Nobody Cares, Move Along
A couple of months ago I had an interesting (I use that word loosely) experience during a tournament with one of my playing partners. He was having a nightmare round, and what followed was the most extreme case of excuse-making I had ever seen.
“I’ve never played this badly before. I’m a great golfer; I usually make 5-6 birdies every round!”
By the 15th hole, this was about the 100th variation of this statement I had heard. I nodded, told him I had been there before myself, and tried to go back to worrying about my own game. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that if he really made 5-6 birdies a round, he’d be the best PGA Tour player. But I was too fatigued by him to talk any more.
The whole round was a one-sided dialogue from this player. Every poor shot was followed by several minutes of him explaining how great of a golfer he usually is, and how this round was a once-in-a-lifetime event. While I’m more than happy to engage in friendly conversation during competitive rounds, it was egregious. In all honesty, I felt bad for the guy. I have had plenty of embarrassing performances, we all have. But I couldn’t care less about how he was playing. It was an important tournament for me, and I was worried about my own game.
Every Golfer Deals With This
The experience brought up a scenario (albeit very extreme) that is common amongst golfers. When we play poorly, most of us get embarrassed. Usually, our instincts are to talk a little more, and say things like, “I’ve never hit shots like that before.”
The truth is that no one really cares. Golf is inherently a selfish game. Whenever you tee it up with strangers or even friends, I can all but guarantee you their thoughts are mostly consumed with how they are playing. If you happen to hit a few tee shots out of bounds, shank a wedge, or three-putt from seven feet – they will likely forget about it immediately afterward.
This used to be a huge problem for me, and occasionally still is. Last year I was invited to a tournament by someone who reads my site. He gave me a sponsors’ exemption and was hoping I would represent his group well. We had a practice round where I was grouped with two professional athletes that I had watched on TV many times (a Super Bowl MVP & CY Young Award winner).
I was a little more nervous than usual because they played golf at a similar level to me. I couldn’t escape my own ego, and wanting to show them I was just as good. They might be immortals on TV, but on the golf course, we were equals.
The first few holes I couldn’t hit a straight ball to save my life. I was overwhelmed with thoughts of, “these guys probably think I’m a hack!” Low and behold, I told them I usually don’t play like that (regretting the words came out of my mouth). I’m sure in their heads, I was just another guy making excuses. Eventually, I settled down and started playing the kind of golf I usually do, and we had a great match.
I was guilty as charged though.
Don’t Worry So Much
Often times when people learn that I’m a scratch golfer they immediately start making excuses about their play before we even tee it up. I always tell them not to worry, we’re out there trying to have a good time, and it doesn’t matter to me what level of golfer they are. If I’m being completely honest though, there’s a little bit of pressure on my end to show them I’m as good as they assume I might be. It goes both ways!
Over the years, I’ve learned to stop worrying as much about what other golfers think. I know if I play poorly, they know exactly how it feels. I also know how rude it would be if I lost my temper, or kept making excuses the whole round. That’s not fun for anyone.
While golf is a solitary game, it’s also a shared experience. I believe golfers are mostly focused on how they play, but also want to have a good time without unnecessary distractions. So the next time you feel the urge to talk about how badly you are playing, remember that no one in the group really cares as much as you think they do. We’ve all been there before, and it will happen to us again.
So true I does it sometimes not knowing how annoying it could be , untill another playing partner begins making excuses. GREAT ARTICLE
Aaron Cohen says
This is such a good call. I also think the negative talk is counterproductive anyway. If you’re struggling, you just have to persevere. It’s extremely challenging, but that’s why we play.
I always appreciate your feedback and support – glad you liked the article!
This is great stuff. I’m convicted. Been there and done that. Weird how golf magnifies your most hideous flaws. I love this game. Your website is awesome.
I was playing with a buddy this weekend. I was in the middle of lamenting two poor wedge shots that led to a quadruple bogey, when I caught myself. I then recalled a story of a recent golf trip where I was paired up with the same guy for two rounds that day. Before and after every shot he had a comment or talking to himself in the third person. 72 holes of excuses. He scored better than me and didn’t appear to have any fun at all!
It was exhausting…. Don’t be that guy.
If you are playing poorly, people 1) don’t really care or 2) just feel bad that they know you’re struggling. Usually if you don’t complain and you finally save par or get a birdie, everyone gets fired up for you anyways.
thanks, Daniel! Golfers are in it together 🙂
I played poorly yesterday. But I just kept my mouth shut. No “I usually ….” comments. Bad days are part of the game – even for pros so why should we hackers expect anything else? This article should be required reading. Thanks!
I wish it was required reading when I first took up golf!
Tom 4TA says
Great article! One that we all can relate to.
thanks, Tom! It’s great to hear that articles like these connect well with readers. I’ll try to do more of them 🙂
Nice article, but I’d like to see you take it one step further and discuss anger/temper tantrums. The effect (specifically on performance-it’s obvious its going to sucks to play with someone melting down) on the player, his partner (most of our tournaments are 2 man best ball) and the entire group.
No question that anger and temper tantrums have no place on a golf course. I used to struggle with my temper years ago, and once I learned how to control it I became a better golfer (and a better playing partner).
Chiming in with the others here: Great Article!!! Thx, Jon!
While, honestly, not so guilty of elaborate excuse-making … I am very guilty of negative self-talk on the course … But as I’m learning more about how important the mental game is, I’m learning more to ‘let it go’…
.. and… I’m starting to play my best golf yet! 👍
So, no – I don’t wanna be “that guy” nor do I want to play golf with someone like that.
One of the hardest things to do is not get down on yourself when you feel you’re playing poorly. If you can flip the script, stay positive, and try to enjoy yourself, good things tend to happen! Thanks for reading!
