5 Stages of Golf


There is a funny and very relate-able comment in this thread on golfwrx titled “What stages has your golf game gone through?” where Sean2 says:

Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. No wait...those are the five stages of grief

Looking back through out my years, I see there are bits of truth in this…Let’s dive in…

Stage 1: Denial

Non-golfers going to the driving range for the first time can relate.  I still remember the first time a friend said “let’s go hit some balls” (instead of studying for University final exams).  The only thing I knew about golf was some guy named Tiger is famous and it’s an absolute bore to watch on TV when “real” sports like hockey or football are also available.

Plus, how hard could it be to whack a ball with a stick?

Child’s play, right?

We show up at the range needing to rent clubs, I asked for left handed clubs (being Canadian, and playing street hockey as a kid as a lefty… plus, how hard could this game be?).  First try- whiff.  Second try- whiff again.  Man, is ever humbling.  Let’s try right handed instead.

Loud Clang!

Loud Clang!

Oh, much better- startling every around me while the ball ricochets off a middle divider.  (Oh, that’s why there’s dividers…)

But really, this game is simple.  So it can’t be me.  I’ve got good hand eye coordination.  But why do I keep missing that stupid ball…  oh wait, what is this sense of hatred that’s brewing?  Could it be…could it be pure frustration and ANGER?

Stage 2: Anger

Many great athletes finish their golfing careers at this stage.  This is where a casual player hits The Wall that separates those who are pain adverse and those who are glutton for punishment.  Those who prefer to never “fail” in life versus those with enough grit to stands up and endure through all the humiliation that is golf.

Once we finish school, we are free to choose what we do.  In grade 7, I failed drama class with a woeful 45%.  As an adult with autonomy, I went into the sciences and as far away from the arts as possible.  I was able to choose my way out of something I’m not good at. If we’re lucky, we get to choose what comes naturally to us that we can develop into a talent.  If we’re not, then hopefully, we are gritty enough to persevere and pick up a skill or two to pay the bills.  

But rarely in life do we choose to be mercilessly humiliated and embarrassed in front of our peers like we do in the game golf.

We don’t like admitting defeat, that we have to put in the work, that we’re just not that good.  We’d curse; throw clubs; throw tantrums, and devolve down to our most basic natural form, from that of unassuming Dr. Bruce Banner to some raging green ball of testosterone:



Anger is a long and difficult stage.  Some players continues to play but never make it out of here- forever cursing and half begging their ball to make a against-physics-sharp-left-turn back onto the fairway as the only way they’ll ever know to golf.

Stage 3: Bargaining

Eventually, those who persevere will see how this is not working.  Breaking a putter makes it harder to score on the greens for the rest of round.  Flopping the wedge into a pond means crazy 46.5% half shots for the rest of the round.  Chucking the iron back at your bag barely misses your best friend.

Externally, you’re now being called out as a d-bag with plain to see Anger Management issues.  Internally, it finally clicks that while you finally can drive it straight, or hit the green occasionally, or drain that crazy double breaker putt, you’re just not going to improve in anyway if you stay angry.  (Not to mention you almost sent your buddy to the hospital for missing the fairway?).

With this realization, comes a stage of great improvement.  This is where we start to make deals with ourselves to get to the next plateau.  Range time becomes practice time.  We dutifully work on wedges and aiming 100 yards shots at a flag instead of slamming big slices with the driver.  We might even join those crazies on the putting green and practice chipping and putting!  Anything to improve.  Anything to break 100 or 90 or even less.  New equipments.  New 17 way adjustable drivers that promised 17+ more yards (which remains ironically unadjusted).  Blades to mallets to belly putters to counter weights.  The search is on.

The deal is to practice better and buy new equipment until a better game comes.

Stage 4: Depression

The hard work has paid off.  You finally develop a nice high draw, you’re not intimidated by the water on the right, or start to look forward to blasting out of the green side bunker.  You start out driving your regular foursome and make remarkable recovery shots through trees and over water.   You even start to get a little arrogant and brush off a personal best with “yeah, I left some shots out there today.”

But all good things must come to an end…

Suddenly, the soft draw is an ugly duck hook.  Your fairway percentage become unpredictable 2 way misses.  For some reason, you’re now picking the ball clean out of the bunker and flying it into the other bunker over the green.  You begin to think way too long over a straight uphill 4 foot putt.

This is not good…

Stage 5: Acceptance

This is getting frustrating.  We still love the game but we begin to grow as a player and realize a few things.

That wall where most people quit?  Well, the game is never going get easier than from that day.  If anything, the high learning curve continues to climb higher.  We must continue to persevere longer to get an incremental tiny bit better.  We must never get cocky.  We show respect to the golf course and this game of golf

Accept this game for what it is and accept the challenge of life long learning!  

Heart Golf

Heart Golf

Enjoy the highs.  Ride out the lows.

Love this beautiful game of golf!


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