Golf – Part Time, Full Time, or Bus Driver’s Holiday?

I think I am safe in saying that as serious players most of us think we don’t play as well as we should.  When I’ve played rounds with friends who aren’t as serious, they often ask how to get better and I’ll offer the usual comments about taking lessons, getting fitted, working short game, but the conversation usually concludes with, “you get out of this game what you put into it.”  Tonight I was reminded about the advice I usually dispense.

On occasion if I don’t have enough time to engage in a normal practice session, I’ll grab a wedge and my bag shag and head out to the adjacent school field for a few swings.  This evening was one of those times and after hitting a couple dozen flip wedges (the first four flew straight right), I left frustrated and mad at myself for the lack of commitment on my part to enough play and practice to remain effective.

I have played this game seriously for nearly 40 years and am still searching for the right golf-life balance.  Back in my 20s, I worked a couple of years as an assistant club professional and along with the 6-day 60-hour work weeks came an inordinate amount of play and practice.  You worked your 10-hour day and then played or practiced after work until dark – I was totally hooked.  On your one day off, you played golf.  We were open every day of the year except for Christmas and New Years, and my unhealthy addiction was constantly fed.  The sport was a true bus driver’s holiday and was well in excess of what a normal human could enjoy from a game, and was the only time in my life that I was burned out on golf.

So what is the optimal amount of play and practice you need to get to the point of satisfaction?  Can you ever get comfortable or are we like nomads constantly wondering in the desert?  I’ve long since given up getting to scratch from a 5-handicap, as the workload would be enormous for a desk jockey with a day job.  Right now I’d be happy to maintain the 5, but feel it starting to slip.  In essence, I’m still searching for my optimal amount of play and practice but I know 30-40 rounds per year and one day of practice per week is not cutting it.  Golf has always been a game of adjustments, and the key is to get enough frequency to mitigate the big momentum swings.  Lately every time out I’m fighting a new fundamental fire with the problem being exacerbated when I take additional time off.

Anyone out there have any suggestions for a balanced approach?

About Brian Penn

Avid sports fan and golf nut. I am a lifelong resident of the Washington D.C. area and love to follow the local teams. Also worked as a golf professional in the Middle Atlantic PGA for several years and am intrigued by the game to no end. I love to play and practice and am dedicated to continual improvement.
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15 Responses to Golf – Part Time, Full Time, or Bus Driver’s Holiday?

  1. I play or practice as much as I can, tip-toeing right up to the line that I feel I might be shortchanging my family or my work. Right now, that’s getting out on the course or the range 3-4 times a week, resulting in my handicap trickling down at a glacial pace.
    Unless I want to move golf up my priority list, above some pretty darn important people and life goals, then this is what the game of golf will be for me.
    And when all else fails, I say a silent Serenity Prayer and remind myself it’s just a game. Sorry I don’t have anything more insightful. Good Luck, Brian.

    • Brian Penn says:

      Dave, unfortunately golf is not a passive activity like fishing. You can soak up the sun and drink beer but the similarities stop there. I’ve always figured that if you’re going to play a game and it takes effort, you don’t do a half ass job trying. You are right about the priorities though; they need to be kept in perspective. Sounds like you’ve got yours right and I hope to find that similar balance. Thanks! Brian

      • Well, my perspective and serenity are in a lot better place right before I snap hook a drive than they are right after! I think that balance is just like the game itself…it’s one we never really win, one that only can be played.

  2. Hi Brian, I dont know of any answers to your dilema’s, but I had a friend who was a scratch golfer, and I asked him why he was not on the pro circuit. He answered that those guys were five shots better a round than he was and he would not get anywhere. He was just happy to be playing at his level and enjoyed the competitions.

