Dealing with Complacency

So let me open this up with a full and honest admission of honesty and “golf privilege.”
I’m a relatively good golfer.
Give me any set of clubs on a reasonable golf course and I’m confident I can shoot 80 plus-or-minus ten shots. Statistically, put me in a group of 3 other random golfers and I’m likely to be the best one in the group. I don’t want to humble-brag here (or at least that’s not my primary intent) and I really do applaud anyone breaking 100-90-80 for the first time, but I just want to set the scene for this post.
So…am I “good enough” at golf? I can go out and enjoy the game as I’m playing now even if I never really get better. At the end of the day, I’m 35 years old, 5’10", 140 lbs., and fit(ish), so physically I’m probably only going downhill. I’m not going to be able to add 30 yards just based on athleticism. I work full-time and have a family, so golf can’t be my entire life.
This all leaves me in this odd spot when I consider What’s your goal? and other topics on the site. Most of me believes that I need to be growing and improving, but there’s also this thought that if I’m satisfied most days where I am, then why worry?
Apologies to those who read my other posts that tend to be more action-based while this one is much more existential, but I just wanted to open the question. When is good enough good enough? If good enough IS in fact good enough, what are the best ways to accept that? If good enough ISN’T good enough, how to have a positive improvement mindset within the restrictions of your reality?
Thanks for sticking with me through that one and I’ll certainly be interested if anyone manages to come up with a response. :wink:


@CoryO interesting post. I don’t equate the content of your post to “complacency” in your post title tho? I like this type of question, almost philosophical :slightly_smiling_face:

I’ll conclude having thought this through a little; in parallel with improving I also need to mentally find a way over time to reduce my need for improvement while increasing my sense of contentment at just having the privilege of being able to play. I have no feel for the timelines but I guess I don’t really want to be paying for fundamental coaching as I am now, when I get to my 60s.

I’m 50, went from 19 to 21 under WHS and can’t imagine a time when I won’t want to improve. I have an inbuilt need to get down to 10 in this lifetime. That said my best performances last year were during COVID restrictions and I was getting out for 9 early holes before work, collecting stats but not thinking about scoring. I had front 9s of 6, 7 and 8 over. Way better than my handicap. If I could play like that, in those summer conditions more frequently maybe I’d be more content to just play. But I know I won’t. Not yet.

I sometimes wonder what it’s like to have the skill level to pick up any clubs, play any course and shoot 80. I’m reading Tom Coyne’s Course Called Scotland and gawp at his scores, while also feeling sad at how much he beats himself up for his ‘performance’.

I think I’ll revisit this one as new thoughts come to mind


In my mind, I will never reach “good enough” and that’s what keeps me playing this game and practicing through the winter months. When I started taking lessons a few years ago, I set a goal to get to a single-digit handicap, and I did fairly quickly. But you always feel like you can get better. Got as low as a 5 this year and still have goals to improve. I think we have to delude ourselves into thinking its possible, even if it really may not be. I’m 55 years old, and two of the guys I play with are 65+, and they’ve both started to lose distance and power. I’m working to delay that inevitable truth for as long as possible, but I guess when you hit that point, you can start telling yourself to improve your short game. That’s what makes it such a great game.

Even if you have physical limitations or a lack of time to devote to it, I think with very targeted practice you can always improve in some area of your game. Until I got some professional instruction, I never knew how to practice to get results.


It’s an interesting question, and I think it’s probably a different answer for each golfer. That’s the beauty of this game - you can approach it from so many different levels.


Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.

After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.


I’m in a similar position, Handicap Index at 3.7, consistently playing the best golf of my life over the last few years. I’m in a DISsimilar position in that I’m 65 years old, getting very close to retirement. I may improve my overall fitness, but I have to understand that my game is likely to change over the next years as age continues to take its toll. Sure, I’d like to play better, but is it worth the time and effort required? I enjoy playing, I enjoy competing with my friends, I enjoy travel to play. Would my enjoyment increase if I put in the work to improve even further?
I guess my personal goal is primarily to continue to enjoy every single round I play. I’ll continue to practice some, largely because I enjoy that part of the game too, and may even get the motivation to get more instruction and work on improving my scores. But I doubt I’ll ever get the drive to work hard on improving. And I’m OK with that, I’m OK if that seems like complacency to some. @jon said it best, each of us approaches the game differently, and each choice is absolutely fine.


As we age, staying where you are at is a good goal in and of itself. It doesn’t happen on its own and likely will require some maintenance so there should be a “work in, results out” pattern that most people find satisfying. But, it’s not the kind of thing that requires much that keeps you from doing all the other stuff you need to do in your life. Frankly, it seems like finding a fun and happy spot and finding a way to keep it fun and happy is a great goal and one we all should pursue.


Great question - one I often ponder myself. My goals as a 12 handicap and 46 years of age have for the longest time been to break 80 consistently (which I don’t yet), and be able to beat my dad and brothers on the course…which I do consistently :slight_smile: . I’ve already lost the battle in still beating my step-son (he’s down to a 5 now)…but one thing I’ve taken from this forum is to really start just enjoying the game more.
I certainly always want to improve (and at my age maintain as much as I can while my game changes)…but man do I realize how much I enjoy the walk, being alone with my thoughts, or being with a good group of folks with a common enjoyment.


