The pain of golf

I received the below email last week. It’s quite a common scenario and one that needs attention. The email appears below with my comments after.

Cameron, Feel like I’m in a bit of a rut at the moment with my golf. My goal this year is to play more which hopefully can get some continuity happening.

Had last week off so I took the opportunity to go down to Brighton public and have a hit, hadn’t played there for a long time but it’s tight and I thought that would be a good challenge for my golf. I ended up playing on my own so I used the chance to play a couple of balls each hole using different clubs.

When I played the first ball I chose the club that I thought I would use if only playing one ball.

My one goal was to try and make a smooth free flowing swing that’s all no overload!!!

The following is what gets me down and really frustrated.

Started scratchy haven’t played for a while but hung in there and stayed positive.

Got to the 4th hole quite tight off the tee so took iron and hit a reasonable tee shot and ended up making a par.

Same again on the 5th tight hole so went with iron and again stayed on the fairway and made another par!!

Walked to the 6th short par 3 hole runs parallel with South road. Feeling good after making two pars but not over confident.

Pulled out the nine iron stood behind the ball and thought just a nice easy swing will get me down there.

Hit the ball onto South road!! Didn’t try to analyze why- wouldn’t know where to start!

I was under no pressure as no playing partners or people watching.

The gap between my good and bad is so far apart it’s embarrassing.

I stand behind the ball pick where I would like to hit it start counting and swing the club.

I just can’t get any bloody consistency. I take one step forward then four steps back.

I don’t give up easy and I’m quite persistent but this game has just about got me. It could be that I’m just a crap golf player.

Let’s look at this situation in some more detail.

“Feel like I’m in a bit of a rut at the moment with my golf”. My comments: Feeling like you’re in a rut is common. I also think that sometimes we should ignore our thoughts and feelings. These thoughts and feelings are coming straight from Pesky. He thinks he is doing you a favour but he really is holding you back. How would you play today if you weren’t in a rut? This is how you should approach each game of golf.

“My goal this year is to play more which hopefully can get some continuity happening”. My comments: Brilliant! Playing more will help you. It’s hard to improve if you’re only playing once a month. I know it’s not possible for everyone, but if you can try and play once a week you’ll see significant improvement. And this doesn’t always mean 18 holes of golf. You can be playing when you’re swinging your 7 iron in the backyard.

“My one goal was to try and make a smooth free flowing swing that’s all – no overload!!!”. My comments: It might be a good idea to have no goals about your swing. Are you able to turn up and just play? I think trying to make a free flowing swing might be hurting you rather than helping. A good swing happens when we stop trying and caring. It flows. You can’t force it to happen. I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of manual control happening here. Do you try and drive your car in a free flowing manner, or does it just happen?

“Started scratchy haven’t played for a while but hung in there and stayed positive”. My comments: Forget about trying to stay positive. Just keep playing the game. Staying positive takes too much energy and doesn’t work too well. All you have to do is play the game.

“Got to the 4th hole quite tight off the tee so took iron and hit a reasonable tee shot and ended up making a par”. My comments: Good. Sometimes we need to alter our strategy to suit the course. It’s not always about smashing driver.

“Same again on the 5th tight hole so went with iron and again stayed on the fairway and made another par!!”. My comments: Good. But please don’t get too focused on your score. It’s quite possible to do everything correctly but still make a bogey. If you can appreciate this you’ll do better in the long run.

“Pulled out the nine iron stood behind the ball and thought just a nice easy swing will get me down there”. My comments: This is getting back to the swing again. A “nice easy swing” is pushing for manual control. Does this make sense? By trying to make a nice easy swing you’re not playing automatically. Also, were you specific where you wanted to go “down there” may be ok in some situations. But on a small par three you may need to be more specific.

“Hit the ball onto South road!!”. My comments: I know this is not good and a mile away from the goal of hitting the green. But it’s only one bad shot. You can’t let one bad shot shake you. Also, you may need some self analysis with the shot.

– what did you learn?
– did you stick to the process fully?
– how were you feeling?
– did you let any interruptions get the better of you?

“I was under no pressure as no playing partners or people watching”. My comments: People watching and pressure should make no difference. You should always play the same way. I know it’s easier said than done, but this should be your goal.