Kennie Kat says
100% Agreed. I often play as a single and I make it an effort to not comment or make excuses. I’ve had a few rounds where I’ve had to explicitly tell a single in my group that I need them to stop complaining about how bad they’re playing and how much better they usually play.
A good percentage of your shots will be less than desirable and some will be horrendous. Observe the shot. Make note of any relevant information for future shots & practice. Embrace the outcome. Get prepared to execute your next shot.
Excellent article Jon. I am also guilty of being ‘that guy’ on a few occasions, and you hit the nail right on the head. At our website we try to remember that golf is a game to be enjoyed, and you do a great job of pointing something out that goes against that mantra.
Stephen Pearcy says
Nice article. It’s sad that so many miss the pleasure of the game by aspiring yo unreasonable expectations – and then bring miserable when those expectations aren’t met.
Desmond Grier says
We have reached the point as a society where any display of anger is viewed as incorrect. Certainly it’s wise to keep your mouth shut at work, in church, with your spouse and the police department, or even in formal competition (e.g. league or tournament), but where is there the outlet for those of us who are, shall we say, more “passionate” about our mistakes. When my playing partner shanks a ball out of bounds and slams his driver into the ground or yells, “Son-of-a-bitch,” I can only say, “”Amen, brother; I know the feeling.” I view this as his appropriate time to vent some feelings–his career, his marriage, his wallet, and our friendship are not on the line–and he needs somewhere safe to blow off some steam. Where better? The game of golf with its arcane rules deserves some static. And it’s not just golf. When the pipe I’m working on collapses under my wrench, I holler, “Shit,” sometimes literally describing the result, and really don’t want to be corrected (usually, I’m alone, though, when this happens because those who know me well also know to avoid me when it looks like things might go awry). I do agree, though, that most people don’t care about your golf game–your only competition is the golf course since you have no control over anyone else’s game. I always hope that everyone in my foursome plays his or her best since it’s more fun (and faster) to watch good golf instead of bad golf. Golfers who engage in gamesmanship to upset your game are an annoyance you should only suffer once. To be charitable, though, I know the games of the people I play with pretty well, and if they are off their normal game and are making comments about it, I understand and do not begrudge them the normal outlets for handling disappointment. Most importantly, I do not value them less as humans because they make an excuse or let off an F-bomb when all is not rosy.
I’m not suggesting someone should bottle up their emotions the entire round, that’s impossible. What I am suggesting is that people be considerate of their playing partners, and not make the whole round about themselves. I think every golfer can appreciate that on some level. We pay our money and want to have a good experience.
Al Samsa says
My playing partners have often mentioned they’d like to record me during a round. I regularly blast my own game. I suppose I should try to internalize the disappointment somewhat. I also always compliment a good shot by others. I’ve played with those that never venture a positive comment to anyone and stay in their own zone. Which is great, if they’re on tour. Lately I’ve been avoiding those guys as much as possible. It’s supposed to be fun damn it.
Rather than trying to internalise the negative commentary on your game you would be better off looking for a positive. The old saying “A bad day at golf is still better than a good day at work” very much applies in this case. You’re out with your mates in the fresh air hitting a ball. It’ll put your poor golf game into perspective. I’ve been as guilty as anyone of whinging and whining about my game. The above is helping.
I’m sitting here thinking back to rounds played this past year and how the best fun we had was when we were spraying the ball everywhere in some of our best ball foursomes! The guys I usually team up with are retirees (one is an ex-course pro) who are there for two things – to have a good time and not to worry! Conversely there are times when I play with my son and when he gets into a rut on a round, I have to remind him we are here to “have fun”. It seems to ease the tension and helps one or the other to recover. You’re right – its a selfish sport as we play against ourselves! We inflict our wounds on our selves as we worry about all we do wrong. Rather than apologize, just relax and play. I am reminded how a good friend used to tell me about playing music, “Don’t worry about that bad note. No one will remember it two seconds later!” Same in golf – folks may jab a little but in reality most of the time they will be coaching, encouraging because they see themselves making that same shot and will need that same encouragement when that time comes.
You can play better if you can get over it and focus on the next shot. Mental toughness is a big part of this game, especially when things are going wrong. Most important, don’t ruin someone else’s day when you are having a bad one. If you do you will find yourself playing alone.
I do not agree that a bad temper should not be on display when playing golf. I for one like to see Rory throw his club in the lake, or Brooks break a club, or Sergio pound a bunker with his wedge, or Tiger blurt out profanities the entire round. We are all different. I for one play better when I “let it out” or break a club. That is my personality. I am not like Molinari. And I do not play better if I am docile. Furthermore, I do not play golf to “have fun.” I am extremely competitive and “fun” for me is when I perform well. If I want to have “fun,” I will go to the beach or go watch a baseball game or go to a movie. I do not have fun when I do not perform well and I tend to get annoyed when someone tells me to “just relax, it is only a game.” Sorry, but for me and the thousands of hours I spend on golf practicing and playing golf each year, it is not “just a game.” Rather, it is a way for me to challenge myself, overcome myself and compete against myself in a sport that I can play now that I can no longer play baseball professionally (never made it to the majors). I love the deep, down competitive drive that stirs inside of me when I don’t play well on a golf course. It reminds me I am still alive and competitive. It motivates me. I have gone from a 24 handicap to a 5 handicap in a 12 month period. So please be careful when you tell people “to relax, it is just a game.” For them, it may be much more. And if you don’t like a playing partner with an aggressive, outgoing demeanor, maybe he doesn’t like your care-free, easy-go-lucky approach; which is why I select my playing partners carefully. If they are not out to compete, but just want to “have fun,” I don’t play with them. Finally, I fully agree with the main point of the article, no matter what your personality, don’t spend the entire round talking about how you are not playing well. I concur wholeheartedly, nobody cares.