Are you going to take up golf this summer? Before you swing that first club, I want to share a secret with you. Most likely, you are never going to be good. So don’t try. Enjoy being outside, have fun hitting the ball and laugh with your friends, but forget about mastery. Golf just doesn’t work that way.

I know. You’re good at other things. You’re a hard worker. Maybe you’re athletic too. With golf, none of that matters much. The ball is tiny, the club is long and the target is miniscule. You may hit the ball well sometimes, but the very next shot, you may swing and miss it altogether. You don’t got this. Look at Tiger Woods. Golf is a beastly challenge for him these days.

Recently, I played with a new golfer. She’s in her early 40s, pretty, organized, athletic, and friendly. She’s smart and likeable. Let’s call her Amy. For the most part, things have come to her easily in life because she has been genetically blessed. Amy had been taking lessons for several months and practicing religiously. She thought that she should now be able to play golf. But that’s not how it works.

Amy started out with some good holes, but gradually things began to fall apart, as they can and do on the golf course. She became very quiet. Eventually, she started tearing up out of frustration. At the end, she was no longer playing, just quietly watching the rest of us hack our way around the course.

A few days later, Amy and I were going to go for a walk. I was looking forward to getting to know her in a low-stress situation. But she ended up cancelling because she needed to practice golf. She wants to get good.

I wanted to tell her that that’s not how golf works. You are not going to get good anytime soon, so just give up on that. Let it unfold, let your body and brain slowly figure out the game over the course of years. Practice, playing and lessons help. But if you really want to improve, forget about it. It will be something you will be bad at, until maybe you aren’t. And even if you get good, at times you will still be horrible. But trying to get good at golf doesn’t lead to improvement. Trying leads to tension, which makes hitting a golf ball all the harder.

I know what Amy is going through because I was like her 20 years ago. Heck, I’m still like her at times! When I first learned to play, I was bound and determined to get good. Maybe I’d win the club championship someday. But the more I wanted to improve, the less well I played and the more frustrated I became. Eventually, I quit golfing and focused on tennis.

But now I golf every so often and because I’m not expecting success, in fact, I expect disaster, I can have a good time. I don’t practice. I don’t warm up or take lessons. Sometimes, I hit the ball decently, but can laugh when I don’t. I enjoy the beautiful scenery and being with friends. I’m lucky to be out there.

Golf, like life, is a process. We can try to force it, but that’s just not the way it works. And golf, like life, will keep reminding you of this, until you understand it. It always prevails in the end. It’s like the ocean – it’s much bigger than you or me. Trying to control it will only lead to frustration.

Whatever you end up doing this summer, I hope you can enjoy the process and let it unfold. And if you end up hitting any kind of ball well a few times, please relish that satisfying feeling too!