“The gap between my good and bad is so far apart it’s embarrassing.” My comments: Maybe, but I doubt it. You are giving the bad shots too much attention. You’ve got to leave them alone. Forget about them and you’ll have less of them.

“I just can’t get any bloody consistency. I take one step forward then four steps back.”. My comments: What do you really want? Golfers talk about consistency but I’m not sure they are clear with their intentions. Hitting the same shot over and over again would quickly get boring. Plus, you’re never going to get perfect shots each time – just not going to happen. Playing great golf requires an understanding that poor shots are part of the game. Learning to recover from poor shots might just be the amazing pro secret nobody is willing to talk about. When Tiger was in his prime he could hardly hit a fairway. But it didn’t stop him winning and playing remarkable golf. He kept turning up and letting rip.

Sidenote: I think part of his problem now (amongst a lot of other crap) is him trying to alter his golf swing. He is trying to improve on perfection and this is a very difficult thing to do.

“I don’t give up easy and I’m quite persistent but this game has just about got me. It could be that I’m just a crap golf player”. My comments: Playing more is going to help you. Also, you need to get used to playing the game without too much focus on score. It seems you had trouble playing a new course by yourself without thinking about score – the score is a nasty relative to Pesky. It can be a distraction and rarely a positive one. I’d like you to really think about why you play the game. Are you able to play more for the enjoyment and accept that some poor shots are part of the process? A slight shift in focus might be just what you need.

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7 Comments

  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply February 14, 2012

    Thanks to whoever sent that email to Cameron. It took guts and we all get to benefit from your honesty.

    And thanks Cameron for some very insightful analysis. I particularly liked this bit:

    “A ‘nice easy swing’ is pushing for manual control. Does this make sense? By trying to make a nice easy swing you’re not playing automatically”

    I’d never thought of it like that but it certainly does make sense. Very good.

  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply February 14, 2012

    Actually, our brave friend, you have inspired me. Let me tell you what happened to ME yesterday on the golf course – and why you should just keep plugging away even when you “hit one onto South Rd”…

    Two of us went out for twilight golf – unlimited golf after 5pm. I started par, par. Nice. But then on the severe dog leg left par 4 third hole I lined up to “shave the left” so that my natural fade would hopefully end up in the middle of the fairway at the corner. Trouble is I pulled it left, hit the trees and it bounced further left. Dead. Double bogey. Played a pretty ordinary tee shot on the next par 3 – bogey. Left my par putt on the next hole 1cm from the cup – bogey. So, after 5 holes, 4 over. Pretty ordinary.

    By now we had caught up with a lot of traffic in front. I said to my mate “lets do a little detour and play those three holes over there. By the time we get back the traffic should have cleared out”.

    Off we went to the first of the three. Long par 5 into a stiff headwind. I said to myself “swing REALLY easy”. Wrong. As Cameron says above, thats reverting back to ‘manual control’. Result? Total disaster. I actually pulled it so badly left it went into the fence alongside the tee that protects motorists on the adjacent road! Impossible position, chip, chop, hack – ended up with a QUADRUPLE BOGEY NINE. Bogeyed the next, bogeyed the next.

    So now we’re back to where we were and ready to resume our 9 holes. And here’s where the good bit starts. I made a conscious decision that I was going to COMPLETELY IGNORE what happened on the little three hole “detour”. I wasn’t going to change anything or try anything new – I was just going to keep swinging and who knows? My closing four holes went birdie, par, par, par. Total for the nine (leaving aside the 3 hole ‘detour’): 3 over par – not too shabby at all! And who would have thought after all that rubbish in the middle?

    So then our brave friend , you reckon YOUR gap between your worst and best shots is embarrassing! Cameron’s right. We’re all the same, we all have those “South Rd” shockers. You’re just choosing to dwell on yours. I chose to ignore mine yesterday and act is that if they hadn’t even happened. And I believe it was that choice that gave me such a satisfying run home. As Cameron says it all comes down to committing to playing the same way (ie automatically) whether your hitting birdies or the passing traffic! Just keep swinging ….machine-like. It sorts itself out in the end. And it does it a whole lot quicker if you keep out of your own way and don’t try and fix things every time you hit one out of the park. Your subconscious will fix it if you just leave it alone to do its thing.

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply February 14, 2012

      While you’re at it Grayden here’s what happened to me today.

