I enjoy playing competitive golf. There’s a thrill which comes from testing your game against great courses and great players. Despite my love to compete, I’ve often placed too much pressure on myself to compete well. A lot of us do this. We get excited to play, but stressed out by the idea of underperforming. It is this struggle which prevents many amateurs from enjoying competitive golf. They don’t want to compete because they are scared of embarrassing themselves.
This is something that I’ve struggled with. I want so badly to perform well, that I think too much about the results, and not enough about the process. Recently, I was fortunate enough to get a little wake up call in this area of my game. I had a very poor performance in a Golf Channel Amateur Tour event. I would have never thought that I‘d be thankful for such an occurrence, but it was through this poor performance that I learned a lot about how to enjoy competitive golf the way it is meant to be enjoyed.
I had every intention of playing well at this event. My previous round had been a good one, and I didn’t see myself struggling the way that I did. This was one of those rounds that we’ve all had before - unable to get comfortable over the ball, and consequently having no idea where it was going once leaving the clubface. As I approached the fourth green, having just lost my third ball of the round, I was quickly beginning to realize that this day was going to be a struggle. Which brings me to the first lesson I learned - even when I struggle to perform, there is a lot of enjoyment which comes from working to make the most of the round. Golf is not an easy game, and it becomes even more difficult on the days where you don’t have your “A” game. I certainly didn’t at this event, but I enjoyed trying to post the best score I could for the round. I was focused on the process, rather than the final results, and this is how golf should be played. It is very freeing to be able to simply enjoy the process of performing your best rather than being concerned about what your final score will be. This type of backward focus is what can lead to the stress that prevents so many of us from truly enjoying tournament golf. Dwelling continuously on the end result of your round can create an anxiety over performance. The good news is that this can be dissipated when you focus on the process of performing your best on each shot or each hole. I had a terrible round from a scoring standpoint, but I was able to enjoy the process of making the round the best it possibly could be.
Another lesson I learned was that I can enjoy competing regardless of my final performance. The best players in the game only win a fraction of the time. Even the number one player in the world at any given moment will lose to those ranked much lower. This is the nature of golf. If the best player in the world is going to lose on a regular basis, why do we place pressure on ourselves to always perform our best? Why not simply go out and enjoy competing and allow the results to fall as they may? This is not to say that you shouldn’t try to compete to the highest level you are capable of each and every time you tee it up in competition. That should be our goal. All I’m saying is that competition is fun, and each time you compete it should be an enjoyable experience. On this day I finished toward the bottom of the leaderboard. I shot one of the worst rounds (both in and out of competition) that I have in over a year, but I was out there enjoying the competitive experience. As amateurs, enjoyment should always be one of the main reasons why we compete.
As previously mentioned, many golfers experience anxiety pertaining to their competitive performances because they don’t want to be “embarrassed” by a poor performance. After signing a scorecard with a very high total, I was quickly reminded that I should never compete to please others or meet their expectations. I didn’t start golfing to make others happy, I did so because I enjoyed the game. The minute I begin playing to meet expectations of other people, is the moment that I have begun to develop a poor competitive mindset. When I compete for the expectations of others I am welcoming cognitive anxiety into my game, and anxiety is not something to focus on if you want to increase your odds of performing well. It is also important to realize that what we perceive to be the expectations of other people are simply ideas that we conjure up in our minds. I shot a very high score in competition, and while some people may have been a bit surprised, they didn’t care. I realized that the organizers of the Golf Channel Am Tour were simply glad that I was at the event competing. They set up a wonderful event, on a wonderful course, and I enjoyed my time despite my final score.
At each and every event, Golf Channel organizers run optional skins and 50/50 competitions. It’s a wonderful idea, for even if you are struggling to perform on that given day, you still have a shot at winning something. This became very evident to me following my round when I realized that despite my struggles that day, I still managed to qualify for a skin from the lone birdie I made during the round. When you tip it out on the Golf Channel Am Tour, you can find enjoyment from the fact that you still have a chance to be rewarded for your efforts right down to the very last shot.
I’m thankful for this rough day on the golf course. I had every expectation to perform well, but ended up learning more from this experience than I would have if I had won the event. I look forward to my next tour stop because this experience has taught me some very valuable lessons about what my mindset should be when I compete. I can go out in my next Golf Channel event knowing that life will go on regardless of my performance, and this realization should allow me to experience the event the way the Golf Channel intends for each competitor - an enjoyable day, at a fantastic venue, with the opportunity to compete and possibly win some great prizes.
If you are one of the thousands of golfers throughout North America currently competing on the Golf Channel Am Tour, it is my desire that the lesson I’ve learned will serve as valuable reminders for yourself. I hope they allow you to experience an even greater sense of enjoyment playing on the best amateur tour in North America, and undoubtedly one of the best to be found anywhere around the globe.
If you are not yet a Golf Channel Am Tour member, what are you waiting for? These events have so much to offer you as a golfer, and I hope that my experiences of competing and underperforming will serve as the motivation you need to get out there and enjoy yourself regardless of the scores you post. Whether you perform well, or your performance falls below your personal expectations, a wonderful day of competitive golf is awaiting you. So relax, put all anxiety aside and realize that very enjoyable experiences await which are never conditional upon your performance.
About the Author
This article was written by Jonathan Carr (@jonathanwcarr). As a scratch golfer himself, Jonathan has a keen eye for what it takes to be successful on and off the golf course. His passion for golf is surpassed only by his passion for his faith and his family.
Read some of Jonathan's other articles here.
About the Golf Channel Am Tour - Canada
Golf Channel Am Tour Canada is most authentic amateur golf tour in the country and welcomes players of all ages and skill levels. We offer more than 60 stroke-play tournaments including 6 Majors each season, all leading to the Canadian National Championships.
Members from across Canada will compete at some of the top class golf courses such as Jasper Park Lodge, Calbot Links, Osprey Valley, Wolf Creek, Northview, Angus Glen, Glen Abbey, Le Fontainebleau, Hamilton Golf & CC and many more.
Find your local tour today at www.GCAmTourCanada.com.