Golf psychology focus on why you play not how you swing for golf enjoyment


Improving your golf enjoyment has more to do with the golf psychology of addressing the reasons why you play golf at all than with addressing all the things you’re trying to fix in your golf swing.

I’ve been out of the office a lot this week and without the means of posting on this blog. The good news is that I’ve had some time to think about golf and the general trend of my posts here.

One theme that comes up a lot in my thoughts and in my writing is the idea that one of the main reasons for most people playing golf is the pursuit of enjoyment, both for ourselves and the people we play with. As a golf psychologist, this is also my primary motivation in my working life and it’s reflected in my mission, as a hypnotherapist and NLP Master Practitioner, of helping people to do things better and get more enjoyment out of the things they do in life and in golf.

What about the professional golfer pursuing fame and money from golf success? Well, I suspect that the pursuit of enjoyment played an important part for them when they started out and it probably still features high on their list of priorities as a professional. The top 50 players in the world are probably sufficiently well off that money is not their only motivator. Just remember the look on Phil Mickelson’s face after that duel with Tiger Woods at the 2009 Masters. The fact that he didn’t win didn’t seem to outweigh his euphoric enjoyment responding to the challenge. It’s a shame that we don’t so often see that clear enjoyment coming from certain other golfers when they aren’t playing their best. In recent posts here, I’ve talked about these failings from Colin Montgomerie, Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia.

All this talk about enjoying golf got me thinking about what specifically we all enjoy about golf. That led me to recall what Timothy Gallwey wrote in The Inner Game of Golf about the triangular link between enjoyment, performance and learning – the three main parts of everyone’s experience of golf. Although I agree with Gallwey’s idea, very few of the clients I work with seem to think about anything but their golfing performance.

In my first meeting with new clients, I tended to ask questions about what they want to achieve from working with me, what their definition of success in golf is and how will they know when they have achieved it. When I first started out as a golf psychologist, I had expected the answers to be about things like enjoyment, confidence, concentration and consistency. Instead, I tend to hear about things like how to stop their slice, get out of bunkers, avoid hitting the ball in the water on a particular hole or avoid three-putting.

More recently, I’ve expanded my initial questions to include asking new clients about why they play golf and what I can do to help them achieve that. This usually provides me with a much more constructive starting point to improving and much more importantly enjoying their golf.

If I look at my own reasons for playing golf when I started at the age of 18, they were relatively sensible. I was looking for a sport that

  • I could play, given reasonable health, for the next 50 years or more
  • would give me a complete mental break from work
  • offered a modest amount of regular exercise
  • was challenging and competitive
  • allowed me to develop some good friendships
  • breaks down social and business barriers
  • and would give me something I could enjoy doing.

Given those reasons, why did I spend the next 30 years, until I got into golf psychology, beating my head against the wall of lowering my handicap? Why did I spend all the hours I could spare and more beating balls on the driving range? Why did I spend all that money on golf lessons, books, magazines and practice aids? Why did I have all those days of frustration and anger when I didn’t quite play to the level I wanted? The answer to all those questions is "that’s why I first got properly interested in golf psychology."

So if you’d like to get more enjoyment from your golf and play better, why not write down your list of the real reasons why you play golf. Then you can make sure that whatever you strive for in golf will help you to address those reasons you listed.

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