Golf is a game. It’s play. It’s what we do to relax – and when there’s no scoring involved – it’s pure fun. The last league I played in was so rabidly competitive that creative score-keeping was disturbingly common. One player was so notorious for consistently (one might say, miraculously) finding ‘lost’ balls, that after winning the league championship one season, she never went unaccompanied into the woods again. The running joke had something to do with the golf-ball size holes in her pockets. Play in her foursome and you joined The Pocket Patrol.
There are plenty of competitive pressures in our lives and careers, without having to worry about the integrity of someone else’s clothing. Leaving the scorecard in the pro shop, for me, right now, is not just OK, it opens the channels to pleasure when I play – and if you believe the research – is really, really good for me and my brain. Yours, too.
GET A BIGGER BRAIN
Play is defined as pleasurable activity without purpose. Think about that. “Play is its own reward, its own reason for being”, says Dr. Stuart Brown, a psychiatrist and pioneer in research on the importance of play in our lives. In his famous TED Talk, he tells us that play is much more than recreation and relaxation; it’s neurologically beneficial and important, like meditating and sleeping. It makes our brains grow bigger (oh) and get smarter (ah). It’s joyful and energizing if we impose no other purpose on it than doing it, and then enjoy it for its own sake. In sum, it’s a restorative free pass.
FIND THAT INNER RAPSCALLION
We’ve all played with people who become peeved the minute they hit a wayward tee shot or roll a putt past the green with a little too much conviction. Been there, done that, once or twice myself. Not fun to watch. Not fun to experience. “The most evil trick about perfectionism…is that it disguises itself as a virtue,” says Liz Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, and more recently, Big Magic.
Chasing around a little white ball isn’t going to affect global warming – or cure cancer – so grab a drink and chill. Locate your inner rapscallion and stop obsessing about the double par back at the ninth. The sun will come out tomorrow. Betcha bottom dollar.
TOO MUCH INFORMATION
The rationale for going scoreless, for me, is that life has started to feel like one overbearing metric. FitBits and heart-rate monitors watch our every move. And judge us. Didn’t log your 10,000 steps today? You get – wait for it – a wagging (animated) thumb down. I have no issue with any of you who want to keep score, but if you’re going to do it, be accurate. And don’t attach your self-worth to it. Tell the truth, sew up those pockets or invest in a new pair of shorts. Or drop the scorecard altogether and have a few laughs.
KEEP THE ROMANCE ALIVE
There’s deep satisfaction in developing mastery in whatever we choose to pursue – and there’s a place for it in golf, absolutely. My lowest handicap was respectably below average when I was still keeping track, so these are not the rantings of a complete duffer. I’m simply saying that given the limited time I have to play nowadays, I just want to have fun.
If you find yourself too far inside your head, analyzing each shot like your pet’s life depends on it – it could be time to take it down a notch and go scoreless. See what happens when you shift your focus. Enjoy a well-struck ball, center-cup putt, good time with friends. By all means invest in a flask and put a favorite mellowing agent inside (my jam is small-batch bourbon), and see if that doesn’t groove your tempo a bit. Then if anything remotely un-playful crosses your mind, take a good, long swig and channel your inner Ernestine. She gets it. She totally gets it.
P.S. I know you’re going to ask about Ernestine, my toothsome driver cover. She hails from Tokyo, the land of magnificent golf products for women. One of a kind. An irresistibly, delightfully-infectious golf companion.