Playing golf versus practising

Dear golfer,

I love playing golf…each round is like my Olympics…I stick to my routine and playing style on each shot and feel I get the most out of each round I play. I still get frustrated at poor shots and when I don’t play to my full potential. I get especially mad when I lose concentration and don’t stick to the principles of automated skill acquisition outlined on my blog and website. Once you’ve experienced the magic of natural learning you will never go back to the unpredictable world of conscious control…but sometimes I do slip and revert back to the darkside.

I played this morning…as usual I warm up in the practice nets. I’m not one for hitting too many balls on the fairway and trying to fix my swing before I play. I like to hit a few wedges, then 8 irons and finish off with some longer clubs. I might hit some putts but usually skip this process and head straight to the tee. My entire warm up process takes about 10 minutes. Not long…but it is all I need. I often wonder at the other golfers that take an hour or more to warm up…it takes energy and often lets doubt and fear set in.


I was chatting to a member before I played this morning. He is a good golfer and plays off low single figures. I asked him to join me for a game. He has a lot of talent and can shoot some really good scores. I feel he lets himself down by having some big numbers. On Saturday he shot 88…not good for someone off a three handicap!

He declined my offer, declaring that he had lost his swing and needed time on the practice tee. I’m definitely not against practicing (although I hardly practice these days). This mindset of practicing can be a dangerous one. I strongly believe that the best cure for a golf swing slump or lack of confidence is to keep playing. Golf can be fickle… you are only ever one shot away from a surge of confidence and the right feeling to get you back on track.

The problem with the practice fairway is that your thinking is rarely on ‘playing golf’. It is cemented on fixing swing faults and working on your swing. This is not the right mindset to get confidence back, freeing up your swing and ultimately playing better. I have seen numerous golfers spend all of their time on the fairway and rarely play. By the time they get to the golf course they have no method or chance of playing to their potential…they are continually in ‘fix it’ mode and are fighting their swing from the outset.

The solution is to play golf without worry or concern. If competition is not your thing then play by yourself. Take one ball, your clubs and just play. You should feel little pressure and the goal is to hit the ball without worry or fear of where it is going. My recommendation for all new clients is to do this for at least three rounds before making any swing changes. Many golfers are surprised at how effective this can be…the real fun is when you bring this attitude into play during your weekly competition. This can be a little scary – trusting yourself to hit the ball without concern – but the reward can be significant.

Then and only then should you be in a position to make changes…you will have a good idea of your main problems. This is far better than making a judgment based on one round or some bad shots. Be sure you are making swing changes for the right reason. It seems many elite players fall for this trap because it is what everyone else is doing… not a good reason if you ask me.

I have received an email this week from a golfer that has reduced his handicap from 22 to 13 in 3 weeks. He has only read the information on my blog and learned to go automatic. Not a bad effort! This golfer has left behind years of swing thoughts and technical lessons to start playing the golf he always wanted. He has surprised himself (and probably others) that the talent and skill has been inside him from the start.

The practice fairway is fraught with danger if you use it too often and stop playing. If you feel your game could do with a lift try my three round drill. You might just tap into your natural and instinctive game – break free from the golfing horrors and experience golf from an entirely new perspective. Try it…many read about it but fail to execute. This is the difference between making progress and staying stagnant. Go for it now.

Let me know how you get on.

Good golfing,

Cameron Strachan

Contact Cameron Strachan here

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  • Adam

    Reply Reply September 28, 2014

    Trying to shoot the lowest score improves your score. I don’t believe in “just play golf”. If you’re going to win tournaments, try to shoot the lowest score out of everyone. I won a tourney with this mindset. Though score isn’t the most important thing, if you want to improve it might as well focus on score itself, not swing or other distractions.

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