This is a great thread :slightly_smiling_face:

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I’m largely in the same boat is you. I’ve been a 3-5 handicap player for at least the last 15 years. My scores have not gotten noticeably better in that time. I’m on the wrong side of 40, so am probably not going to get significantly better without a strength and flexibility routine that I have yet to find myself willing to commit to.

But I still believe I am better today than I was 15 years ago and I still see being able to improve within the physical skill set I have. Why? Well, I am much more consistent than I ever used to be, and I’ve learned to get a score out of rounds where I don’t have my game. To me that’s improvement, even if my low end scores don’t show it.

And, there’s nothing wrong with being content and enjoying the game without really working to improve on something. As you point out, you have a job and a family. Most of us aren’t making money on this game, in fact we spend our own hard earned dollars to play it. So if you’re content and having fun then maybe you’ve found the secret.


I turn 40 this year and am actively working on my fitness (my former fitness goals involved fitting this whole taco in my mouth)… I’m a 6 and feel like I could easily improve 3-4 strokes with good mental strategy and 2-3 more strokes with better focus on my practice…

I enjoy playing my best golf and while I generically enjoy playing, I tend to focus on what I could have improved over what I did well… (I like to believe I do this in a healthy way, but maybe that’s a different thread).

As others have said, you choose your own goals… if you are happy playing golf at the level you are playing, great! If you want to improve, also great…

I think the best part of golf is you are basically in control of your own destiny… if you don’t like your game you can change it.


This is great to hear. Chasing handicaps/scores can be a fun endeavor, but it doesn’t always have to be about that. Enjoyment eluded me for many years when my expectations and ability didn’t match up properly. It’s a difficult balance to get right, but something we should all think about!


Agree totally @jon! I can certainly identify. My attitude was dead serious while my approach was lackadaisical, I gave up the game for many years as result.
When I resumed playing, I completely swapped; practiced my weaknesses, took lessons, etc. Tried to approach the game much more serious while being more accepting of the results. Big difference to my game and enjoyment thereof!
Which leads me back to @CoryO’s question: sure, I’d like to improve (and miraculously have!) thanks in no small part to this forum (thanks again, @jon!) but must also be realistic, at my age and physical limitations, my golf ability will only deteriorate, in fact already has. I’m two clubs shorter than seemingly only a few years ago.
But my goal is to slow down the rate at which I decline. I believe I can counteract Father Time with better course management, brutally realistic about what shots I can likely pull off and those areas which don’t rely so much on physical ability such as short game and putting.
Specifically, I shy away from fixed goals like hcp, score, etc. Rather, I count (and try to minimize) the number of shots I realistically could’ve played better or smarter and count the number that went to plan.
Most importantly, I’ll approach the game seriously until the fun decreases (luckily, I’m one of those oddballs that loves practice). As long as my attitude remains I’ll tee it up.


3.7 at 65 is pretty damn impressive


Your handicap inspires me, and maintaining is a goal too!


Thanks for the great thoughts everyone! A lot here that echoed what I’m MOSTLY feeling about my game:

  1. I can continue to grow and make progress with golf without necessarily lowering my handicap.
  2. Maintaining my (for me) high level of play is a goal in itself that will require practice and dedication.
  3. Enjoying golf is the most important thing.

Maybe once life has a bit more normalcy post-COVID I’ll look at working with a coach to challenge some of the assumptions I have about my game and where I can push it, but for now I’m happy where I am.


It’s easy for me to have low expectations, played my first round of golf in late '19, at age 61 and physically mobility impaired. But I was pleasantly surprised and love the game! I’ll feel ‘good enough’ when I can say I learned something and enjoyed each round I play. Breaking 100 is a goal, and increasing fitness/avoiding injury is the challenge. All things considered, improving my short game should be less affected by aging, maintaining or slightly improving driving and fairway hits will be more challenging. But every day is a chance to improve on knowledge and mental ability, keeps me coming back!


Wow what an awesome thread! @jon has done such a good job spreading the message of expectation management as evidenced by this conversation.

This is something I fight ALL the time. Like you @CoryO I’m a good player. In fact I’m very good. My current hcp is +3.7 and I’ve played in several USGA events. While it feels good to be able to say that, it leads to constantly holding myself accountable to THAT standard. At my peak I was practicing from 8am to 6pm every single day 6 days a week. And working with an instructor and doing off-course mental exercises and physical training.

And now… none of that. I play probably once every couple weeks. I shoot mid to high 70s and the reason my hcp is still so low is because I never put in my scores.

But I still really good shots that remind me of back when I could really play, just often enough to think I should be THAT player still. And it leads to a lot of frustration when I (understandably) don’t hit every shot great.

I’ve been fighting this since I “gave up” pursuing pro golf in late 2017. And 3.5 years later at STILL working on this!

So I guess all of this to say, I can relate. In my own unique way I am working on managing my expectations, finding that balance between holding myself to a standard of quality, while also being very kind to myself and accepting anything that happens. And also attempting to continue to practice and get better.

Improvement, enjoyment, playing well… they’re all very complicated. But golf is simple. It’s a game and it’s meant to be played and enjoyed. Full stop. And we’re all on a mission to find OUR way of enjoying it.

Don’t know if this is necessarily meant to help but really to try and relate my experience.


Why not post your scores?

If you aren’t posting your scores, then that is not an accurate handicap