How to Play Golf With Your Partner
In my years as a golf coach, as I would get to know clients, we would eventually get around to what my wife Emma does. Upon finding out she is a golf coach too, I would get the same two responses: “Wow, that must be great” or “Oh, I couldn't play golf with my husband/wife”. I can see either side of the coin and I appreciate that every relationship is different, so it got me thinking about why these two responses were so polarizing. Is it the nature of Golf that causes friction between couples? I discussed this with Emma to gain not only her point of view but the point of view of those she has coached and talked to about this very conundrum.
I`ll make it very clear. I am not a marriage counsellor or sitting on a high horse telling others how to communicate with their spouses. This is more a discussion of things I have learned in my experience as a golf coach and a husband to a golfer (one that is better than me).
Am I Helping?
Emma is my golf coach. Occasionally we will head to the range and work for an hour on a few things. In this situation, I have asked for her help. It's one of the only times in our relationship that I become a good listener because I don't want to waste her time and she knows what she's talking about. On the golf course, it's very different. We have never analysed each other's swings whilst playing unless the other has asked for help. If I was to give her four things to think about on her next swing after she`s just put one in the pond, I would probably get a clip around the ear. Not because she is a hot head, but because golf can be frustrating enough without someone constantly telling you how to do it better or the mistakes you are making.
If you are reading this and thinking “But I'm just trying to help”. It's not helping. It's probably annoying them. The urge to help, however, is completely natural. This is someone who you spend your life with and know better than anyone, and when you see them frustrated about how they are playing you feel empathy. In any other situation, if your partner is feeling like this you try to help however you can but Golf is a different kettle of fish. It's a journey where not every round will be better than the last and the idea of completely fixing a problem with a few (often misguided) tips is unrealistic.
The best way to help is to let them make mistakes and learn from them. If they ask for help, offer it to them but be supportive. Another option would be to get them some lessons. Golf coaches undergo three years of training plus the experience that follows. They know what to look for and the best ways to help someone improve.
Golf Can Be Fun
Put yourself in this situation: You and your other half see it`s an amazing day and decide to go out in the afternoon for a game of golf. After 9 holes you are both hovering around 10 Stableford points, tensions are high. You are both frustrated at yourselves as a result of how you are scoring, leading to one of you saying something that causes conflict which makes things worse. The plan to spend a lovely afternoon with your spouse playing the game you both love has been diminished by connecting your enjoyment (or not) of this round to your score and only that. If you had said in the morning “Honey, it's a beautiful day, would you like to go and try improving our handicaps this afternoon?” I doubt you would even be there.
There is nothing wrong with playing golf just for fun and to enjoy each other's company. Once you start dwelling on what your friend will say when they see you`ve made 21 points or what this round will do to your handicap, the attention is drawn away from your spouse and is turned completely inwards. From there, an afternoon of quality time with your other half turns into one where you're sitting in the car on the way home in silence.
Try a round of golf with no scorecard and the sole purpose of spending time with each other. Enjoy being outside, take as many mulligans as you like and laugh WITH each other at mistakes. Once the frustration of making a zero pointer is gone, it's surprising how fun the game can be. Remember golf is a hobby and doesn't have to be serious all the time.
Practice Makes Perfect
Like any physical skill in golf, being a mindful and enjoyable person to be around on the course takes time and practice. Start to notice how you react to poor shots and what it does to how you are communicating with your playing partners. Do you go into your bubble? Do you lash out?
Take a look around, see the sun is shining and enjoy spending time with your other half (good golf or not)