In the world of Stick and Hack, I have a constant battle between the two in my brain. Part of my brain tells me I’m a Stick, but really, I’m a total Hack, happy to break 90 if I’m lucky. Most times I’m satisfied just to be out on the course for a good time with my buddies. 

“Mike, today’s your day, for sure,” my inner Stick says before each round. “Everything has built up to this day. You’re going to shoot in the low 70s, drive the ball down the fairway every time, sink most of your putts, make a few birdies, maybe an eagle? Be just like the pros! After all, you watched those videos about fixing your slice last night, right?”

Stepping to the first tee, stabbing the crisp new white ball, and tee into the ground, everything feels good. At this moment, my mind is right. I feel confident, and I have some new balls (both figuratively and literally). 

Then I lay into a real hosel rocket, and the ball goes screaming 5 feet off the ground way right. Mulligan, please? That’s when my inner Hack chimes in.

“Well, what did you expect? This is who you are. This is your game. You didn’t really believe you could shoot in the low 70s did you? You’re not a Stick, you know.” This is the continuous back and forth in my mind. 

I’m usually frustrated and 10 over par by the 6th or 7th hole — sometimes sooner and moreover par depending on the day. I’ve already lost eight balls, had more than a few embarrassing tee shots, and taken way more than my fair share of mulligans. 

It’s my inner Stick that makes this frustrating, high expectations hang over my head. I already know I’m not close to being a scratch golfer and probably never will be, and I’m completely fine with this fact. 

One thing I’ve learned is that if your unrealistic inner Stick is louder than your true-to-life Hack, it can ruin your game. So here are some tips I’ve developed to survive a horrible round and salvage the day. 

Erase the bad shots from memory (and maybe your scorecard) 

Before I line up my next drive (not that it matters much), I take a moment to clear my head. I try to forget that I just 3-putted from under 10 feet on the last hole, and that my tee shot on the 5th barely cleared the senior tees. I wipe all of that from memory. 

I accept the fact that those shanked shots and holes are behind me. I can’t go back and change them — although there’s an eraser on my pencil for a reason, right? I already cheated my way around with foot wedges, uncounted drops (no one was looking), and too many mulligans (my friends are very forgiving, and they aren’t that great at golf either). 

“Focus on the rest of the round, forget the past, and move forward with your round, dummy,” that inner Stick tells me.

And I try to heed the words of golf legend Ben Hogan: “The most important shot in golf is the next one.” 

Hold on to those good shots

There was the short par-3 third hole, after all, the shot over the small lily-pad-covered pond filled with hundreds of lost-soul golf balls. I pulled out my already-suspect 9-iron and smoothly stroked one to the middle of the green. I looked like I knew what I was doing for once. I almost made the birdie putt and had a nice tap-in for par. 

No matter how bad the day is going, I always have a few shots worth remembering. “Stick that one in your back pocket, remember it for later,” says my suppressed inner Hack. “That’s why you love this game.” 

These are the shots that bring us Hacks back, over and over again. 

I try to keep these stored in my peanut brain for as long as I can. 

Set small goals for the rest of the round 

It’s not like I tell myself, “Hey buddy, don’t worry. You’ll par out.” Let’s try to be realistic here. I set some small, achievable goals. This is when Hack takes over. 

“Mike, let’s try not to make any more double bogeys … Mike, let’s get 2 pars before the round is over … Mike, can you try to keep the same ball for the next 3 holes?” my Hack says. 

The key here is to make these goals small and attainable, so I don’t frustrate myself anymore. Then, I get a nice confidence boost if I realize one of my goals: “There you go man, things are turning around for you,” I hear in my ear.

#blessed #andjustlikethat #livingmybestlife

Normally, I’m golfing with some of my best buddies. Some of these friends I only see every few weeks or even months. Everyone has a life and distractions — kids, weird work hours, laziness on the weekends — outside of golf that prevent us from more regularity. So, I try to enjoy the few hours I get to spend with this gang of knuckleheads that I call friends. 

And remember, no one likes golfing with the guy that is having a rotten time. The guy swearing, throwing clubs and in an all-around piss-poor mood. Don’t be that guy!

Enjoy this time now, life is too short to worry about the fact you bought 12 new balls and are now using a scuffed ball with some random financial company’s logo on it that you found in a woods a few holes ago. 

Resort to playing a game with your buddies

“Hey, let’s play closest to pin on the next hole! Loser buys the first round!” I yell out. 

Most of my friends already know this trick I play during a horrible round. Playing games adds excitement to the round. I’ve always been a fan of best ball, match play when I’m playing terribly. It gives me someone to throw some blame on when a hole is dropped. 

Sometimes I hear the groans from my buddies, they just aren’t feeling the games today. But I don’t play with a ton of Sticks. Believe it or not I’m one of the better golfers in my pack of Hacks. They’re usually duffing shots and losing balls right along with me, up for changing the game a little. 

Enjoy the course you’re playing

I’m blessed to live in Hawaii and play some of the most beautiful courses in the world. 

Even my go-to, cheapo golf course has a sprawling ocean view with cascading green volcanic mountains as a backdrop. Now picture the sun shining bright and a rainbow over the mountains. OK, I’ll stop now (I know, you hate me). 

I’ve played across the U.S., from shoddy par-3 courses to high-end perfectly manicured country clubs. All the courses are beautiful in their own way. Even the one that had that weird, scary barn in the middle of a par-5 fairway (still not sure what that was all about, or what horrors went on in there). 

The old adage, “A bad day golfing beats a good day working” runs on a loop in my head. 

When on the course, I take a deep breath, and simply look around. I look at the trees, the flowers, the maintenance guy looking back at me like I’m some kind of simpleton. I stay in the moment, soak it in, relax and enjoy the beauty that surrounds golf. 

Then I worm burn one up the fairway 50 yards. 

Stop keeping score 

Honestly, it’s not like I have a special wall in my office with all my framed scorecards. Although I’m certain that guy exists somewhere out there, I think I may have even been paired up with him once before. Who really cares about the score anyways (unless you’re shooting your face off, then maybe keep that card)? 

Once I take the pressure of that damn number out of my head, everything seems to flow better. I can focus on each shot a little better, knowing it doesn’t matter if I shoot a 10 on the hole or not. 

Most importantly, if you’re a Hack like me, even when you want to wrap your 5 iron around a tree, remember that golf is something you genuinely enjoy. 

Both the Stick and Hack in my brain can finally come together in agreement: “Take it easy, relax dummy, it’s just a fun game.” 

After all, I paid for this abuse. 

Mike Joslin

Originally from New York and now based in Honolulu — a golfer's paradise — Mike Joslin is an avid golfer and self-proclaimed Hack, just enjoying the game ... foot wedges, Mulligan, and all. Handicap: Currently averaging 4.2 mulligans per round.