Definitive Guide To Avoiding Those Golf “Blow Up” Holes

If you’ve ever wondered why you “blow up” and destroy those good rounds then this golf lesson has been written for you.

Here’s the story.

You’re playing along. Things are going nicely and the game seems almost too easy. You’re hitting the ball into play, you’re finding the greens and making all of those putts. You’re on fire and feeling on top of the world. But then disaster strikes.

You hit a shot slightly off line. You get a bad bounce. You miss a putt. All of a sudden your confidence is shot and you’ve gone bogey, double bogey and triple. Your great round has been destroyed by 2 or 3 bad holes and you don’t know why. It’s frustrating and this thing keeps happening to you. Adding to the frustration is the apparent ease you’re able to play either side of this mini-form slump. Your game turns sour for a short while – it’s not longterm but if only you could minimise these disaster holes you’d be able to reach your true golfing goal.

Here’s an email I received during the week:

Since I’ve been using Automatic Golf my golf has dramatically improved (scoring well + enjoying it = awesome). BUT, and I have noticed this in almost every round since using AG I tend to have 3 bad holes (bogey [when it should be a par) or worse). It seems like for 3 holes (and always one after another) I seem to be just going through the motions of AG rather than doing AG (hope that makes sense). But after the blow up holes it just comes back to together, and I don’t know why.

The rest of this post will go into some detail as to why this happens, and more importantly, how you can minimise the damage.

Firstly, this kinda thing is very normal. And it isn’t just with automatic golf that the problem arises – it happens more often than you think. Here are some other scenarios where the mini form slump can hit you hard.

– You play well after a golf lesson but then quickly lose the plot
– You play well with a new club in the bag but it quickly loses its magic
– You play well after a layoff but the “magic” doesn’t last.

I’ve also written about this in a previous post and I have even named it Steady’s Dilemma.

So what’s going on here? Why do you lose your game so quickly when you think you have the ball on a string?

The main issue is that you slip from Automatic Golf and back into a form of manual control. The problem is that you probably think that you’re doing things correctly – I bet you’re not.

You can’t TRY and do AG. Trying doesn’t work. The harder you try, the more likely you’ll consciously control the motion. This is never a good thing. So after you get through the honeymoon period, you still have to swing freely and leave thoughts of control behind.

And the issue for me is that telling you how to remain free and loose is not easy. When you’re out playing, when the pressure is on, it’s not easy to keep swinging like the results don’t matter. We almost always revert back to some form of conscious control. Here’s the interesting bit.

If you are relying on counting to keep yourself in the moment it may be that this process is getting in the way. You may be counting in a way that exposes your conscious mind – rather than letting it hover in the background.

The counting (or singing) has to become loose and free also. It’s no good trying to count and thinking that the counting is the secret here. It isn’t. Automatic Golf works because you repress your conscious mind and allow your subconscious to take over – the counting is a means to make that happen. But it can’t be regimented or it defeats the purpose. If you’re over the ball and say, “hey, I just need to count numbers in my head and I’ll hit a good shot”, I think you’re off the mark.

So it could be that you need to leave the counting for a bit and do another secondary task.

– sing a song
– look at something interesting on the ball
– listen for the sound your swing makes
– feel your swing

It’s a good idea to mix and match. It keeps you fresh and it stops you getting too comfortable with the process.

Are you lazy?

Golfers also tend to get lazy. After a round or two and some success it’s easy to think you have the game mastered. When this happens you slip into bad habits.

– you stop picking clearly defined targets
– you stop following your routine
– you forget about correct course management and play way too aggressively
– you are not accepting of the result and expect too much

Automatic Golf is not magic. It’s a profoundly simple concept but it’s also easy to forget to do. If you don’t follow the process and mix in your own style and flair it will fail. And I’m speaking from experience here. AG has allowed me to play the golf of my dreams but along the journey I’ve fallen off the bandwagon. Shit, it happened yesterday.

