We’ll get emails about this, as we always do when the subject comes up, but as Walter Hagen famously noted all those years ago: “You’re only here for a short visit. Don’t hurry, don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.”

Many golfers, particularly in Australia, would do well to heed Hagen’s words by making the effort to occasionally haul the clubs out for a social hit.

There is an unhealthy obsession with competition golf in this country and it is to the detriment of the enjoyment of the game for many golfers.

This is different to saying competition golf is bad. It’s not. But to play competition golf to the exclusion of all else, as some do, is a mistake that does the golfer and the game a disservice.

The problem with a steady diet of comp golf is that it takes, by its very nature, an element of fun out of the game.

When every shot has some perceived consequence it’s only natural that minimising risk is the order of the day.

Who pulls driver off the deck to try to hit a 230-metre second shot to a par-5 over water in a comp? It would be madness.

“There is an unhealthy obsession with competition golf in this country and it is to the detriment of the enjoyment of the game for many golfers.”

However, it would also be fun. And in a social round it is a shot you could have a go at and – just occasionally – pull off.

Ask any professional golfer the secret to consistently good scoring and almost to a player they will say eliminating mistakes and playing the percentages.

But ask those same professional golfers what drew them to the game in the first place and it will almost inevitably be fun.

Those two concepts are poles apart but in a funny way complement each other.

If you played golf as a teenager you would likely be familiar with those great days on course with your mates just mucking around trying out different shots.

Who can hit it over the tree but stop it before the bunker, or who can hit a 2-iron under that branch but carry the water 150 metres away.

The joy and satisfaction of pulling off these heroic shots while both beating and impressing your mates was priceless.

But it also plays an important role in both learning and improving at the game.

This is the environment that shows the golfer what he or she is truly capable of. Only through attempting the seemingly impossible or highly unlikely do we learn what our limitations are.

And armed with that knowledge the golfer can choose to work on specific parts of the game to expand the skill set while maintaining the fun.

So if you really want your comp scores to improve, dump the scorecard and head out to the course for a social hit.

Because the next time you find yourself needing to hit it under a branch but over some water to have a chance to save par you’ll be glad you tried it earlier.

Knowing you can – or can’t do it – could well be the difference between winning or losing
the comp.

Rod Morri is founder of the TalkinGolf Podcast Network, home of the State of the Game, Good Good, TalkinGolf History and Feed The Ball podcasts.

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