The Offseason Guide to an Optimal Golf Experience

The Optimal Golf Experience

Tim Gallwey, the author of The Inner Game of Golf, describes optimal experience as having an equal balance between learning, performance, and enjoyment.

Golfers as a whole are never fully satisfied with their experience, and this is often because they aren’t intentional about what they are going for when they play.  This leads to things tilting heavily toward performance, which never gives us everything we’re looking for.

Now is a great time to do some reflection and planning toward having an optimal experience in 2024.  Take your time going through these categories, as the best answers are not always the most obvious.

Learning

Golf is a great teacher, but if we don’t pay attention, we won’t learn anything.  There are many things you can learn about yourself through your golf if you notice them:

  • How your mindset changes when things are going good or bad
  • How you respond to pressure
  • How you respond when something feels too easy
  • How you respond when something feels difficult
  • The difference in how you treat people when playing good vs. playing bad
  • Why do you really play golf

Performance

Performance appears to be the easiest of the three categories to measure.  You always can have a score at the end of the round.  But does the score always reflect your performance?  Here are some ways you could describe your performance in addition to your score:

  • I controlled my ball
  • I battled back
  • I crumbled down the stretch
  • I let the conditions distract me
  • I had too many swing thoughts

Enjoyment

I often ask people how their round went, and they respond, “I had a lot of fun out there.”  This is usually a lie, and usually means they had a bad scoring round and do not want to admit the day was a total disaster.  Most people have their enjoyment connected to their scoring.  There is a more out out there to enjoy if you can find a way to separate it from your score:

  • The feeling of a well struck shot
  • The surprises
  • The miracles
  • The lucky breaks
  • The flight of the ball in the air
  • The sound of an iron shot

Learning, Performance, Enjoyment

There are many more things than those listed above that can contribute to your experience on the golf course.  If you can be intentional about having a balance of learning, performance, and enjoyment, you’ll find more and more in each category whenever you play. 

Instead of describing your round for the 100th time as “87.  Couldn’t putt.”  You could answer, “I really controlled my ball on the front 9, but then as the pressure increased in the match I couldn’t make any putts.  I hit a 7 iron on #6 that was so pure it felt like I hit a marshmallow, and it never left the stick.  I learned that I need to stop letting my mind drift to the future as I add up my score in the middle of the round and it distracts me.  And I learned I need to practice my putting.”

Andy Hayes
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2 Comments

  1. A really nice article. We need more of this.

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