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Golf is Hard – Don’t Give Up! Tips on How to Handle Golf Frustration

This month I played the best round of my life.

And a couple of weeks later, I played the worst round I’ve had in a long time.

In both situations, I was so high from playing so well and so low when I played so poorly. Crazy what this game can do to your emotional well-being. It’s like an emotional roller coaster.

Golf is Hard and Frustrating - Don't Give Up

After playing for many many years, I can attest that golf can be difficult, frustrating, annoying, painful, and emotional.

During these times, I sometimes wonder why I put so much time into practicing and playing. For what?

Why put myself through this pain? Especially on days where I just want to give up and walk off the course. Or rather curl up in a ball and cry. Yes, I admit golf has that effect on many, including myself.

But, I continue to play and still love it.

Maybe because the game is so challenging and yet addicting. Luring you to come back time after time with the possibility of playing an amazing round or scoring a record low, or getting a birdie or a hole in one.

On days that are a bit of a grind, I like to remind myself that golf is hard. It is meant to be challenging. We could get much more enjoyment out of the game if we are aware of this fact.

“Golf is a lot like life. It will test your patience. It will dazzle and baffle you with highs and lows, successes and frustrations.”

-Amy Alcott

Just look at the many variables that golfers must learn to become proficient.

Why is Golf So Hard?

I talk about this in another recent post on How to Build Consistency in Your Golf Game as well.

If one is looking at golf from the outside or as a non-golfer, it seems pretty boring. Hit a small white ball down the fairway with a golf club and get it in the hole. How hard can that be?

Well, if you have ever tried to do this seemingly simple act on a golf course with other golfers watching you, you know that this is far from the truth. And the reason is that are just so many variables in the golf game to learn, practice, and perfect.

“Like chess, golf is a game that is forever challenging but can never be conquered.”

– Harvey Penick

Reasons Why Golf Is So Hard And A Challenge To Play

Here is a list of many aspects to the game that one needs to learn and practice to be able to play golf.

  • The proper etiquette and behavior.
  • The official rules of the game.
  • How to hit 14 different clubs in the golf bag.
  • How to drive the ball off a tee, hit fairway shots and shots in the rough as well as mastering the short game.
  • How to avoid certain hazards like water, hills, bunkers, fescue, and long grass
  • How to hit shots from different lies and hazards especially if you end up in them.
  • How to play golf in all types of weather and environmental conditions.
  • How to be social and yet focus on your game.
  • How to perform under pressure or in competitive situations.
  • How to control your emotions on the golf course.
  • How to score well and practice good judgment and course management.
  • How to have the proper mindset while playing.

That’s a lot to work on just to be proficient and and be able to play this game! Remember this when your not having the greatest round or it is not going as well as expected. There is just so much that one needs to learn and master.

When Golf is Frustrating, Don’t Give Up

When golf seems hard to you or you have a not-so-great day, don’t give up! It is meant to be a challenge. We all go through this as golfers. And you never know, that amazing round might just be right around the corner.

Here are a few ways to help you get back in the game after feeling dejected, annoyed, or frustrated with golf.

1. Take some time off.

Take a Break from Golf

Whether it is a couple of days or a week.

Take the time off and don’t think about your golf game.

Sometimes this may be all you need to recharge and come back. After this, you might find it was just an “off day” and you’ll be back to your normal self the next time you play.

2. Schedule a golf lesson.

Honestly, one time I picked up this bad shanking problem and couldn’t seem to get out of the bunkers, so I scheduled a 30-minute lesson with a pro.

Within 5 minutes he knew what I was doing wrong, told me how to fix it, and voila, I was back to my old self, confident in the bunkers.

Sometimes it just takes a professional who can see what you are doing wrong.

3. Head to the driving range or practice area.

Head to the Practice Range

For me, I like to take a couple of days off and then head to the range to work out any kinks and see if they are even still there. I like to see that my shots are working again and back to normal.

4. Get back out there.

Whether you take some time off, head to the practice range or see an instructor, be sure to get back out there and play.

Schedule your next round of golf.

Don’t let that one frustrating round or last few rounds deter you from teeing it up again. Golfers all have these rough patches and we can learn from these tougher days.

Since it will most likely happen from time to time, you’ll know what to expect and how to get beyond and overcome this same situation the next time it happens.

5. Play solo golf by yourself.

You can always just head out on the course by yourself. I like to play solo golf because there is no one around and I can be in my head, test things out and not have the pressure to perform. There is something serene and relaxing about playing solo.

6. Ditch the scorecard.

Some days, I ditch the scorecard and play for fun.

It can actually be pretty liberating, not having to keep a score and just go out and have a good time with your friends or golf buddies.

I realize this may be harder said than done especially if you have wagers going on, but if I am golfing without any bets, I just tell my partners I’m not keeping score. Especially if I just had a terrible round recently.

Not keeping score can be a nice break from always concentrating on the score. I can actually practice some shots without having any consequences as well.

7. Assess and learn.

What was it that made this round so frustrating? Was it a certain part of your game?

  • Were your drives slicing and putting you in trouble or bad spots?
  • Was it your chipping that ended up adding a few extra strokes?
  • Was your putting so off that you were putting out with 3 or 4 putts?

If you look at your round closely, you may realize that it is in fact just one part of your game that was off. It is so common to be down on ourselves and say ‘I’m a terrible golfer”, when in fact maybe it was just one area that can be an easy fix.

