Am I at the end of my golfing road ?

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I started playing golf when I was 18 and got down to 5.4 within 4 years. From there I steadily went up to 7 and a bit before waking up one Saturday morning and couldn’t be bothered anymore. I wasn’t enjoying not getting better, and didn’t really know what to do about it.

I didn’t touch a club for years, then played once or twice a year before picking up again just before Covid.

I’ve quickly got back down to 9.3 before flatlining again. The difference now is I know where I need to improve and I know what I need to practice to get down to the next level.

I also look at stats from pro and elite amateurs, which really do help to set expectations. Golf is very very hard. Getting to scratch would put you in the top 0.75% of golfers.

Do you keep any stats? Using something like Arccos or Golf Metrics would give you a clear indication of where you need to improve to get to the next level. You can then create a practice plan around that.


Also, are you keeping score on your way round and reacting to bad shots by trying to make up for them? Trying something like DECADE might help.

When you say you are a long hitter, how far are you hitting it? And if distance isn’t the problem, where do you think you are losing shots?

I would say. Forgot about the handicap. That will take care of itself with better scores. And better scores will only come one shot at a time. It’s a cliché, but it’s true.
Mentally, don’t do social or practice rounds. Play every round and slot like it matters, hole every putt. Play every round so that it counts towards your HI.

You’ve got to really enjoy grinding out a score when you get into single figures. That’s what I love now. I couldn’t care less if I never win a club comp again. The real competition is with myself and knowing I’ve tried my best on every single shot, regardless of the score.
 
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D

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I agree fully with those who echoed the phrase “if the fun stops …”. Life is too short to do something you don’t enjoy, whatever the reason for your lack of enjoyment. It seems to me that you have two choices; give up or get over your perfectionist streak and just enjoy the walk/fresh air/scenery/laughs with mates/occasional great shots. The second of these is what most of us high handicappers do.
 

Hearty Harry

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As mentioned above, Arccos or Shot Scope are great at providing a deep insight into your game. The Strokes Gained analysis is great and can help you focus on areas to improve.

I find that playing games within a round of 18 overcomes the frustration of yet another round gone. I see how many pars in a row I can get. A run will almost always happen every round. Really helps me to focus when a streak is happening.

With instruction, I find that Me And My Golf online are pretty good as they focus on practice that enforces the correct swings. They don’t really focus on getting things in the right place which can be be dry difficult to replicate on the course.
 

Ethan

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I started playing golf around age 15 or 16, and got what was then a junior handicap of 12. In my old club, you needed to get a senior handicap once you got to age 18, unless you were already Darren Clarke and the only player at the club who could claim that was Darren Clarke. In my first round for handicap I eagled the first hole,. but didn't keep that pace up and got a 12. Soon got down to 9 and then spent the next 25 or 30 years wobbling around between 7.6 and occasionally edging into 10, despite not playing a huge amount of golf. I still don't play a lot golf golf (none between October and April unless in a warm place abroad) and now have a WHS Index of 7.7. I still think I can improve it, but through canny golf rather than power.

I don't do any other sport and was never great at any. I remember thinking once that if I could get an 8 or 9 handicap, anybody could, and I still think that.

Perhaps there is a psychology issue. I love golf but I love it as a challenge to see if I can do it better. That means trying to improve my swing, course strategy and general attitude to scoring. A few times, I have torn down parts of my game and reshaped them, for example getting rid of my left to right tendency by learning to draw/hook the ball. Now I am trying to go back the opposite direction. Playing conservatively off the tee at times, aggressively at others. Laying up on par-5s even if green in 2 is just possible. And so on.

Now my current plan for next season is a slower more deliberate backswing and keeping the club more in front of me. We'll see if that works or not.

I would suggest you look at you whole game. Identify the parts where you can improve. Short game and putting is very likely to be part of that. hen practice with intent, to drill in a reliable set of pitching distances, or improve bunker play or avoid three puts. On your long game, figure out if you have a safe go-to tee shot. If not, find one.

