You Don’t Have to Be Good at Golf

I’m Done Trying to Help

I’ve spilled countless barrels of digital ink trying to help you play better.  I’ve written tips on driving, putting, and strategy.  We’ve talked about club selection, battling your ego, and playing with an animal mindset.  I’ve even written detailed blueprints of how to get below certain score thresholds [find them HERE].

Today’s lesson – if that’s even the right word – is giving you permission to ignore every bit of that because, as the title says, you don’t have to be good at golf.

This Lesson Is For You If:

Golf isn’t making you happy

You’re sick of grinding

Trying to improve is taking the fun out of golf

Thanks, Tik Tok

This lesson was inspired by my frustration with my guitar playing.  For a stretch, I was putting a lot of effort into guitar, but I didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere.  Part of the problem was a lack of a clear endpoint, but part was that I was stuck.  It got to the point where I didn’t want to pick up the guitar because I wasn’t “making progress,” and I couldn’t see enjoying it any other way.

Then I saw a Tik Tok (apologies to the original creator, who deserves a shout out here) that simply said, “You don’t have to be good at your hobbies.”  It was the simplest, most obvious thing, but it was a light bulb moment for me.  In an instant, I started enjoying the guitar in a way I hadn’t in months.

Find Your Own Enjoyment

There are millions of golfers who derive their enjoyment from playing the game well.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but it’s not the only way to love golf, nor is it superior to any other way.

If you’re tired of “grinding” and “putting in the work” and the whole thing feels like a job rather than fun, find another way.  Stop keeping score, or find an alternate way to score that makes you happy.  A professional caddie recently told me about a player who marked his card with happy or sad faces depending on whether or not he had enjoyed the way he played the hole.  He could make a ten a still draw a smiley face.  Or you can completely ditch any concept of score.  Play golf purely as a reason to be outside and with other people.

No one is paying you to golf.  No one cares what you shoot.  The only person you’re playing for is yourself.  Play to maximize your enjoyment and nothing else.*

*One small caveat on that.  As Preston Toulon so brilliantly put it, “You don’t have to play great, just be great to play with” [full podcast HERE].  Remember that your right to enjoy your game stops when it infringes on other players.

Don’t Forget Fun

From the marketing campaigns of the big OEMs to the outsized influence of the PGA Tour, “playing better” is constantly being shoved in our faces.  It is easy to forget that you don’t have to be good at golf.

Find ways to remind yourself that this game exists for your enjoyment.  Fill your bag with silly headcovers.  Let your kids draw on your golf balls or get them printed with a message that reminds you to have fun.  Leave a note to yourself in your ball pocket reminding you that you could be working right now but instead you’re golfing.

At the end of the day, we’re using badly-designed tools to get a small ball into a little cup a long way away.  If you can’t smile at the ridiculousness of that, you’re doing it wrong.

Matt Saternus
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18 Comments

  1. Charlie Rouse

    Amen.

  2. Good points. A bunch of us once a weekend hackers look forward to that once a week round with so much anticipation… then a bad hole occurs, you’re playing behind a slow group, etc.

  3. I have been playing for over sixty years and have never kept score, except when I was competing on my college golf team. I’ve competed against myself in a quiet way, and that’s where I derive my pleasure from the game. I loved you’re article, and wish that more similar articles were written like this ,because more people would enjoy the game for what it is, a game.

  4. Matt,
    Best quote ever “At the end of the day, we’re using badly-designed tools to get a small ball into a little cup a long way away. If you can’t smile at the ridiculousness of that, you’re doing it wrong.” While I do track my scores, I don’t obsess….if it’s a bad day off the tee or approach or green side or on the green, I still find great pleasure in the sound of a well struck ball or the distinct sound of a ball falling in the cup. Better yet the laughter and banter when playing with others….thanks for sharing this focus reset.

  5. Well said. When I first took up the game, nearly 25 years ago, most of my rounds were 9 holes, solo and at the crack of dawn. When I made a bad shot, I just threw down another ball and hit it again. (My second guy was my best guy ;). I never kept score, but took immense pleasure in the handful of great shots I made.
    I still love this game!

  6. Thier are too many things in life that you have to do . Golf like all hobbies is an escape from those things . It’s also a chance to get out and have a great time with friends !

  7. Jerry Payne

    Wow, Matt!
    That is possibly the best article I’ve read , pertaining to golf, in some time! Thank you for the reminder!

  8. Sometimes we lose sight of the fact that we’re lucky we get to play golf. Thanks Matt.

  9. I disagree with the idea that …(paraphrasing here); we should just play for our own enjoyment and not worry about score. When i’m on the course, i’m playing the scorecard and competing with my friends for bragging rights, it keeps us washed up athletes engaged in sport, gets us out off the couch (with video controller in hand), moving our midlife butts and coming back for more golf!! – sorry pals, we dont believe in the participation trophy mentality when it comes to golf. I’m not hating if you do, just expressing that we don’t all think that way even if we don’t get paid to play.

    • Matt Saternus

      Clearly reading isn’t your strong suit. If you’re enjoying golf with a focus on score, this lesson isn’t for you. That was spelled out explicitly at the top of the article. I’m very happy that you’re enjoying the game in that way; this was written to give people room to enjoy it in other ways.

      Also, if you’re going to be a hater – which you are with your talk of “participation trophy mentality” despite my article not mentioning trophies or awards of any kind – at least do it with your chest. Don’t talk a bunch of s*** and then backpedal with some weak “I’m not hating” nonsense. Here’s an example: I can’t stand people who don’t put their name on their comments because they’re embarrassed by their lack of facility with the rules of written English. I hope they get the shanks. See? Direct and to the point, no ambiguity, no backpedaling.

      -Matt

  10. Dan Shepherd

    Glad you reminded me. Can’t get enough perspective on this topic – it’s the best script for playing golf and living life.

    • Mark Dophied

      This is so true. Something I need to remain myself when I play. My wife and I play every Saturday. She has only been playing a year and a half, me about 35 years. Yes she is 18 years younger than me. I have expectations when I play based on younger days when I always was in the 70s. In that life though I was doing golf 5 days a week, now life is in the way. She wants to hit the ball, enjoy our time together outdoors, & look at the animals. Nobody cares what your score is. So Mark don’t screw up a good time because you 3 putted.

  11. Great article Matt.

    I keep a yearly golf diary and enjoy going back and reading those golf outing posts from time to time. At the top of my golf diary, I have this written:
    ~~~ To Play ~ To Improve ~ To Respect ~ To Enjoy the Journey ~~~
    (DON’T LET THE GOLF GET IN THE WAY OF ENJOYING THE DAY)

    I agree with you 100% & appreciate the positive input, something I always need in my life.

    Thank you so much!

    • Matt Saternus

      “Don’t let the golf get in the way of enjoying the day”. That’s wonderful, thank you for sharing.

      -Matt

  12. Great timing on this. I’ve been really grinding since about last September and making some big strides. I had my best round ever first week in August. Thing is, between work and doing all the back to school stuff with my kids I didn’t make it back out since then until yesterday, and I was awful. Just bewildering horrible, unable to make anything happen. Honestly and truly thought long and hard about selling my clubs and just quitting. But yeah, there is nothing I’m pursuing other than enjoyment. Maybe just take the pressure off for a while and see how that goes.

    • Matt Saternus

      Michael,

      I’m glad this found you at a good time. There’s nothing wrong with the grind, but, in my opinion, golf is too unpredictable to let score be the only way you enjoy it.

      Best,

      Matt

  13. Thank you for this. My game was getting me down this week. This could not have been better timed.

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