Those bloody annoying golfers

When I was around 19 years of age I thought I was a good golfer. My handicap got to scratch for the first time and I was considered one of the better players in my club.

But there was an ugly truth I was hiding. And that was I really couldn’t play that well. Sure, I could shoot some low numbers on a Sunday arvo playing with my mates but when the pressure was on I would crumble.

And nothing highlighted my weakness more than Pennant golf. It was here that I got some serious lessons on how to really play the game. It was a painful and at the time I hated it, but these experiences helped me understand performance and maximise my full potential.

In my first year of team golf I always seemed to play the “old” campaigner. The really experienced guy who had an unorthodox swing (read: ugly) but who could still knock it around in a decent score. In the early matches these guys didn’t bother me that much – I was younger, could hit the ball way past them and I had a way lower handicap. But there’s nothing like a few losses to bring someone down to earth. And with a few losses came a massive dent to my confidence. From here things started getting ugly.

In one very forgetful match I was 5 up at the turn. Things were going along great until I lost the 10th hole. Instead of having the skill and brain power to get back on track, I found a way to keep losing holes. By the 18th things were all square. Compounding my free fall was the fact the entire day now hinged on my match. The equation simple. If I won the team won. If I lost so did the team and any chance of us making the final.

Talk about pressure. And back in the day I didn’t do too well under the pump. I’d get overly nervous, fearful and ultimately self-destruct. But things looked promising when I nailed two good shots onto the 18th green – my opponent was all over the place and had a 25 footer for a par. I thought I was home.

As luck would have it he sunk his long par putt. I now had two putts to tie and one for the win. Today I’d be confident this wouldn’t pose too many issues – I’d stick to my routine, focus my mind on what I wanted and pull the trigger. The ball would either go in or I’d tap in for par – confident I could do better on the next hole. But when you’re not confident of your abilities your mind can play all sorts of tricks on you,

  • don’t miss the ball
  • you’re going to look like a real DH if you 3-putt
  • don’t leave yourself a tricky putt because you’re not hitting them well
  • I wish this wasn’t me with all this pressure. Why can’t someone else be putting?
  • get me outta here!

It can be really ugly and not much fun. I managed to hit the first putt a few feet from the cup. It was a weak putt, didn’t have a chance, but it wasn’t horrendous. I glanced at my opponent hoping he’d give it to me (praying he’d concede it). He didn’t. My heart was pounding and I was feeling sick. I really didn’t want to be here as about 50 pairs of eyes were beaming onto me.

You know before you’re about to hit a putt (or any shot) and you absolutely know you’re going to stuff it up? Well this is the feeling I had. The putter felt wrong in my hands. My mind was in overdrive and just before I made impact with the ball, Pesky screamed at me, “DON’T MISS IT!”.

This putt was horrendous. I flinched at impact and the thing I remember most were the groans from my team mates. I wanted to hide. I wanted to vomit. I wanted to scream and throw my club. Don’t you just love golf?

And this sort of thing repeated itself for a few years. I lost way more matches than I won.

On another occasion I was 1 up with two to play and facing the same “I win we win” scenario.  This time I was playing a really “old” golfer. He was in his 50’s and had a decorated Pennant career – but past his prime he wasn’t supposed to be any match for me.

But he stuck with me and when we got to 17 he had a chance. I put my ball on the edge of the green (a par 3). He missed in the right bunker. He flubbed it out, leaving a long par putt. From here my task was simple, hit the fringe putt close and the match was all but over. Simple.

Not so. Instead of putting, which was definitely the right shot, I attempted a low spinning sand iron. I was showing off and being more than a little cocky. I flubbed my shot. Completely flubbed it as it barely made the green. I missed the par and now the veteran seized his chance. Without missing a beat, he stood up and whacked the ball into the middle of the hole. All square.

Why was I such a loser? Why did I keep making these stupid mistakes? It makes me cringe thinking about it.

On the last I went for the hero shot and lost my ball. I snatched defeat from the jaws of victory once again. It hurt. A lot.

The point of this blog is I used to hate those annoying “old” golfers. I would think it unfair that someone who couldn’t hit the ball that well and who relied heavily on chipping and putting should be able to compete. It would drive me mad and I would make all sorts of stupid excuses to justify my hopelessness. It was all pathetic on my part and it all came down to the fact I was too scared to play my game and trust myself. This has been the hardest lesson of all for me to fully grasp.

Golf is more than sexy swings and long drives. It’s not about perfection. It’s not about hitting greens and sinking long putts. It’s about playing the game. If you can’t bring your game to the course and compete under the pump then you’ll always be frustrated. And hoping that you’ll “work it out” someday is the slow-lane to ultimate frustration.

This post is in honor of all those “old” and “ugly” golfers who taught me the best lesson of all. And I’m sure you all know of a golfer or two at your golf club who drives you nuts with his/her ability to beat you time after time. Just maybe,

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  • They don’t hit the ball too well
  • They seem to get up and down from all over the place
  • They hardly ever practice
  • They play super consistently
  • They win way more than their fair share
  • You hardly ever beat them
  • You can’t figure out how they do it
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Instead of getting mad and frustrated it’s time to learn from them. Get even. Stop worrying so much and have the guts to play the way you really want.