On the course, find a strategy to stay focused. I find the playing yourself at matchplay a good tool. Soplit the 18 holes up into 6 3-hole matches. You play against the course, giving yourself a stretch target of shot, so if you are a 12, give yourself 9 shots. Each set of 3 holes then you win if you beat the course on 2 holes and you lose of the course beats you on 2. Once the little 3 hole match is finished, you restart and play the next. It keeps you focussed on short term objectives and if you manage to win or half the match overall, you have a decent score.
 

Backsticks

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Interesting one. I think you are at a pit stop anyway, and giving up for a while would be good to see if there remains any lingering hunger to get back to it. Dont sell the clubs or burn the bridges though. But if its a chore to push yourself out there, and you dont really want to be there, then you are right that it is better parking it. It gave you a good challenge, but golf is not the game if you crave continuous improvement. You probably will never get beyond the handicap you have stalled at. While occasional golfers who might have been playing for years can make a big improvement when they take it seriously, I think all golfers pretty much hit their limit after 2 or 3 years of seriously giving it a go. Improvement, let alone step changes or breakthroughs, I dont think I have ever seen. So I would think you have reached the end of the handicap road. But as others observe, while that pursuit was fulfilling for you for a while, you recognise that that is an unrealistic long term thing and maybe not suited to your character - at the moment. But people change, and there is so much more in having golf as a hobby. You are also well aware of them, but they just arent doing enough for you at the moment for the time and expense you must put in to it. But you might miss it when it is gone. So would suggest leave it for a year, but have in mind already a commitment to yourself that you will review the position after a year or so. And accepting that you will not be on an ever improving level of play, consider whether the other factors of the game, that keep the rest of us in it after dreams of winning The Open have faded, might still be rewarding to you.
 

Bobthesock

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Stop having lessons, will just mess with your head. Just go and hit balls without any thoughts of mechanics at all and you will be surprised how well you hit it.
This method got me from 14 to 7 and I'm still improving.
 

Rob112

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Iv had some lessons so improving very slowly. I enjoy the game especially when I play well for me. I like to get out in the country nice fresh air etc etc
 

hitogami

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Thanks for all the comments there is a lot to go through but I appreciate the time taken to respond.

A lot of food for thought but I am certainly having a break from the game for a little while and take stock.
 

drdel

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I was a County Athlete in a variety of field events and a gymnast. However I have astigmatism which screws with the eye/hand coordination so although I can give the ball a fair wack the accuracy is variable.

I had to accept that I had to use logic/experience to get a reasonable score: eyesight limited the handicap ceiling.

Accept who you are and at 30 odd enjoy what you can do.
 

Hobbit

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About 35 years ago my swing developed a fault. The more I tried the worse it got, to the extent that the ball felt like it was going sideways. Needless to say the handicap started to climb horrendously. It was as frustrating as hell, especially for someone who’d played every sport exceptionally well…apart from tennis.

I took a 3 month break, which lasted 2 months. I went back into the sport because I wanted to play. The desire to play like a Greek god had been replaced by a desire to just play. The tension was gone, as the primary motive had been replaced by just the joy of playing and being out there with friends again.

And by the year end my handicap had dropped a couple of shots, back down to 5. Sometimes the only real fault lies between the ears.
 

Voyager EMH

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... at a point where I think I simply don't have the skill required to get me any less than a 10-11 handicap.
Answer: Develop more skill.

...I am a complete perfectionist.
This should help you become a more skilful golfer by having a strong desire to eliminate errors and improve the weaker parts of your game.

...I have the best fitted clubs.
No, you have fitted clubs.

The fairway is wide - try to keep your ball on it.
The green is large - try and get your ball on it - close to the hole is best.

We all get to hit 18 perfect shots each round. All the rest are merely damage limitation.

Got down to 5 handicap at 16 years of age. HI of 3.0 as I head towards 62nd birthday this year. Never been lower than 3. Not given up the desire to get to 2 or lower.

You are a young chap.
Don't even think about giving up. You've hardly started. Give yourself a kick - somewhere.