    Pete

    • Brian Penn says:

      Pete, I think the key is to find what level you are comfortable at and enjoy it. But someone once said that comfort zones are nice, but nothing grows there. I feel the same way about striving for improvement and knowing that it takes effort and dedication to improve. I guess it’s just the cross we bare considering the game we have selected to participate in. Thanks! Brian

  3. Brian

    You are right, I think all avid golfers struggle with play-practice-improve dilemma. Personally this situation is fixed by addressing two areas: managing expectations and focus. The easier of the two is focus. When I am playing or practicing I try to be 100% focused in the moment. I find I achieve my best results by focusing on what I am doing at the time – not worrying about non golf stuff, the poor shot before, or the dreaded tough hole to come. It is all about the moment.

    Second is managing expectations. This is more difficult. As an old lion, I expect to play at the level of skill and have the same level of fitness as I did 20 years ago. Well the fitness is more difficult and the skill challenging. By re-framing my expectations, I find that I enjoy golf more and I have better results. This year my expectation is to go for scratch; it is not going to happen over night; but it is going to happen. If in 4 months I find that this goal is unrealistic or for some reason I decide to change; I re-frame the goal and work towards it. It is not about giving up, but about always moving towards something better.

    My last point, not everything has to be hard. Sometimes improvement happens at the strangest times and we (as older golfers set in our ways) have to get out of our own way and just let things happen. I love the conversation. Thanks.

    Cheers
    Jim

    • Brian Penn says:

      Jim, your perspective is spot on as usual. My focus in recent practice and play has been terrible. In short I need to concentrate better on what I want to do instead of thinking about what I want to avoid. What a brilliantly simple concept. I just reviewed some notes from previous practice sessions I had in advance of great rounds and the common theme was always excellent focus. I’m game planning a practice session for today and will focus on focus :) Thanks! Brian

  4. Brian Penn says:

    Jim, I appreciate the virtual pep talk. Focusing on targets instead of mechanics yielded much better results at the range this morning. Taking more time after a bad shot rather than raking another ball quickly also helped. It’s funny: I’ve read all the Rotella books and try to follow his recommendations closely but get lazy on mental game more often than I’m aware of. Strange thing happened during my putting drill though. I was taking 100 3-footers and missed 11 of the first 50 and all to the right. I reviewed mechanics but couldn’t stop cutting the putts. . .until I change the putt and realized I had setup my station on a right breaking putt. Egad. Sometimes a bit of common sense helps too. Thanks, Brian

    • Brian, Sounds like you are will on your way to another great season. These conversations are awesome and I benefit greatly as well! I am grateful for all our discussions. Hit them straight and putt the true!

      Cheers
      Jim

      • Brian Penn says:

        Jim, I agree on the conversations; love banging ideas back and forth because usually there’s a nugget or two you’ll find which is very beneficial, as was your suggestion to me about focus. Thanks again.

        Brian

  5. Brian, you inspired me, so I wrote my answer to your question in my blog this week.

    • Brian Penn says:

      Vet, your story is amazing and reminded me of some better opening day rounds when I played after periods of inactivity, although not the duration you experienced. Long layoffs do help to clear out the mental baggage though. Thanks. Brian

  6. Brian, I struggle with this just as much as the average weekend golfer. Even when I have all the time in the world to practice and get my game better I still feel like I need more work and more practice. The biggest gains I have ever made in my game are on longer golf trips where I get to play every day with just a warm up before each round. When I have time to be at the range and tinkering with my swing I find that I get too curious to try new things. If I am out playing for a score I am forced to pick a swing thought and go with it. There is no room for tinkering once you are out on the course. Playing consistently has always helped me groove a more consistent swing than being on the range. The rub is that the range is much easier to get to than 9 or 18 holes. I have found indoor facilities are ok, although you touched on the ball flight issue a while ago and I tend to agree with you on that. I’m at a point in my game where I think the more play the better. The range is great for working out some demons, but get to the course and play, play, play.

    • Brian Penn says:

      The clarity of your perspective is refreshing. This year, I’ve been spending more time at the range and less devoted to playing (because of a different employment situation) and my ball striking has weakened. I’m so looking forward to my trip to Myrtle the week of June 8th to finally get some needed reps. Thanks for the comment! Brian

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