Below is a clip from my Remarkable Golf audio. I was listening to it the other day and I had a good laugh, thinking back to those hard lessons those bloody annoying golfers gave me. It was also funny because I’ve probably turned into one of “those” golfers.

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Resources: Get the full 57 minute version of Remarkable Golf. It’s only $5 bucks and comes instantly (digital download). You’ll learn how I managed to get out of my own way and start playing “choke free” golf.

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16 Comments

  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply August 2, 2012

    “It was all pathetic on my part and it all came down to the fact I was too scared to play my game and TRUST MYSELF. This has been the hardest lesson of all for me to fully grasp”

    Me too. I used to trust myself, spent 25 years not trusting myself and am only just starting to trust myself again. Its sad. You waste so many potentially good years. But I feel fortunate to at least be learning the lesson NOW. Great article. And yeah, I play with one of those guys. He’s a study in composure and grit and beats me hands down time after time. But I’m learning Mike so look out! 🙂

  • Steady

    Reply Reply August 2, 2012

    Strachs,
    my dear old dad had a handicap of between 5 and 7 his entire life. I would smoke it past him, hit greens in reg and take my 2 putts. Yet I rarely beat him even though at the time I was playing off 7.
    He was down the middle(not very far) next shot to the front of the green, chip/pitch putt and walk off with par.
    You see he was rarely in the trees, or a bunker or for that matter getting himself out bad situations.
    If he did get stuck he’d simply chip out, knock it to the front of the green, chip and putt. That was his whole game. Chipping and putting. You would have thought that I have learnt my lesson.
    I only ever beat him twice and it was by 1 one shot both times.
    It just goes to show you don’t have to smack the ball a mile or have the greatest looking swing to be a great golfer.
    Ta Steady

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply August 3, 2012

      I got toweled up by a cunning Irishman a few times in the club champs. Talk about ugly!! He sort of topped the ball and hit these low running shots. I couldn’t believe I lost to him. He also taught me about chipping more with my 8 iron and 6 iron. Said I was using my lob wedge too much. I resisted his advice for many years until I woke up and realised he was right all along.

  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply August 6, 2012

    Off topic but seeing as no one else seems to have anything to say at the moment…

    Reporter John Newport from the Wall Street Journal went and played a round of speed golf with the world champ Christopher Smith and had an enlightening experience:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122610474805110179.html

    “I didn’t “miss” one shot all round — no stubbed chips, no pulled hooks (my nemesis), no wild pushes. Shot after shot, I simply saw and fired. The round flowed. It was a worry-free experience”

    Its something I’ve started doing every Tuesday after work. I go to my local municipal course and just walk (jog if its deserted) and hit 9 holes. Its great fun and my experience reflects Mr Newport’s – you actually play better. We’re definitely all trying too hard.

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply August 6, 2012

      Grayden: Awesome article. Thanks for sharing.I like this quote too.

      “In speed golf the subconscious takes over,” Mr. Smith said. “It knows how to do everything — at least in an experienced golfer it does, because it’s done it thousands of times.” Problems arise when the conscious mind asserts itself, especially after a disastrous shot. “We hit bad shots because we’re human. Even Tiger Woods hits terrible shots sometimes. But most players, instead of chalking that up to being human and trusting the mind-body system to do it better the next time, allow the conscious to step in and try to fix things, by telling us to take the club back this way or move the body that way. But the moment you start thinking consciously about how to do things, that destroys your ability to perform,” he said.

      When we truly play automatically we play much faster, have more fun and will play our best. It’s not a bad deal if you ask me.

  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply August 6, 2012

    I thought the other interesting thing about the article was that the only part of his game that didn’t improve was his putting. I’d be willing to bet that’s because he didn’t “see and fire” like the rest of his shots. I’ve noticed already on my Tuesday rounds that this is a tendency. You flow from tee to green but still get all “careful” with the putter. I decided after my last speed round that I would specifically target this next time. Logically it doesn’t stack up. If you can “see and hit” a driver 240m and find the middle of the fairway you can definitely see and hit a putt 10 feet!

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply August 6, 2012

      I’d agree with you. It was the only part of the game where he made a point to slow down and take his time. I’m sure it’s possible to hit the putt with heart pounding – other athletes are able to do it in their respective sports. I’ve played my own version of speed golf and it’s amazing at how well you really do hit the ball. Pity golf isn’t played a little quicker at times. All the thinking just gets in the way and doesn’t help.

      Good stuff.

  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply August 6, 2012

    “Pity golf isn’t played a little quicker at times…”

    What I’m thinking Cam is why not? We might not be able to do much about the total time it takes to play our Saturday comp but why can’t we play each individual shot as if we were playing speed golf? …it would be a bit like letting the video trundle along on normal speed and just pressing fast forward when its your turn to hit. Seems to me this would allow you to get all the benefits of speed golf even while stuck in “normal” golf. Who knows, it might even rub off on others! 🙂

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply August 6, 2012

      GP: I reckon this is exactly what I’ve been doing for a while now – this is automatic golf.

