Playing automatically

I‘d like to give you a detailed run down of my round of golf on Sunday. It was a big game and I was determined to play each shot automatically. Here’s a run down with my thoughts on what I did well and badly:

First hole, par 3, 200 metres: I was unsure of the wind. At first I selected a three-iron but then went back to the four. I made a free flowing swing and hit a good shot to about 4 metres. My 3 was good enough to win the hole.

Second hole, par 4, 350 metres: I hit the three-iron from the tee (laying up from the cross bunkers) and had 138 metres to the pin. I was a little doubtful of the wind and had trouble committing to the shot. I selected a nine iron and ever so slightly missed it to the left. It blew further left and found a bunker. From there I made a five. My opponent made an up and down from a bunker to win hole. Looking back I should have taken more time to assess the wind and played safely to the right.

Third hole, par 3, 146 metres: This hole was back into the wind. I selected an 8 iron and played my favourite shot – a back foot and strong draw. The ball finished a fraction short and the resulting putt just missed. Hole halved in 3.

Fourth hole, par 4, 324 metres: I opted for a conservative strategy to avoid the fairway bunkers. My three iron and wedge found the middle of the green. My opponent was in trouble from the tee. He hacked the ball back onto the fairway and then got up and down for a four. My birdie putt just missed. Hole halved.

Fifth hole, par 4, 392 metres: After a good drive I was left with 97 metres to the pin. With my opponent again in trouble I played for the middle of the green (the pin was towards the front right). I watched him struggle with some chips but incredibly sunk a long putt for a five. Looking at a 5 metre downhill putt I was tempted to steer it towards the hole. I calmed my mind and made the most automatic stroke I could. The ball trickled down the slope and found the hole! It was pleasing to make the putt and avoid three-putting. Often these situations put the most pressure on us – so we have to learn to play our natural game and not get distracted. 1 up.

Sixth hole, par 5, 495 metres: I smashed my driver down the right side of fairway. I needed a low hooking 6 iron to find the green. I overcooked it and the ball was held up by the rough. Faced with a tricky shot I avoided analysing too much and played a good shot (I like playing quickly – it helps me avoid self-doubt and over complicating matters). I made the putt for birdie as did my opponent. Still 1 up.

Seventh hole, par 5, 478 metres: This hole requires a precise drive. In this situation it is tempting to steer the ball. I relaxed my mind and swung as freely as possible. I nailed the drive in the perfect spot (this was pleasing – learning to let go and then hit a great shot gives a surge of confidence). Left with 183 metres to the middle I selected a 6 iron. I knew a five iron was probably the right club to get to the pin but a 6 iron would leave me below the hole and also give me the biggest part of the green to hit. The ball found the front of the green and I was able to two-putt for birdie. Sometimes it’s better to make a great swing with the wrong club than make a poor swing with the right one. Always choose the club you believe will leave you in the best position – not the one that will get you next to the pin.

Eighth hole, par 4, 356 metres: After some good driving I was confident I could drive this downhill and downwind hole. I relaxed and made another free flowing swing. I pulled the drive slightly to the right – even though I made the distance I was left with a difficult pitch shot. I couldn’t get the ball close and my opponent did. His three beat my four. 1 up.

Ninth hole, par 4, 312 metres: I played this hole badly. I hooked my tee shot behind a tree and then chipped into a bunker (I think this was just a poor shot) I couldn’t do better than 5. Opponent made 4. All square.

Tenth hole, par 4, 267 metres: This is a really short hole that I could reach in one comfortably. The problem is that it is surrounded by water and sand. I selected a 7 iron and thought I made a good swing. I watched unbelievably as the ball trickled into a bunker that I thought was out of range. Left with a poor lie I went into another bunker and then narrowly missed a par putt. I was frustrated by this hole – I was playing well but made a couple of bad mistakes that had the potential to ruin my score. I went to 1 down.

Eleventh hole, par 4, 350 metres: I calmed my mind an promised myself to swing freely and not worry about the score. I nailed the drive. The 87 metre shot spun off the green into a fluffy lie. I chipped past the hole and was left with a very fast 2 metre putt. This is the type of putt that can cause serious problems – golfers get tentative and make poor strokes. I reminded myself not to worry and keep playing automatically. I surveyed the hole, had a quick look, stepped up to the ball and stroked the putt like it didn’t matter. The ball went in dead centre. All square.