I was playing at the Coolum Resort – it’s a good course and I wanted to do well. Early on I was playing solidly, picking targets, walking in and swinging as freely as possible (despite a few nerves). But then I got lazy. The rot started on the 4th when I took an iron from the tee. I was in doubt as to the line, didn’t commit and hit a quick hook. Bogey.

I struggled for most of the day. I stopped hitting my shot from the tee, hardly ever planned the shot properly, played way too aggressively and pretty much was going through the motions. I stopped doing the important stuff. I’m experienced enough to not beat myself up about it – bad golf happens and sometimes, for unknown reasons, I can’t get into the flow. Thinking about it this morning I realised I was lazy more than anything. I didn’t do what I knew I should do. I stopped playing like I had a gun to my head.

Some honesty: Automatic Golf can be boring. It really can. You pretty much go through the same thing over and over again. If you really get into it you’ll play more conservatively, only hitting the shots you know you can it. You’ll probably not win any awards for amazing golf (except for the odd recovery). But you’ll play better, be rewarded with consistent golf and play better golf under pressure. And this is the fun part.

Traditional golf is a little bit more sexy. Trying new stuff and working on your swing is way more exciting. So is hitting the odd great shot. But it rarely works longterm. You get a little bit of enjoyment but hardly ever anything to write home about.

You have a choice to make. Are you prepared to play in this boring way? Can you commit to;

– picking your target?
– choosing a club?
– swinging freely?
– accepting result?
– repeat?

I believe a lot of golfers are definitely after something more exciting and possibly have bought into the fact that the “sexy” approach will work eventually. AG is some sort of compromise. You have to do the boring stuff well (and keep doing it) and then you’ll be rewarded by playing well. I’m just not so sure you can have it both ways.


The bad holes happen when we get off track. It’s important to not get too upset by the odd bad hole. I think that when you’re truly playing automatically you’re hovering on the edge a little bit – for the most part you’re fine and dandy, but every now and then you’ll hit a bad shot. It’s gunna happen and it’s nothing to get all worked up over. I have seen plenty (too many) golfers ruin their game entirely because they have tried to stop the occasional bad shot. Don’t fight the bad shots, they will happen every now and then.

If you get a string of bad holes and this happens regularly then there’s an issue. If you can feel your game slipping out of automatic then here’s some ideas to get you back on course. The more aware you become of your thoughts and emotions the earlier you’ll detect this kind of stuff. Awareness is the light that shines on your golf game.

– change your automatic cue. Go from counting to singing or to feeling your swing. But get away from whatever it was you were doing.
– be sure to focus on your full routine. Pick a target, choose the right club and be sure to err on the side of caution. Lay up, hit to the fat part of the green or aim away from the water. You get the idea.
– keep breathing. Don’t panic and lose the plot. If you’re aware of the tension building some relaxation and breathing exercises will get you going again.
– play the game. I know I talk about this a lot but we are a crazy bunch. We forget we’re hitting a ball with a stick and make it all complicated. Revert back to simple and you’ll do way better.

Let me know if you have any other questions.

Comment using Facebook


  • Sanj

    Reply Reply June 6, 2013

    Cam, thanks for the note. Quick question.. what do you mean by “feeling the swing”?


    • Cameron

      Reply Reply June 6, 2013

      Sanj: does this article help? Let me know and I can expand for you…

  • adam

    Reply Reply June 6, 2013

    I average 19 blow up holes per round lol

  • Steady

    Reply Reply June 28, 2013

    Hi Cam,
    You wrote,

    You have a choice to make. Are you prepared to play in this boring way? Can you commit to;
    – picking your target?
    – choosing a club?
    – swinging freely?
    – accepting result?
    – repeat?

    This is the core of AG. Any golfer reading this must stick to this foundation. It may seem boring and mundane but it is the essence of playing the game.
    Don’t try to improve on it or add anything to it. You don’t have to.
    Results will happen. Just takes the brain and you to come to grips how simple it is to play the best golf of your life.

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