Allowing the magic to happen – Club Championship article #4

The Club Championship final is played over 36 holes. My opponent was the leading qualifier and was the inform player in the club. I knew I would have to play well to beat him as he had been posting some great numbers.

I used to always struggle with important matches. I had the ability to play well in practice and social rounds but would always feel my game never got to the same level when it mattered. Learning to automate my game has made the world of difference:

  • Better able to deal with pressure
  • Bring my A-game to the golf course
  • Play well more of the time
  • Overcome bad shots more quickly

I think I’ve covered the above throughout the series so far. One thing that is worth mentioning is what I call “allowing the magic to happen”.

When you understand the learning system and the automatic process you greatly reduce the amount of things you have to worry about. You really just need to go out and play. You now have a strategy for dealing with just about everything the game can throw at you. All you have to do now is…

Play golf.

Playing golf is the final step. It’s the master level of performance and is purely letting your subconscious take you on the ride. This is when the magic happens.

My mindset was on “playing golf”. I was not focused on my opponent, the score, the weather (it was really windy) or the course (it was tough). I had committed to choosing the right club to play behind the ball and then making the best swing that I could. I has 36 holes to put it to the test.

I started well. I won the first two holes and looked like winning the third until a long putt halved it.

I kept playing.

He was in trouble on the fourth. But a lucky bounce (off a tree) and then a good pitch and putt and he won the hole. I played the hole perfectly but lost. I was now only 1 up after four.

I kept playing.

For the remainder of the morning round I stuck to my guns. I played some good golf and handled the conditions better than my opponent. At lunch I was 6 up.

This was a fantastic position to be in. But the match was not over. I had to ensure I played well to close out the match. I recommitted to playing golf and not letting any distractions get in my way.

Pumped up after some lunch and with nothing to lose my opponent came out firing. In really tough conditions he played the first six holes 2 under. The lead was reduced to 4 holes and he was back in the match. Things could have got interesting here. If I stumbled at this point it would have been easy to lose more holes and let the match slip. I ignored the stories going on in my head.

I kept playing.

And this is when the magic happens.

By keeping out of my own way. By swinging freely and automatically I gave myself the opportunity to experience some magic.

On the 7th I hit a towering 202 metre six iron onto the green. Back to 5 up.

On the 8th (a par 5) I hit one of the best drives in my life. I’m not sure what happened and I don’t really need to know. Instead of hitting the ball with my standard left to right fade I hit this huge high draw. I teed the ball a bit higher (it felt like the right thing to do) and I swung without a care in the world. From the tee it looked like it didn’t clear the fairway trap. It took a moment to find it because it was 45 metres past the bunker in some rough.

From here I had 152 metres to the pin. With the ball sitting in some deep rough I took a slash with my pitching wedge. The ball came out high (really high), took a big bounce on the green and finished through the green. It was a perfect shot that had little chance of stopping on the hard green.

From a little swale at the back I chipped with a six iron. The ball ran through the fringe, onto the green and went straight into the hole. The eagle put me back to 6 up.

I was now pumped. I had hit some great shots and was thoroughly enjoying the game.

I kept playing.

I stood on the 31st hole of the day still 6 up. Despite some great golf from my opponent I had managed to maintain my lead. The 31st is one of the trickiest par 3’s that I know. Playing downwind to a tough pin, the hole is surrounded by steep banks and deeper bunkers. For the 31st time that day I made a carefree swipe at the ball.

This time I hit a 9 iron. I wanted to hit it as high and as far as possible. This was the only way to hold the rock hard green. The shot came out perfectly. It cleared the bunker by a metre or two and it bit hard into the green. I was left with a four metre putt for birdie and the match. Steve (my opponent) played the hole well and was conceded a par. In what was a nice way to win I made the putt for a two.

I was pleased. I had played well and had avoided a few obstacles. Most pleasing of all I stuck to my plan and didn’t let any distractions interrupt my performance.

The point of this post is this.

