Welcome to our new web site!

To give our readers a chance to experience all that our new website has to offer, we have made all content freely avaiable, through October 1, 2018.

During this time, print and digital subscribers will not need to log in to view our stories or e-editions.

Pay attention to what’s right about your game


Think of golf advice you have been given. Or golf lessons you have received that you hoped would fix. More than half the video golf lessons on the internet are focused on what you are doing wrong, and how to correct it. Personally, I admit, as a golf teacher, I have felt strongly for decades we need to correct what we are doing wrong.

A few years ago one of my column headings was: “Baffled by your up and down play? Diagnose and minimize mistake patterns.” Golf lessons aim to fix your mistakes. Therapy aims to fix what’s wrong with you. Even prisons are called “correctional” institutions. But there may be another, more productive, way to improve.

In the November 2023 issue of the AARP Bulletin, the special report was about “Super Agers,” with the sub-head: “Some people in their 80s and 90s stay sharp, retain their memories, have youthful energy and enjoy life deeply.” One important item in that article that caught my eye was a quote by Emily Rogalsky, a cognitive neuroscientist who leads the SuperAging Research Initiative across five.

“We don’t often celebrate what’s going right in aging, only what’s going wrong,” says Rogalski. That started me thinking how we approach our golfing experience. Maybe we ought to pay more attention to what we are doing right and how it enhances our experience of our beloved sport.

For example, if you have kept track of fairways, greens, putting and scoring, and have felt you are under-achieving, try thinking outside the box. What about thinking about how well you maintained your attitude throughout your round? About how fine your course management was on holes where you saved strokes? If you worry about the distance you’re lacking, try finding comfort with the times you kept the ball in play and avoided a big number. Maybe you should keep score on the frequency you went through your pre-shot routine – the key to golf discipline – instead of how many strokes.

Almost all of us look at a round of golf and size up what mistakes we made, and not our satisfactions.  Instead of ranking yourself in percentages, or dreading the times you messed up, try paying attention to the aspects where you excelled. Did you maintain a realistically positive attitude and self-talk nearly all the time? Did you manage to “right the ship” when things were going badly? Did you dismiss bad breaks and bounces and make strong efforts to recover? Do you give yourself high marks for handling adversity? Do you remember demonstrating coping skills and problem-solving ability during the round? Can you pat yourself on your back for handling your emotions? These are aspects of mental toughness; and when you get many of them right, you can apply that toward more confidence.

In my regular group of players at Picacho Hills, there are three middle-aged women. We learn a lot from them. They don’t hit the ball all that long but, boy, can they play. They focus on what they are doing right, and don’t complain of what goes wrong. They keep the ball in play exceptionally well, know their capabilities, relish the camaraderie, manage chipping and putting nicely and thoroughly enjoy playing the game they love. I find some men don’t share the same love of the game, through their grousing, complaining and antics.

Recreational golf is all about having fun. That’s why it’s a recreation. If you’re not having fun playing golf, why play? But let’s not confuse attempting to play masterful golf (most of the time), or trying to play your best, with the joy of simply playing the game. In my personal reminders on my 3 X 5 card when I’m playing, there are “trust,” “process” and a swing key or two. But at the top of the card is “JOY.” I think it is most important to experience the joy of being out in the fresh air with friends , thankful we are all healthy and enjoying each other’s company.

Joy enhances a sense of confidence.