Golf is really two games. There’s the game you play within yourself: shutting off the chattering mind, focusing on the target, enacting the pre-shot routine, relying on ingrained fundamentals, and muscle-memory to execute the shot. Or not. In essence, golfers compete against themselves to do better than they did before. There’s also the game a golfer plays against an opponent, as in match play; or against a field of players, as in medal or stroke play. The handicap system levels the playing field for everyone. Strokes or no strokes, everyone wants to play his or her best and emerge victorious. Listen to a tour pro or ranked amateur who’s been out of commission. What they miss most about golf is the competition.

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