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  • michelle m. davis

The Game That's Never Good Enough

Have you ever asked someone about their golf game only to realize you’ve opened up a Pandora’s box? Instead of a polite response such as, “It was fine, thank you,” you become captive to a barrage of complaints about that bad bounce off of a sprinkler head, the ridiculously fast greens, or the painstakingly slow play.


Wait … isn’t golf supposed to be a treasured past time, a sport many hope to immerse themselves in once they retire?


Unfortunately, the majority of golfers often view their game as “never good enough.” In fact, many leave the course ruminating about the shots they missed instead of those they made.


Admittedly, I’ve fallen into this trap. Unappreciative of the straight long drive, I hung my head because of that embarrassing four putt. I could tell you what holes I double boogied, as well as where I found myself in the sand. But there’s more … I’d call myself “stupid” after missing an easy shot. Somehow this game not only challenged my skills, but it also messed with my head.


However, once I realized I was the one allowing this “never good enough” attitude to affect how I felt after the round was over, I vowed to never again walk off the course complaining about my play. Sure, I’d let you know I didn’t play well, but that’s where it ended. Golf is a privilege to play … not a license to complain.


When I first picked up this sport at age 25, for some reason everything clicked. Golf felt natural, and I didn’t understand why so many struggled with the game. Looking back, I believe the secret to my very short success is that I didn’t think … I just played. My mom and I actually won some tournaments during the early years. No doubt my high handicap helped. But sometimes we triumphed in the gross category, where my novice status provided no bonus points.


But then my game started to become inconsistent. I felt frustrations I hadn’t experienced before. Maybe my expectations were too high. Or, perhaps I fell prey to what happens to many golfers … I constantly analyzed my game, only to criticize every less than perfect shot, forgetting to rejoice about the good ones.


Of course, both pregnancies messed up my swing. And it’s not exactly easy finding time to play eighteen holes when you have little kids. However, I can’t use our sons as an excuse. The real culprit was my head.


Somewhere around 2006, my driver “stopped working." I took lessons. I tried different clubs. I sought advice. Yet despite the help to “fix” me, nothing others said or did made a difference. I’d consistently hook the ball left or slice it to the right. For some reason, I just couldn’t get the ball in the air.


As you may have guessed, the real issue wasn’t my swing … it was my head. I’d filled it with “shoulds,” a long check list of items to complete before I’d hit the ball. Instead of trusting myself and my body’s muscle memory, I’d try to control, force, and direct my actions to create “the perfect shot.” Sadly, I rarely achieved this goal.


The more I play golf, the more I understand how this game mirrors life. While every golfer’s lesson is unique, mine centers around trust—in my swing and myself. When I don’t try to crush the ball and instead shorten my back swing and allow the club to do the work, I usually find the ball in a good position on the fairway. Likewise, if I stop mentally rehearsing all of things I should do and just hit the ball, more times than not, I’m happy with the result. It’s probably not the perfect shot, but the ball’s in play.


Life can be pretty much the same. We don’t always need to know the ultimate answers, make the best decisions, or complete each task with perfection. However, if we show up with both a positive attitude and healthy effort, we usually get exactly where we need to go. While it may take a few tries to arrive at our metaphorical cup, we eventually figure it out. Perhaps we have a caddy that helps us “read the putt” or a partner who provides encouraging words before we swing at the ball.


"Golf" and "perfect" rarely belong in the same sentence. The same is true of "life" and "perfect." What if instead of having unrealistic expectations, we accepted ourselves as “good enough”—both on and off of the golf course? How might that turn out?


This season I’m focusing on having fun, enjoying the company of others, basking in the sunshine, and paying attention to the lessons I continue to learn from this game. And if I ever fall back into the trap of feeling my game isn’t “good enough,” please remind me to pause and remember to trust in myself and just hit the ball.



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