The reason why golfers love some golf courses but hate others

Golfers tend to love golf courses they play well on, and hate those they don’t.

This article originally appeared in Inside Golf where Michael Green writes a monthly column.

In a particular state, in a particular city, in a particular suburb, lies a golf course that I particularly love to play. The first time I played the golf course I played particularly well and ever since I’ve been particularly enamoured by it.

My problem is that one of my long-term golfing buddies dislikes this particular golf course almost as much as I love it. He has only ever played poorly there while I’ve played some of my best golf. And this is how golf courses are generally loved or hated.

It begins with a straight drive, a chip-in or perhaps a bounce off a tree that rebounds back into the middle of the fairway. The game is good and so is the golf course. Conversely, a topped tee-shot, a lip-out out for par or your first shank in four years and suddenly this isn’t the place you want to be right now, no matter how good the ocean views are or how lush the fairways are supposed to be.

It’s a familiar story among us golfers. We are a fickle bunch and we tend to only like (or love) golf courses where we have played well. It’s human nature and this is almost entirely the reason golfers love (or hate) golf courses.

It could be argued that some courses set up better for a left-handed golfer or someone with a high ball flight, but like dinner at a restaurant or a holiday in a foreign city, if your first experience is a bad one it’s hardly a place you want to run back to any time soon.

It’d be easier to find a whale that wanted to head back to the beach than a golfer who was willing to return to a golf course where he had sacrificed a dozen balls to Neptune. Golf clubs know this (not the whale thing) and most of them do everything within their power to ensure your time there is a good one.

The course could be immaculate with reduced green fees and a food cart that swings by every other hole but a bad experience is more often a direct result of bad golf – and less to do with the golf course.

I know a golfer who only likes three golf courses. He has only ever played ten different courses in his life but at least he claims he knows what he likes – or where he plays well. He conveniently forgets the shocking round he had last week (the course of love never did run smooth), and tends to recall that first ever round that solidified his fondness for his local links.

Professional golfers aren’t immune from this sort of thing either. How often have you heard a pro utter the phrase, “I love this golf course. I always play well here”? The truth lies somewhere closer to when the sentences are reversed.

Tiger Woods has said it many times in reference to Bay Hill Golf Club where he has won the Arnold Palmer Invitational a ridiculous eight times – just over 10% of his total number of PGA Tour victories. Of course, confidence is a wonderful thing and it’s amazing how well you can play on a golf course you’ve already played well on before.

And so it is with one of my golfing mates. I can’t get him within a five kilometre radius of this particular golf course anymore. It is a huge blow to my confidence. I used to get my annual dose of golfing chutzpah each time we faced off on these fairways.

Now I’m resigned to playing a different golf course if I want to resume our annual “Duel in the Sun”—which doesn’t appeal to me one little bit. My adversary wants to play at a golf club just down the road from his house.

Apart from being an inferior track, I just don’t like that golf course at all – I’ve never played well there.

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