If you can improve in that area, it will be great for your golf game.

7. Use this situation as fodder for motivation.

After a particularly bad round a few years ago, I used it to motivate myself to improve.

I picked myself back up and became super motivated to improve upon those areas that needed help. I entered and competed in a few tournaments that year and even won a few. More than what I would have achieved had I not been motivated to improve upon my terrible round and weaknesses.

Carly Lloyd, one of the star midfielders of the US Women’s National Soccer team said they had a photo posted of their loss when the US was cut from the early rounds of the 2016 Rio Olympics to help motivate them for the next World Cup. To work harder and perform better the next go around.

They went on to win the next World Cup where Carly Lloyd had a hat trick and put in 3 goals in the back of the net in the final game to win it all.

Talk about motivation!

“I never learned anything from a match that I won.”

– Bobby Jones

Golf Mindset – How to Stop the Frustration During the Round

Everyone Has Bad Golf Days

When you have a bad day on the golf course, just know you are not alone. All golfers have days or rounds where nothing seems to go right and as expected.

There lies the crux of the matter.

Setting expectations is good in many ways, but what you expect may not always happen. We all have this expectation to play to a certain level each time we play golf. It’s not playing up to that expectation that lets us down in our minds.

If we play horribly or seem to not be able to perform to our standards, we can be so hard on ourselves. And it is a blow especially if playing competitively in a tournament, for a dollar nassau, or just even bragging rights.

Don’t Head Down the Emotional Spiral

If your game has gone downhill, we tend to start thinking more and more about what isn’t working and how to correct it.

The mind then starts to focus on the technical parts of the swing and how not to get into any more trouble.

This then leads to a downward spiral that can be intensely emotional.

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced player, golf can tear you apart emotionally if you let it.

The key is to not let this happen. To stop it right in its tracks.

There are two books that I turn to for the mental side of golf that can help with your thoughts and the mind. Zen Golf by Dr. Joseph Parent and Golf is Not the Game of Perfect, by Bob Rotella.

Being able to shake off a bad hole and move forward, as well as being present in the moment and thinking only about the very next shot you need to produce. Versus thinking about the last hole, your score, and the trouble that you were just in or that you want to avoid.

They are wonderful and I have read both, as well as listen to them to get me into the right golfer’s mind before a match.

“Golf is about how well you accept, respond to, and score with your misses much more so than it is a game of your perfect shots.”

– Dr. Bob Rotella

It takes a lot of patience, practice, and playing in pressure situations to master this. Tour professionals spend a lot of time trying to master this mental side of golf. Very hard to accomplish but is achievable. It all starts with being aware of your thoughts and being positive rather than spiraling into a negative place.

Of course, this is easier said than done. When I had my worst round recently, I found myself talking to myself with “just stay positive” and tried to smile through the agony of the round. Trying to stay in a positive mindset.

It was hard.

But if you work at this, it can have a huge impact on your enjoyment of your game that day and afterward.

For the Love of the Game

Golfing with Friends

Try to remember what you love about the game. Why are you really out here playing this great game?

  • To spend time with loved ones and friends?
  • To experience the outdoors and the fresh air?
  • To get some exercise and activity for several hours?
  • To have fun and learn something new?
  • To challenge yourself and see what you are capable of?

All great reasons that I can think of. This can help with thinking of the bigger picture than just a score or a rough day on the course.

Put Away the Ego

Another tactic to use is to put away the ego. The ego really does get in the way.

Golf has a funny way of bringing us back to earth and humbling us. It can be embarrassing to play poorly. Why? Because we are thinking about how others perceive us as golfers.

Yet, if you really think about it, most people are thinking more about their own golf game than how you’re playing.

Be Kinder to Yourself

When others are having a bad golf day, I feel bad for them.

But, I am not thinking to myself, “wow, they are terrible golfers, they should just give it up”.

Can you imagine thinking that way about others? No, because it seems somewhat ludicrous to give anything up after a few bad rounds.

Yet, we think this way inwardly about our own game on a bad day.

If you are feeling this way as many of us do, you must learn how to be kind to yourself.

What would you tell your friend? “hey, you’re just having a bad day or a rough patch. It’ll blow over and soon you’ll be back with your normal great game”.

Right? We would give encouragement. So, we must learn to be that good friend to ourselves and say the same words of encouragement.

Think of Golf as a Journey.

We are so used to wanting things now and getting instant gratification. But golf is something that is not like that. Yes, you may see greatness one day and unfortunately are torn down the next day, week, or month. There are many ups and downs and winding ways to the game.

Golf is A Journey

With so many complexities to golf, look at playing golf as something long-term.

My own 28-year golf journey is still going strong and I am loving it. All the great rounds, horrible rounds, and everything in between. It was never a straight path or the same level of intensity either. It has been fairly sporadic over the years with marriage, kids, life, and everything else along the way.

This game has given me so much in the way of personal development and social connections that have been incredible.

And yet I have so much more that I still want to achieve like getting a hole in one, winning a few tournaments, playing Pebble Beach, and attending the Masters.

I want to continue to learn about the game as there is so much still to pick up, and to keep challenging myself with what I am capable of achieving.

All with the knowledge that there will be lots of ups and downs, good and not so good days.

To experience those highs of the game is what keeps me coming back. And when I have those terrible days, well… I must remember to learn from them and just keep playing so I can continue along on my golf journey.

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