      Took the afternoon off to have a “business meeting” at the golf course. Was running late, had a million things on my mind and was leaving some notes on the memo function on my phone while I was making my way to the 1st tee.

      Not the best preparation but I’m quite cocky these days with my golf so wasn’t too concerned. I normally have this preparation and usually can hit the first shot in play and not do too much damage.

      Not today. I completely cold topped my 3 iron (an easy hole that requires an iron and wedge to the green). My biz partner looked at me funny (he thought I was mucking around – I wasn’t).

      “That’s the worst shot I’ve ever seen you hit”. He wasn’t wrong – it only went about 15 metres along the ground and into the rough.

      So I decided to take another ball and this time do it properly. I took my time. Had a stretch. And warmed up a little.

      Stood up to the ball and made the best swing I could.

      Shank. Straight left (remember, I’m left handed). The ball didn’t even hit the clubface – it was somewhere on the shaft.

      I’m being serious here. I have never hit two consecutively worse shots. It was a complete embarrassment. If someone was standing nearby I’m sure I would have looked like a complete hacker.

      So what did I do?

      Nothing. I finished the hole (I made a double after knifing a chip shot and missing a shortish putt – it really was a shocker of a hole) and made a mental note to relax and keep swinging away.

      The last thing on my mind was worry or concern about the poor hole. I really didn’t care.

      The day ended up a really good one. I actually played quite well. I finished with 4 birdies and two eagles 🙂

      The point here is that we all have really poor shots here from time to time. Poor shots (and even really bad ones) are just part of the game.

      You can get all stressed about it or you can move on and keep swinging the sticks. There’s an easy way to play or you can make it hard. I wish now I’d learn’t a lot of this stuff 20 years ago – but it’s better late than never.

      Cheers,

      Cam

  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply February 14, 2012

    A topper and a shank followed by 4 birdies and 2 eagles….now thats just RIDICULOUS! Shows you though what a fine line we’re always treading in golf. I hope others will share their abominations with us. This if fun – and good for us to realize we’re ALL in the same boat here 🙂

  • Rob

    Reply Reply February 15, 2012

    2 quick stories and a question:
    I’m playing a round struggling and get a 8 on the par 4, 5th hole. I tell myself I’ll finish this round but I’m quitting for the winter and maybe for good. Finished the last 13 holes 3 over par. Shot a 37 on the back!

    I was having a bad round and told my partner on the 8th I was considering leaving after nine holes. I then birdied 9, 10, 12, 14, and 16. Shot a 34 on the back!

    I sort of understand why when I give up I play great golf because I’m no longer worried about the score but how can I harness this from the beginning and play like this everytime.

    Thanks.

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply February 16, 2012

      Rob. A few points.

      Point #1: You’ll never be able to shoot these good scores “everytime”. Bad scores a just part of the game – we need them to bring us back and make the good scores so worthwhile. The sooner you can appreciate this the sooner you’ll have a huge weight lifted from your shoulders.

      Point #2: Now some good news. And when you can learn to play free from expectations and over thinking about swing/score/technique you open up the possibility for “remarkable golf”. You’ve already had a taste – but maybe the next version can be even better.

      If you’re able to make 5 birdies in six holes then who knows what you can do? The possibilities are almost endless. Here’s the thing. Your good golf could be so much better than even you think possible that you’ll probably surprise yourself.

      Point #3: If you walk away (I don’t think anyone really believes you will 🙂 ) you lose this chance to learn and experience all the good stuff. So don’t let a few bad shots get the better of you – it’s part of the game.

      Point #4: Seems like you try too hard early and can’t relax. By the 8th hole your system has had enough. Is this a fair comment? Are you able to change your focus early on so you’re not so worked up and score focused?

      Thanks for sharing.

      Cam

  • Rob

    Reply Reply February 17, 2012

    Thanks Cam!
    You’re right, I can’t walk away. I’ve tasted good golf and now I crave it. I’ve worked very hard on mechanics but need more work on mental strength to stay relaxed so I can enjoy the game even during a not so good round. I understand one of the things that makes this game so fun is that it can be so trying. That’s what makes a good round feel so great. I will keep your comments in mind next time on the course. On my first few holes I am always nervous, wanting to shoot the game of my life and really putting the pressure on myself to have a good start. I will work on changing my focus early in the round. Your help is greatly appreciated!

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