How to enjoy your return to golf, however you play

Duncan McCarthy, who works with a number of European Tour players including Marcus Armitage, helps to ease you back in to playing again


Everybody wants to play good golf next week and everybody wants to just enjoy being out there but, if you play terribly, then you probably won’t enjoy it as much. It’s human nature and, mentally, you’ll be straight back into the same bad place as you’ve been in before when you haven’t played well.

If someone asked you how you were playing before the last lockdown you would probably have to give it some thought and you’ll probably struggle to piece together when and who you played with, let alone the emotional attachment that went with it.

This is the one round of golf where you have a blank canvas of doing whatever you want. The expectations will kick in after your first or second round back so just enjoy this one. This is easier said than done but this is the only other time when you should have absolutely zero expectations. Otherwise you will always be measuring yourself in some way.

So, in terms of your performance, what can you control? What you can do is have an outlook of accepting everything and not letting anything bother you. Try and have that one thought that no outcome of any shot can get to you and that should be your goal for the day and you can control that.

Don’t get sucked into things, if you hit a shot that you’ve never hit in your life then don’t go straight into that golf mentality. There is a higher chance of hitting these shots rather than striping it down the middle. You’re more than likely not going to play good golf, most of the time we play with our B game and our A game shows itself about three times a year. If that happens when we are playing regularly there is a high chance that we will have at best our B game next week, more likely it will be our C and D games.

Of course you still want to perform well but the chances are that you won’t. The 1st fairway will hardly be touched, probably the 2nd and 3rd, and the bunkers will get a lot of work but with no expectations none of that matters.

You should play poor golf. You haven’t touched a club for ages so logically you won’t play well. But we go against that when we’re out there and we get frustrated. Give yourself a break, it’s fine to play badly. It’s meant to feel alien, your grip is meant to feel weird, your swing and alignment will feel odd, your back will be tight, you’re not going to hit it as far and you’re going to miss the centre of the clubface so accept all these things before you get there.

You’re purely there to spend time with some good people and hitting a few decent shots will be a bonus. You’ve got to have fun, if you walk off the 18th green and it’s been fun and you’ve had a laugh and you had some good conversations then that’s your objective achieved.

Rise above all the usual bits that come with the game and think about where you are going to get your enjoyment from. It’s not a simple case of saying I am going to enjoy it, rather what can I do to help myself? Give yourself a pat on the back if you hit a green or a fairway or get up and down and reinforce the good shots and let the bad ones go.

What actually is your priority? If it is to play good golf on the first round back then good luck with that. Or maybe change your priority to enjoy seeing the pros in the shop again or a ball fly or holing a two-foot putt, you haven’t done it for a few months and you’ll have missed it all.

You’re not going to hit balls on the range so give yourself six holes to get going. You’ll have a few swings on the 1st tee and it will all feel weird so give yourself six holes to warm up, and after 12 or so full swings you should be warmed up and make a bit more of view after that.

And at the end of the round write down three shots that you were pleased with, in a book or on your phone, and update it after every round. By having your own success story it will help to reinforce that you are capable of some great shots.

Duncan runs a golf performance agency Underpin Sports, working with players on the European, Challenge, EuropPro and Ladies European Tours