When I was around 19 years of age I thought I was a good golfer. My handicap got to scratch for the first time and I was considered one of the better players in my club.

But there was an ugly truth I was hiding. And that was I really couldn’t play that well. Sure, I could shoot some low numbers on a Sunday arvo playing with my mates but when the pressure was on I would crumble.

And nothing highlighted my weakness more than Pennant golf. It was here that I got some serious lessons on how to really play the game. It was a painful and at the time I hated it, but these experiences helped me understand performance and maximise my full potential.

In my first year of team golf I always seemed to play the “old” campaigner. The really experienced guy who had an unorthodox swing (read: ugly) but who could still knock it around in a decent score. In the early matches these guys didn’t bother me that much – I was younger, could hit the ball way past them and I had a way lower handicap. But there’s nothing like a few losses to bring someone down to earth. And with a few losses came a massive dent to my confidence. From here things started getting ugly.

In one very forgetful match I was 5 up at the turn. Things were going along great until I lost the 10th hole. Instead of having the skill and brain power to get back on track, I found a way to keep losing holes. By the 18th things were all square. Compounding my free fall was the fact the entire day now hinged on my match. The equation simple. If I won the team won. If I lost so did the team and any chance of us making the final.

Talk about pressure. And back in the day I didn’t do too well under the pump. I’d get overly nervous, fearful and ultimately self-destruct. But things looked promising when I nailed two good shots onto the 18th green – my opponent was all over the place and had a 25 footer for a par. I thought I was home.

As luck would have it he sunk his long par putt. I now had two putts to tie and one for the win. Today I’d be confident this wouldn’t pose too many issues – I’d stick to my routine, focus my mind on what I wanted and pull the trigger. The ball would either go in or I’d tap in for par – confident I could do better on the next hole. But when you’re not confident of your abilities your mind can play all sorts of tricks on you,

  • don’t miss the ball
  • you’re going to look like a real DH if you 3-putt
  • don’t leave yourself a tricky putt because you’re not hitting them well
  • I wish this wasn’t me with all this pressure. Why can’t someone else be putting?
  • get me outta here!

It can be really ugly and not much fun. I managed to hit the first putt a few feet from the cup. It was a weak putt, didn’t have a chance, but it wasn’t horrendous. I glanced at my opponent hoping he’d give it to me (praying he’d concede it). He didn’t. My heart was pounding and I was feeling sick. I really didn’t want to be here as about 50 pairs of eyes were beaming onto me.

You know before you’re about to hit a putt (or any shot) and you absolutely know you’re going to stuff it up? Well this is the feeling I had. The putter felt wrong in my hands. My mind was in overdrive and just before I made impact with the ball, Pesky screamed at me, “DON’T MISS IT!”.

This putt was horrendous. I flinched at impact and the thing I remember most were the groans from my team mates. I wanted to hide. I wanted to vomit. I wanted to scream and throw my club. Don’t you just love golf?

And this sort of thing repeated itself for a few years. I lost way more matches than I won.

On another occasion I was 1 up with two to play and facing the same “I win we win” scenario.  This time I was playing a really “old” golfer. He was in his 50’s and had a decorated Pennant career – but past his prime he wasn’t supposed to be any match for me.

But he stuck with me and when we got to 17 he had a chance. I put my ball on the edge of the green (a par 3). He missed in the right bunker. He flubbed it out, leaving a long par putt. From here my task was simple, hit the fringe putt close and the match was all but over. Simple.

Not so. Instead of putting, which was definitely the right shot, I attempted a low spinning sand iron. I was showing off and being more than a little cocky. I flubbed my shot. Completely flubbed it as it barely made the green. I missed the par and now the veteran seized his chance. Without missing a beat, he stood up and whacked the ball into the middle of the hole. All square.

Why was I such a loser? Why did I keep making these stupid mistakes? It makes me cringe thinking about it.

On the last I went for the hero shot and lost my ball. I snatched defeat from the jaws of victory once again. It hurt. A lot.

The point of this blog is I used to hate those annoying “old” golfers. I would think it unfair that someone who couldn’t hit the ball that well and who relied heavily on chipping and putting should be able to compete. It would drive me mad and I would make all sorts of stupid excuses to justify my hopelessness. It was all pathetic on my part and it all came down to the fact I was too scared to play my game and trust myself. This has been the hardest lesson of all for me to fully grasp.

Golf is more than sexy swings and long drives. It’s not about perfection. It’s not about hitting greens and sinking long putts. It’s about playing the game. If you can’t bring your game to the course and compete under the pump then you’ll always be frustrated. And hoping that you’ll “work it out” someday is the slow-lane to ultimate frustration.

This post is in honor of all those “old” and “ugly” golfers who taught me the best lesson of all. And I’m sure you all know of a golfer or two at your golf club who drives you nuts with his/her ability to beat you time after time. Just maybe,

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  • They don’t hit the ball too well
  • They seem to get up and down from all over the place
  • They hardly ever practice
  • They play super consistently
  • They win way more than their fair share
  • You hardly ever beat them
  • You can’t figure out how they do it

Instead of getting mad and frustrated it’s time to learn from them. Get even. Stop worrying so much and have the guts to play the way you really want.

Below is a clip from my Remarkable Golf audio. I was listening to it the other day and I had a good laugh, thinking back to those hard lessons those bloody annoying golfers gave me. It was also funny because I’ve probably turned into one of “those” golfers.

click here to download to your device

Resources: Get the full 57 minute version of Remarkable Golf. It’s only $5 bucks and comes instantly (digital download). You’ll learn how I managed to get out of my own way and start playing “choke free” golf.

Share your story of an annoying golfer below.