To Score or Not to Score?

The thrill of competition vs. the joy of not keeping score (and everything in between)

Is it worth it to you?

To score or not to score? That is the question. I think it all comes down to what is fun for you…

I played competitive amateur golf when I was younger and enjoyed it to a great degree. Playing week after week could at times be a bit redundant (spoken like an ungrateful twit) but if I was in the lead or close to it with 5-6 holes to go – it was a thrill. But for anyone trying to really get better, or become Professional it can be a real stress. Even if you are a regular amateur just playing in your club championships, the stress of competition can be quite great.

The time came when I realized I didn’t have what it took to try to be professional and had to move on with the reality of making a meaningful income and starting a life for myself. What I found out along the way was that golf can be so much more enjoyable without the added pressure of competition. I found it was important to me to try and shoot the best score possible during those first few years of golf after competitive play. Having this in mind would take an otherwise beautiful walk in a park with friends and put a mark on it. I understand that golf is an internal battle and it is rewarding to prove to yourself that you can do better and be better than the last time but, what does the game mean to you? Is it supposed to be this way? Assuming golf is meant to be enjoyed, are you having fun playing this way?

After years of grinding out scores to keep my handicap down I found myself encouraging beginner golfers not to keep score. As I encouraged this, so I practiced it. What did I discover other than total and absolute freedom to enjoy the game I love. The pressure was off! I could try and play weird shots that I wouldn’t have tried before. There was no more risk in risk/reward shots – just excitement. Pick up a 5′ putt if you like…kick your ball back into play….don’t play a hole and just relax. For most of the people entering this game, it surely should be a fun experience versus one that makes you feel incompetent. Golf is hard but maybe it doesn’t need to be. Even for the low handicappers, this is an eye opening way to play the game. You are free to just PLAY!

There is an in-between place that I have worked my way back to. Using the care-free internalized feeling of not keeping score, but then keeping score, is a fun way to play the game aswell. Some people may just have naturally started out with this mindset and that is awesome!! I had to discover it for myself over the course of many years. Three weeks ago I went out and shot an adjusted 89 (my highest score in years) and the next week shot a 76 and the beauty of it was that I enjoyed both rounds equally. The 89 I just figured was a reset of sorts. So, instead of me losing my shit and cursing why I ever started playing this bloody game, I was able to relax and believe that it is just the regular course of things and that it doesn’t so much matter in the bigger picture.

I credit my shift in paradigm to not keeping score on occasion and not taking the game so seriously. That being said, I just played in my first competitive rounds in quite some time over this past weekend and it was pretty damn fun! I played in my Club Championships at Kings Links. I shot a 72 in the first round (my first even par round in years). I was hooked again. Pumped. I felt the flow of competition as I was tied for the lead going into the second day. I hung tight through the 11th hole where I flushed a five iron from 220 yards (flyer lie and down wind) to 8 feet for eagle. A nervy little two putt put me within one of the lead. Then, not having played in competition, the tension of it all caught up to me. I was unable to keep my “this is fun” attitude and didn’t have the competitive experience to handle myself well enough…I was in no mans land! I had a white knuckle finish and ended up shooting 78 finishing third place I was told.

That being said, it was a thrill to be competitive again but in the same breathe i’ll be happy to just go swing it free and easy the next time I go out.

How do I define fun? I love the game from all of these perspectives. Fun can be had no matter how you approach the game. My advice – do what suits you best. How do you define fun? Don’t go against the way you think the game should be played that day.

Will I keep score the next time? Maybe. It depends what I fancy that day I suppose. But I must say, to respect and honour the game properly, you may want to decide how you will play before you tee off. If you are trying to post a score, stick to it because handicap systems are based on you being truthful with yourself out on the course. If you decide to keep score really try and stick to it and don’t cheat – not one bit. Play 100% within the rules of the game because that is how it is to be played, even if you experience “positive disintegration”. But, if you decide that day that keeping score is not for you, then enjoy. Breathe the air, try and hit some good shots and just enjoy your time in nature.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *