad, if you miscounted, as if you intentionally cheated. However, be willing to buddy up with a player who does not mind helping you verify your shots. The important thing is not your score at this point. What matters is ARE YOU HAVING FUN? Fun is what will keep you coming back and getting better!
Golf is a mental game and if you can get your hands around that part you can perform in challenging situations and many times have the confidence within you to make incredible shots you never knew you could make unless you tried. Imagine the fun you can have to attempt some of those shots, from surprise to laughter to shock. So take a chance and if you want to try to recover from a bad drive rather than take a mulligan, by all means, do it. You never know the amazing shots you can make from behind that tree!
In addition, how can I tell if I am improving or not throughout the season if I avoid some shots or always take do-overs? Again, I only kid myself. Notice I said “myself” because although you play with a group or another person, the game of golf is really between you and that little white ball and how many shots it takes you to get the total score. Again, the key is to have FUN during it all. Stop putting the pressure on yourself to play like anyone else. They have been where you are and someone was patient with them through it all.
Going back to Rules.
How closely you follow the rules really depends on what type of golfer you are, who you are playing with and the type of golf game you are playing. (ie: tournament, league, scrambles)
Do you only go out there a few times a year for fun and relaxation and your score is not a big deal to you? Or do you get out every weekend with friends or a spouse and your score means everything to you?
If you play with other recreational golfers but take your golf very serious you might need to cut others some slack if they’re just out looking for enjoyment.
If you want others as serious about rules and golf as you then pair up with others that feel the same way and you will probably enjoy your round and HAVE FUN!
I know that when I go out with certain groups of friends golfing it is going to be laughter, jokes and I just have fun. I keep my own accurate score, try to hit all my shots as best as I can. I do not take it as a serious round as I do when I focus on my game when I go out with my husband alone and we work on our game.
I also go out with some friends that are good golfers and take their game serious yet I still manage to have fun in the process because they have a great attitude and allow themselves to enjoy the time we spend on the course together.
If you like to follow the USGA rules 100% of the time and you have a high handicapper or beginner playing with you, it is my opinion that we should relax the rules for that player. Along the way we can teach them the rules but not expect them to remember them all or for them to care as much until they learn enough golf. At that point, they will understand why having an accurate score is important for them.
Perhaps they want to eventually enter tournaments and win prizes which means they want to have an accurate handicap in the system posted. But that all comes in time.
If we would learn and model good fundamentals of golf such as grip, alignment, posture, ball position, etiquette and pace instead of pushing the rules on those newer golfers they can learn by our example and they would play with more confidence and we would all relax and enjoy our time on the course.
In a Wall Street Journal article dated 3/7/2016- Regarding the decline in golf participation:
“Plenty of people are taking up the game for the first time, but very few of them are sticking with it. And according to the NGF, a leading research and consulting group, that is less an indictment of the game itself than of the operators of the country’s more than 15,000 courses.”
The reasons are many but basically because courses are not staying relevant with the times to help bring in the next generation of golfers.
“Based on some articles golf participation is at an all-time low. Too many are dropping out or not even attempting to play. And when they do play, they play too slowly and without consciousness of those around them, much to the consternation of more skilled players who then think of dropping the game themselves.” (We talk about Pace on our other posts and why it is important.)
A Washington Post article dated 3/5/2015 stated – “A decline in the number of active players … caused immense problems in the entire industry, and as a market leader, this hit us particularly hard,” Adidas chief executive Herbert Hainer said on a call with analysts. All the qualities that once made it so elite and exclusive are, analysts say, now playing against it.”
“Even Jack Nicklaus, perhaps the greatest golfer in history, makes a strong argument for why new players aren’t flocking to golf. Even worse for the sport’s future: The number of young people, aged 18 to 30, playing the game has sagged nearly 35 percent over the last decade.”
“I’d like to play a game that can take place in three hours,” Nicklaus told CNN in January. “I’d quite like to play a game that I can get some reasonable gratification out of very quickly — and something that is not going to cost me an arm and a leg.”
If you read the golf rule handbook you see that those have mostly been designed for professionals and they don’t translate well to the weekend golfer who might slow down the game for other players. So does the golfer play the ball as it lies while out for a fun day of golf just because the professionals do?
Pro golfers play on golf courses manicured to perfection way better than some of the public courses most people play. So if an unskilled, weekend golfer is faced with poor lies, even in the fairway, they have little hope of making a decent shot. I can tell you that this is definitely NOT fun. For many people, if golf is not fun, they ask what’s the point of playing? So relax those rules and speed up play and increase the enjoyment had and we might see some of the golfers continue to come back and improve their game over time.
Playing on Saturdays during our fall through Spring season.
When I play with a group of ladies on Saturdays, and we are at the first tee we decide what type of FUN game we will play and if a player can take a mulligan or if the course is in bad condition whether you can move your ball onto grass vs dirt to allow you to get a good result. Making it what? FUN! Making you do what? COME BACK!
If you are playing with a group of people who are just out for fun decide if you are playing by the official rules of golf or whether each person chooses whatever rules he or she is playing by, and keep your score private and not relate it to any other player in the foursome. Decide that you will only worry about your own shots and just think of the value and enjoyment with good friends or making new friends.
By relaxing the rules you should not feel any loss of integrity or ethics since such a round is not competitive in any way. If you want to play a competitive round for a beer at the end, then declare what rules you will play by. Since it is not an officially sanctioned event the rules can be modified by the players. There is no law that says you MUST follow the USGA rules 100% during a fun day out on the course.
This allows choice in the game for people playing the game for different reasons. The recreational golfer or new golfer no longer have to struggle with rules that are designed for an accomplished player. However, it is good to learn the basic rules so that when playing in tournaments or other competitive golf formats you do not feel embarrassed being called out on some “illegal” shot or action you took.
Of course in official tournaments, golfers must follow the rules set up by those sponsoring the event including local course rules. When entering a tournament it is your responsibility to know what rules will apply and adhere to them to make sure you can enjoy your round without anyone having to feel you are ignoring the rules for your benefit.
With flexible rules more people come into the game which helps:
- golf equipment manufacturers, (TaylorMade recently decided to no longer sell golf clubs as did others due to a decrease in demand)
- more golfers coming to the game it would increase the need for more and better-designed golf courses. (More golf courses closed than opened in 2013 for the eighth straight year, according to the National Golf Foundation.)
The goal is to make the game of golf more appealing, enjoyable, fun and faster to play.
With reasons for the decline in participation being:
we need to help the new golfers overcome at least 2 of those reasons:
- Time- by helping them learn pace, playing quickly so that a round lasts no longer than 4 hours for a foursome.
- Difficulty- help them by relaxing on all the rules that make the game more difficult. If the ball is behind a tree, let them move it out so that they can hit it easier. This also speeds the pace of play.
Cost is difficult as the fee charged is controlled by the golf course but if you know someone who wants to learn and does not have clubs, there are many pawn shops and used clubs online that you can help them find at very low costs or you might have extra golf clubs in your garage that you can donate to help new golfers. In fact, some local youth programs could probably use some clubs for low-income youth to introduce them to the game of golf.
- Know which type of golf you are playing: competitive or recreational.
- If its competitive (money/awards/tournament involved) follow the established rules of golf.
- If recreational (aka “for fun”) be prepared to relax the rules for the sake of pace, enjoyment and to help a newer golfer want to come back.
But no matter what you do please have fun! Leave us a comment and share your thoughts with us!
“If you watch a game, it’s fun. If you play it, it’s recreation. If you work at it, it’s golf” – Bob Hope