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Being out on the golf course should be fun

The average golfer's handicap is just over 16, though you couldn't tell from the average golfer's reaction to each errant shot, missed put, and/or sheer shank — from their befuddlement brought on by each bogey or double.

While most golfers' swings aren't as bad as Charles Barkley's, they're also not as fundamentally sound as Ben Hogan's. Which is what makes the anger and bemusement with which most golfers react to their bad shots (that any bystander with cocktail knowledge of the fundamentals of the golf swing can see coming) that much more confusing (and amusing).

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And, if you're going to spend the money to cover the cost of ever-escalating greens fees, not to mention the money to replace all those balls you're inevitably going to lose along the way, you should at least enjoy your round.

Somewhere between Mark Twain, John Feinstein and/or Rick Reilly, golf became the game best known for spoiling an otherwise good walk. Golf, when played as a leisure and/or life-time sport, shouldn't be such a spoil-sport of sorts.

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You should enjoy the game — even if you're not very good at it. Especially if you're not very good at it.

Because it's that time of year, and most of you will be making your way back out to the course, if you haven't already done so, I thought I'd use this space this week to offer some unsolicited advice on how to enjoy your round a little more, and maybe even play a little better.

First, stop with all the foregrounding. What do I mean? Cut back on the negative swing thoughts.

The average person says between 300 and 7,000 words to themselves per minute. (Seriously.) As it applies to golf — when you're standing on the tee and you've got out of bounds to your right, do not say to your playing partners, or to yourself, "Let's see if I can try not to put this one OB." In the words of the great golfer, Ty Webb — you'll just put it "in the lumber yard" (so to speak, even if "the lumber yard" was a pond).

A pond in front of the green or a green-side bunker? Switch out your usual "don't hit it in the water/sand" swing thought for something more positive. More Bagger Vance and less Charlie Brown. Sorry to mix metaphors and/or to cross-over sports references, but be like Billy Chapel and "clear the mechanism." Aim for the green and hit it at the pin with confidence. Ending up in the sand-trap after telling yourself and anyone within earshot that that's where you're going is nothing more than a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Second, slow down. Relax. Breath. Enjoy. Keep the F-bombs to a minimum. Don't. Throw. Your. Clubs. Again, you're outside. Unless you're some sort of golf sadist, it's not raining, the sun is out, and you're playing with people the company of which you enjoy spending two-and-a-half-to-four-and-a-half hours.

Back to the basics above — your swing is not perfect. Not even close. At best you grew up playing another sport, be it football, baseball, or other. So you have a baseline level of athleticism. But, your golf swing is not great. It's not bad. But, you've got bad habits. If football is a game of inches, golf is one of millimeters, and every little hitch, verve from the right swing path, quick shoulder turn, reverse pivot, hooded club-head, peak up to soon, and/or dive down at the ball does and will cause most average golfers to hit almost every shot less than pure and far from straight.

Nothing makes me laugh harder on the golf course than the sight of someone with a hacker's swing going Judge Smails-styled ballistic, cursing and beating their club into the ground (or letting it fly further than their shot), after what was clearly going to be a bad shot. News flash — you're not that good. But, that's OK. (Honestly, you were aimed over there. No, really. It's true.)

Again, back to the above — the average golfer bogeys 16 out of 18 holes. At best, you're slightly better than the average golfer, which means you're probably bogeying 12 holes a round, or 2/3 of the holes you play on any given day. That slice into the woods was bound to happen. Duffing one and taking two to get out of the sand — saw that coming. Didn't get it to the ladies' tees. Keep your pants on. (Literally. Please.) It happens (especially when you try to lean into one on a par 5 hoping to set yourself up to get home in two).

Laugh it off.

Statistically speaking, you're not going to break 80. Shooting an 85, for you, should be cause for a 19th hole celebration. Which brings me to what may be the most important change you can make to your approach to the game of golf — play as if bogey golf is par golf.

If the course is a par 72 and you're an average golfer (or worse), play as if 90 is par for the course (one-over on each hole). (Maybe even go so far as to pull up the course's scorecard online a day in advance and pre-print your own card with a stroke added to each hole in advance. I bet you have more fun without even knowing it. Shoot, you may end up two-under-par, or better, for the first time in your golfing life.

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Back to your background as an athlete of some sort or another from one sport or another (other than golf) — don't over-think things. Specifically, don't take your athleticism out of your swing. Were you a baseball player? Yes, interlocking and/or overlapping your fingers will feel strange. And, yes, you will duck-hook your fair share of shots. Even worse, you'll probably slice some too. (You'll definitely "fade" some for sure.) Your swing is flat and round, and you swing around the ball. It'll be OK. Just don't think so much you almost bring about your own practical paralysis by analysis so to speak.

Don't take your hips (or hip turn) out of your swing.

Don't listen to every self-proclaimed swing coach tell you what not to do. Whatever you do, don't spend the whole round listening to lessons gleaned from the pages of Golf Digest by your buddy who's 5 strokes better than you at best (putting him at an 11+ handicap — which means he still bogeys more holes than he pars). And, on the chance where you're in the statistical minority among golfers and you're a single-digit handicap(per) — you can still enjoy the game. These same tips apply to you, particularly the ones suggesting that you cut back on the mid-round swing path/thoughts self-analysis.

Pardon the double negative and double use of a word, but don't not do what comes naturally from being a natural athlete. When in doubt, shorten up a little bit, but swing away. (Just keep your eye on the ball.)

You're not Jordan Spieth, and, despite your color-coordinated bright colorways and/or your (totally obnoxious) wiggle, you're not Rickie Fowler or Sergio Garcia either. But, that's ok.

Even if you only play once-a-week — and especially if you only play once-a-week — being on the golf course should be fun. It shouldn't be that "good walk spoiled."

Hit 'em straight. But, and even when you don't, enjoy yourself nonetheless.

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