I am not an expert.
I’m not a professional, lesson instructor, or even a qualified coach.
I am, however, a highly average golfer, with a +15 handicap and a wealth of bad habits.
Like many of you, I have recently embarked on my first round on the spring season, brimming with confidence and expectations about my game.
They all quickly fell apart.
It all started on the first tee, with a slice that nearly went more right than it did long.
That, was the high point of the day.
It’s as if there should’ve been a sign on the clubhouse door reading, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”
The rest of the afternoon was full of burners, bad putts and creating divits the size of craters from the fairway.
After careful reflections, I now realise I may have not handled my emotions very well, leading to a cross attitude and a terrible round.
So I’ve decided to pass on how I feel I should’ve approached round 1, to help you get through yours.
1. Have low expectations
“If at first you don’t succeed, lower your standards.”
It was sage advice I received long ago and it’s something I try to live my life by when it comes to this game.
Before you head up to the first tee, abandon all hope of having a good round. Don’t think you are going to put up your best score of the season, as if you magically got better while sitting inside all winter eating Jaffa Cakes.
Despite your best efforts, this round will at best be average.
So, enjoy the ride. Laugh at yourself when you swing and miss at the first one off the tee.
If you’re playing in a group and getting some stick, laugh along with them, because sooner or later, that guy who is trying too seriously will crack and throw his club across the green.
While you, can just sit back, smile, and get ready to duff the next chip.
2. Take two off the tee
This normally applies to just the first.
But I want you to challenge yourself to hit two off every tee.
Conventional wisdom might tell you this is poor etiquette, and it is.
But this catastrophe of a first round isn’t about etiquette. It’s about working out every bad habit you’ve worked up over the last few months.
So go ahead, double down. Turn those 18 opportunities for a decent tee shot and turn it into 36.
But, most of all, make sure you take a picture on one of the holes and send it your mate who said he couldn’t make it out today.
Even if you go 0/36 on fairways hit, your day is still better than his, because you’re on the golf course.
3. Bring plenty of golfballs.
I speak from experience.
During my round I lost no less than 7 balls.
I brought 8 in the bag.
The last three holes were adventure of hit and pray, hoping the pink ball I keep at the bottom of the bag wouldn’t end up in the water, deep rough, or the knot of a tall tree. (Yes, that happened.)
While it may add a bit of weight to your bag, go ahead and just bring a round dozen with you. If you’re feeling especially wild, 18.
Bringing a new ball for every hole may seem like overkill but just think of the relief you will feel that no matter how badly this goes, you will get to finish the round.
Not proudly, or with dignity. But you’ll finish.
This sounds idiotically simple, but frankly I could’ve used the reminder.
After losing a third ball into the woods, a small part of me snapped. That little part inside of every person that says, “Don’t do something stupid just because you’re angry,” went silent.
I got so worked up over my lacklustre performance, I took my useless, overpriced, clearly malfunctioning 6-iron, and wrapped it around a tree.
While it was a great release of anger, it was followed by immense guilt and embarrassment.
What’s worse, every time I am sitting 185 yards out, I will have a much harder decision to make.
Ease up on the 5, or swing out of my shoes with the 7.
All because I simply forgot to breathe.
5. Bring Beer
This is the last piece of advice I can give you.
Beer heals all wounds, no matter the ill. If you have the money, I suggest investing in something like this, a sleeve to hold a few beers while you hack through your first round.
Here’s how I would use them. Every time you think “I could’ve done that better last season,” take a drink.
Yes, you may have to stop for a fresh six for the back nine, but who knows? Maybe by the time you hit hole 15 with a decent buzz, your brain will finally get out of your way and allow you to maybe, just maybe, take a few decent swings before the afternoon is out.