It’s quite the game – this thing called Golf – that we’ve been lured into playing. There aren’t many constants in the game, but there’s at least one that seems universal for all golfers and for as long as the game has been played; how you played yesterday, or last week or even a few holes ago has almost no bearing on what awaits you on your next shot. It’s an interesting observation, but what does it mean and can it help us enjoy the game more. The operative word here is ENJOY. Notice I didn’t say get better.
What seems to separate better golfers from worse golfers is consistency. This is true whether you’re in your first year of learning or playing on the Pro Tour. It doesn’t take a newbie very long to sink a 30 foot putt. Tiger, Phil, Rory or even Old Tom Morris couldn’t do better. Better players don’t necessarily hit better shots, they just hit them more often.
Have you ever met an amateur who is brimming with confidence before striking the first shot of a round telling all within earshot how well they are going to play. Not very likely. Even for a player coming off some recent good rounds you’re more likely to hear ‘I’ve been striking the ball well recently, I hope it continues’. Hope? that’s the best we golfers can do?
We’ve been across this territory before. Can it help us play better or enjoy the game more? I think it can if we have the right mindset. If you’re feeling jaded with too much golf advice that hasn’t helped, bear with me for a few more paragraphs.
What I’m selling here is not about playing better, though I hope – for my sake as well as yours – that it does. I think it will help reduce mental pressure/fatigue during a round and that has to be good. It might even save a few broken club shafts or keep you from buying yet another putter!
Most of us will agree that we can’t, with any certainty, know what will happen before we make a stroke. Past performance doesn’t predict the next shot. In many ways we, as golfers, are just along for the ride when we’re playing. How many times have you played worse or better than what you expected? Happens all the time. So why waste any brain computing power on trying to think our way to a better score once the round begins? The data shows it’s a waste of time and probably counterproductive most of the time.
My mother was a bit of a fatalist thinking that what’s going to happen is already written or at best out of our control. She felt this way particularly when someone died as expressed by her usual ‘It was their time’. Could we start with this, massage it a little and apply it to golf?
Think of your next round of golf like you’re reading a new book. You don’t know what’s going to happen and that’s what makes it fun. You turn the pages anxious to find out what’s around the corner knowing there’s both heartbreak and joy coming. What lies ahead on the next hole? a birdie, double bogie, maybe a great sand save or having a lone branch knock your perfect shot into a hazard.
Think of the peace you could find in your next round with this new mindset. Playing golf will be like reading a great novel. You don’t know what awaits you until you turn the page. This may sound a bit fatalistic, but I like to think it’s more like Zen and golf. A bad shot is bad enough for what it is, but we compound it by letting it affect our next shot(s) when really there is no connection – ‘Let it go Grasshopper’. Maybe the correct analogy is more like the ancient Greeks – the ‘gods’ call the shots, we are just along for the ride.
My last advice; try playing a round like you’re just along watching a player at work. The key is that you’re watching yourself, but in a detached way. Step up to the tee knowing you might witness a tee straight down the fairway or dead left out of bounds. Anything can happen, but we are more witnesses that executers. You’re reading a novel. Where will it take you? You just have to make the next swing (or turn the page) to find out.