A lot of players think they are competing when they play, but are they? When a poor result occurs, their thoughts often go to, "How did I get here?" instead of "What is the best I can do from here?" As soon as the thought process dives into the past, a player goes from competing to searching. That search will take the player to answers that include poor mechanics, poor choices, poor attitudes or simply poor bounces. Any of these might be valid answers to the question of, "How did I get here?" However, will they help you compete and make the best score possible on the hole?
Another trick of competition is a player who is competing against her perfect-self instead of using what she brought to the course that day to compete for a score. This player is thinking of the words "should", "could", and "would" instead of the reality of the day. This player is also in a searching mode instead of a competing mode, but she is searching for the game she wants. The time to search for that game is when you are planning and executing your practice, not when you are competing for a score. These players are often inconsistent, because when things are going well, the perfect self is present and accounted for. However, when she disappears, the idea of "What is the best I can do from here?" turns to "How do I hit this shot?" The focus turns from ball and target awareness to self-awareness and the competition turns inward.
The final trick of competition I see is when players decide to compete against another player's skills. They get caught up in the fact that the girl they are paired with hits it long or makes everything. Now, instead of thinking, "What is the best I can do from here?", they start thinking how much easier it would be if they were 50 yards in front of the ball or if 20 footers fell easily. This is a world of make-believe that takes a player from her own game and puts her focus on others. It is another way of failing to compete with the golf course.
The next time you go out to play golf, just ask yourself this question prior to each shot: "What is the best I can do from here?" See if this one question helps you to compete for all 18 holes of your round. I know it has helped others do just that.