Great first post, matey.
You certainly stimulated a lot of discussion.
 

Canary_Yellow

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Taking a break sounds sensible. The weather at this time of year, and the soggy conditions, make me feel a bit bleaker about getting out there. It’s silly to play if you don’t want to.

If you are a long hitter, as you say in your opening post, you’re kidding yourself if you think you’ve maxed out your potential at a 12 handicap. To hit it long and play off 12, you must have a reasonable technique and decent hand eye coordination.

You might not know right now how to improve, but there will definitely be a way. Have a think about things you haven’t thought about before, different strategies (check out golf sidekick YouTube channel, and others).

Don’t give up because you can’t see the route to improvement, there is one, go back to basics and think again. Golf is a pretty simple game which I sometimes make seem very complicated in my own mind and I’m sure others do to.
 

IanM

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I wonder if golf is a game for "absolute perfectionists?"

Hogan always said he only hit 4 or 5 perfect shots a round. Whatever you shoot, there's a missed putt or green or something in there somewhere!

If asked, I'd get you think about why you play golf?

From what you've said, if you play at such a great course, go out and blooming well enjoy it! No card, no keeping score and have a good old mess about with some mates. No phones, no work, no stress.

Fresh air, gentle exercise and a break from the real world. Take the pressure off... give yourself a break!

Then, scores improve.
 

Orikoru

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Golf is supposed to be fun, so if that's not the case and it feels like hard work, then there's no point forcing yourself to play really. Maybe if you have a break for a month or two you'll start to miss aspects of it and want to return - or maybe you won't.

Maybe you should start all over again left-handed so it's a completely new challenge. :LOL:

Personally I don't think I'll ever get to single figures with the minimal amount of practise I put in (or don't put in), but I just love playing the game for fun so I'm alright there. Same as I don't play football to reach the highest level, I just love kicking a ball around.
 

need_my_wedge

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I see the same thing in my Aikido club. People train and work hard, but always end up hitting walls they struggle to get over. Many of them give up at that point, they figure they've done everything they can and can't or don't want to to put any more into it. That's fair enough, jack it in. However, the ones that stop chasing it, let it go and just keep training without setting any targets, find that they soon start to develop and improve more that they expected, and more importantly, have more fun doing it. Take it from experience, just enjoy the game and the path you walk down the fairways, wherever you get to is where you are meant to be, the key is to enjoy the walk.
 
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I have read this thread with great interest. I was a professional in a sport totally removed from golf, and I cannot stop being competitive. However, the only highlight I will ever have in golf as far as handicap is concerned is actually getting down to 9.1 last year at the age of 69, having started this amazing (yet frustrating) sport at 51.
It will be downhill from now on, I can feel the years catching me up. But what I want to say, is that the guys who seem to enjoy the game the most, have a handicap in the low 20s.
They seem to get far more pleasure out of the game than I do, because they don't worry about any movement in their handicap, whereas I do. I feel that the best thing to do from now on is just play the game, and pay absolutely NO regard to my handicap.
I feel empathy for the O.P's post, but the fact is that very few (what is the percentage?), get down to single figures, and did I read that only 0.75 get down to scratch?
The only highlight in golf for me, is that it is clearly reasonably good exercise, and the social intercourse is extremely important for my mental well being.
 

MarkT

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You say you've had lots of lessons but do you read much on golf? An obvious one is Golf Is Not A Game Of Perfect by Rotella which should speak to you. I have a good mate who was a brilliant scratch golfer and stopped at 22 because he was a perfectionist and, in truth, a misery on the course. He's now 50 and feels like that he's missed out on so much because of his attitude.

I stopped playing properly for years, played off 6 as a junior and then struggled to play to 18 in my early 30s but then it slowly improved. I've now got back down to 6 by nothing more than having a better outlook, never judging myself by my golf and less self-doubt etc etc I'm sure if you can get down to 12 then you can keep going. If I have one golfing regret it would be that I didn't play in my 20s more when I was fit, had loads of free time and that I would have had the same outlook then that I do now..
 
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