Magical golf happens from doing the same thing over and over. By getting out of your own way and playing automatically for the duration, you give yourself the chance to experience something remarkable. In my case during the final it came at the most crucial time – when Steve got the match back to 4 in the afternoon. In years gone by I know that I would have played safe in the same situation. I would have panicked, got nervous, made up stories and stuffed it up.

I did none of that. I kept playing. Playing is what the game is all about. Playing golf, your golf, is what will allow you to break free and experience the true magic of the game. There’s no miracle cure or quick fix. Either you have the courage to step up to the ball and go for it or you don’t. If you don’t you’ll never be able to buy, borrow or beg for it. It’s up to you.

Most importantly of all the magic happens at the subconscious level. The game is too hard, the club moving too quickly and the swing too complex for us to have complete control. There’s absolutely no way in the world I could consciously hit that drive on the 8th hole or hit a nine-iron 170 metres. I went with the flow, stuck with it and was rewarded with some shots that I’ll never forget.

It’s a great game but only as long as you don’t forget to play.

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  • Tony Lucas (Lukey)

    Reply Reply November 22, 2009

    Great to hear you got through and won because I must admit I had a sneaky idea you may have.The most pleasing part about reading this particular post was it helped me to evaluate my game yesterday and for the first nine holes I did not totally allow myself to go auto but on the back nine I did and surprise surprise seven strokes better.The other great part about your post it has inspired me to go out and try even harder and turn a back nine into 18.
    Cheers Lukey

  • Cameron

    Reply Reply November 22, 2009

    @Lukey: Thanks Lukey. It was definitely a struggle at times but I got better as the event progressed.

    I’m glad you liked it and are feeling inspired. Let me know how you progress.

    Good golfing,


  • Steady

    Reply Reply November 22, 2009

    Hi Cam,
    just to let you know, our matchplay got canned afer we played 2 holes due to the rain today.I played a guy who smacked me last year 7 and 6.I was 2 up after 2 holes. Man I wanted redemption bad. If I have to play him in the final ( which we may do ) I know and he knows that I’ll match him, won’t be intimedated by his length or streaky play.
    So 6 out of 8 in our team played in the stableford to day. Had 34 points with a wipe and 2 one pointers. I didn’t hit the ball that great but I was scoring well, playing on auto pilot and enjoying my round with the guys I was playing with.
    There was one thing in you post that has struck me, even though I have enjoyed a few beers tonight. That is to let the magic happen.All too often as golfers/humans we want to make it happen,either by trying to make it happen or by misapplying our efforts into areas that we think might make it happen. ie build a great golf swing have a great game behind you.
    I’ve found in golf and all sports for that matter, that when we give up trying to control every inch of our movement and just react to what is front of us by distracting what it is running through our head we can play to our potential. Give me [patience now. I shouldn’t have few beers and discuss but I hope this makes sense.
    Cheers Steady

  • Gregor

    Reply Reply November 22, 2009

    well done on your win. It would be intersting to get a perspective on what the other guy was thinking. 6 down after 18 his mind must have been scrambled and he would have come out for the next round really trying to win. I guess ultimately trying to win was probably his downfall.
    It does seem that you need to have a mindset of going back to your routine and using what works for you to keep on track. Not overthinking or getting careful on shots.
    I still need to keep this going for a full 18 holes. Yesterday I had 5 bad holes where I know I was not sticking to it. But I played the back 9 in 2 over and came back from 3 down at the turn to take the match to the 18th. Didn’t win though, but I gave the other guy a real tough time. Gregor

  • Cameron Strachan

    Reply Reply November 24, 2009

    @Gregor: I can only guess what he was thinking after the morning round. Steve did play great golf in the afternoon, and If I wasn’t at my best he would have tested me further.

    The process requires constant discipline. It starts from the 1st tee and goes through to the last green. I must admit since this match I’ve been slack, played a couple of games where I haven’t been at my best.

    This post has reminded me that I need to follow my own advice 🙂

    @Steady: Yep. You can’t force it. The game is too hard – if you learn to “play golf” the rest will fall into place. If trying hard was all it took then we all would be able to play well. It takes more than conscious effort – get out of your own way and the magic will happen.

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