      It’s quite liberating to stand behind the ball, take a quick peek at the target, choose a club and fire away. There’s little fluffing about and no wasted effort.

      Most don’t get it. They are fooled into thinking they need to try harder and take another practice swing. All this extra effort adds time and probably doesn’t help the score.

  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply August 6, 2012

    Yes but I think there’s automatic and then there’s AUTOMATIC. I’m talking about this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5Ubk_OxQ5g

    Why can’t we play EVERY shot like this – ie drives, fairway woods, chips AND putts where you LITERALLY just step in and hit? I’m actually doing this on my Tuesday speed rounds and so far I haven’t been able to do it TOO quickly…..ie to the point where it actually starts getting detrimental. I’m finding that our brain is able to size up alignment and ball position almost instantly, allowing you to literally step in and hit like Snedeker does here. I think we should push things to the absolute limit to see where the limit actually is. Its usually quite a bit further away than we think in my experience.

    In a similar fashion I was mucking around with putting today. I started to wonder just how important body alignment / ball position actually is and wanted to test the limits. I putted with on one foot, I putted face on, I putted with the end (toe) of the putter, the other end (heel) of the putter……I even turned the putter upside down and putted with the handle – and they all went in!!! (from about 5 feet I’m talking). It was quite astounding. It made me realize again that we SERIOUSLY under estimate how good our natural hand/eye coordination is if we just get out of the way. Thats why I’m now exploring just how fast you can actually play before you start going backwards. Still looking!

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply August 7, 2012

      GP: I think this is the mission of the automatic process to play like this. It’s not easy but it is certainly possible on a vast majority of your shots. I wrote this to a new subscriber who has been having trouble with negative feelings/emotions;

      Playing in the golf final earlier this year I got really nervous. Not sure why but I was feeling sick in the gut and telling all sorts of stories to myself,

      “don’t duff it”
      “you’re no good”
      “you can’t play”
      etc

      But I remember laughing it all off and made a point to myself that this kind of thing is normal. If we only played when we were truly confident we’d never leave the house. When it was my turn to hit and in front of about 50 people I said to myself,

      “just hit the bloody ball”.

      I walked up to the ball, got set and smashed it. To my surprise the ball took off like a bullet and hit the middle of the fairway. The crowd clapped and I had a laugh with my caddy when I told him all the stuff that was going through my head.

      The bottom line is we can play great with all this stuff going on. It’s normal and part of being human. So embrace it and don’t let it scare you. Keep playing!!

      BTW – in this match I managed to beat the NZ Amateur Champion who was previously undefeated. It was a heap of fun 🙂

      I know this thinking is not normal for mainstream golf. The attitude is to play more slowly, think more and analyse each step of the way. That never really worked for me and I’m hopeful this website will help some golfers play more like “speed golf”. To me it’s the only way. The hard part is starting – to actually making the commitment to step up and smash the ball when you’re feeling a little all over the shop.

  • Cam280

    Reply Reply August 7, 2012

    G’day, annoying golfers come in all shapes and sizes!. My favourites at the moment are high handicappers who have contempt for low handicappers. Tip of the day!. If your playing against high handicappers and they mention “READY GOLF”, leave them to score and get to the Tee first!. Nothing worse than watching there shots sail off O.B and then hearing there feelings of anguish, then to try and steer past there wreckage.
    Times like this require a leader who can inspire!, the low handicapper needs to make a statement, needs to earn his respect amongst his comrades!. Because if you don’t you will let the uninspiring golf of the high handicapper bring you to your knees in a negative state of mind.

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply August 7, 2012

      If you let other golfers affect you negatively then you’ll always be a victim to poor scores and story telling. If you really want to reach the highs of playing consistent golf then you’ve got to get your brain/mindset/attitude in order first. What other people do should almost be irrelevant.

  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply August 7, 2012

    “The bottom line is we can play great with all this stuff going on. It’s normal and part of being human. So embrace it and don’t let it scare you. Keep playing!!”

    Excellent. I guess I’ve been working on the idea of getting “the stuff” out. But you’re right – if you’re human, you’ve got “stuff” going on and always will have. The exciting thing is you CAN play great WITH this stuff going on. Thanks Cam, light bulb moment (!)

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply August 7, 2012

      GP: Yep, I’d like to explore this more. It seems we’re all looking for some magic bullet to become “special” and block out all the bad stuff. Not sure it’s possible. At least not for long periods of time. Some of the greatest satisfaction I’ve had in golf is learning to play half decently when I’m feeling like I’m about to vomit on myself.

  • Adam (Pastaman)

    Reply Reply March 18, 2013

    yo. Golf really is an easy sport it seems. I just can’t drive the ball further than 90 yards with my driver. Cameron knows what he’s talking about. I’ve tried every method of golf out there and none of them work. Cameron seems to have the right idea. All i need now is to get my drives to 200 yards and i will be fine. lol

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