August 5th 2018
Today I played golf alone for what I think was the first time in my entire life. Or, at least the life that I can remember up until this point. Coincidentally, or perhaps not at all coincidentally, it was also the best round of golf I’ve played in my entire life. (If you’re not much of a golfer, just ignore the specifics here and focus on the broader statement)
I shot 82. Which, at my course, is eleven over par. When asked, I usually say that I play to an eighteen handicap, although that’s more by my own self-interpretation than any officially recorded metric. So, eleven over par instead of eighteen over par is, like, seven better.
Although it’s frustrating that no one was around to witness it, I think, perhaps, that the fact that I was playing alone contributed to my achievement. When I’m playing with other people I’m too focused on either 1) winning or 2) impressing, that I lose focus on the actual game, and end up thinking about the match, rather than how I’m actually playing.
So today there was no pressure. Well, no external pressure, at least. And I could play with freedom and, perhaps more importantly, enjoyment.
For my benefit, more than yours, the below pictures are my scorecard from today. A key: grey is good, red is very good, blue is acceptable and black is bad.
Looking back at it, there were plenty of opportunities for the round to have been even better. Golf has a funny way of doing that though. It makes you focus on what could have been better, more than what was actually good.
The interesting (to me, at least) holes are 10 and 11. On hole 10 I got a birdie (birdie = red = very good), followed by a double bogey on 11 (very bad). I came off 10 absolutely buzzing. I even did a little fist bump to myself when I made the putt, even though no one else was around.
And then, on 11 the people who had been playing in front of me were waiting for me. In golf, it’s common courtesy to let faster players ‘play through’ so you don’t hold them up. And because I was by myself, the two-ball in front let me through. And what that means is they’re stood at the teebox with me, watching me take my shot.
And there’s the pressure again.
They’re expecting me to be good, because the teeshot I’d hit on the previous hole (a par four) almost landed on the green whilst they were on it (for which I apologised).
So I lined myself up on 11, trying not to let the pressure get to me.
And then, the pressure got to me.
I spooned the ball over to the right and walked off with a five, completely undoing my good work on the previous hole.
Although it’s definitively a physical game, golf is not, like, a physical game. So much of it is about mental rigidity, focus, and nerves.
And while I’m pretty good at the physical aspect of the game, I’m still working on the mental parts.
Until tomorrow, keep the pressure on.