Twelfth hole, par 4, 281 metres: I realised at this point I had to keep swinging automatically – the tricky putt on 12 had helped erase the poor 9th and 10th holes and I was keen to play my way. I selected a driver and had planned a soft slice to negotiate the dogleg and the two green side traps. I hit the shot perfectly – from the tee it looked like the ball was on the green. My opponent played the hole more traditionally and hit a fantastic wedge to one-metre. When I got to the green I found my ball in a bunker. I had to calm my mind and focus on the present. This is key – it’s important not to get too far ahead of yourself and make stories. The long bunker shot finished two-metres from the pin. My memory here is a little hazy (I was playing automatically and in the zone) but I believe I played really quickly and stroked the ball into the hole. All square.

Thirteenth hole, par 5, 519 metres: At this point I knew I was playing well. I wanted to keep things going so it was important to not get in my own way. I teed the ball a fraction higher and made another free swing. I nailed the drive over fairway bunkers and was left with 201 metres to the middle of the green. I didn’t fluff about. I chose the 6 iron and came up a bit short (If I’m really honest I probably needed the 5. I knew the 6 iron wouldn’t get in any trouble as the front of the green was clear). I watched my opponent wedge in from 100 metres (after finding the trees) to about 2 metres. When he made the putt for birdie I calmed my mind and went automatic. I matched his birdie. All square.

Fourteenth hole, par 3, 147 metres: I made a good decision here. The wind had picked up and I was pumped. I chose the 9 iron to compenate for this and hit a good shot to 2 metres. My opponent found the front of the green and then made a long putt. Once again I ignored any temptation to analyse and over think the situation. I went through my routine and pulled the trigger. The ball went into the hole for another birdie. All square.

Fifteenth hole, par 5, 567 metres: We played from a super back tee – it is a really long hole! After a good drive I layed up with a seven iron. My opponent found the trees with his second. I was tempted to hit a three-wood but thought otherwise. I had 103 metres for my third and hit a wedge to 4 metres (it wasn’t the best shot but I was in good shape). After coming out of a bunker I watched in disbelief as the opponent again holed a long putt, this time for a par. I narrowly missed my birdie – all square.

Sixteenth hole, par 4, 415 metres: I had a decision to make on this hole. I could hit driver but risk finding trees or fairway bunkers or play an iron for saftey. I chose the three-iron. I pulled it too far right but was still in ok position. I was left with 187 metres to a downhill green. I selected an 8 iron and wanted a strong draw shot to run up onto the green. When I made contact it felt perfect. Unfortunately it didn’t bounce that well and found a bunker. My opponent struggled on this hole and made a 5. I couldn’t beat that so the match was still all square.

Seventeenth hole, par 3, 187 metres: Without mucking about I tried to hit a strong draw with my six-iron. I missed the shot slightly and it caught the front trap. I played a great bunker shot that left me with a downhill 1.5 metre putt. After hitting two poor shots my courageous opponent made another long putt. I didn’t flinch and made the best putt I could. I thought the ball had found the hole but it dove left at the last second. Just when it looked like I would finally win a hole a managed to lose one. 1 down.

Eighteenth hole, par 4, 281 metres: I was looking forward to playing this hole. It’s slightly uphill and was playing into a bit of wind. I thought with a good drive I could reach the green. I think I tried a bit too hard and made a poor swing. The ball came out hard but finished too far right. It left me a difficult chip which ultimately finished 8 metres from the hole. With no option but to make this putt I cleared my head, relaxed my body and went into my routine. When I stroked the putt it didn’t feel that good. I thought for sure it was short – but it kept rolling. It was on a good line and for a second I thought it would go in – but I had no luck, the ball stopped on the edge. Match over, I lost 1 down.

It was a little disappointing to lose the match but I was pleased with how I played. I couldn’t have done much better and all up maybe made 3 bad decisions (on the 2nd, 10th and 18th). I felt I played automatically on all shots and handled the pressure well throughout the day. There isn’t much more I could do.

I also have to congratulate James for playing a great match. He didn’t hit the ball as well but more than made up for that on the putting green. Golf is definitely more than ball striking and requires a sound short game to succeed. Automatic golf will never guarantee you’ll play well and win – it only maximises your chances.

For the record my team didn’t have to best day. We lost a few close matches and ended up losing 6/1. There’s always next year!

Good golfing,


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