Why golf is hard

Anyone can play golf. Grab some clubs, book a tee time and go play. There is nothing stopping you. If you’re able to do this and don’t care about results (and I mean really don’t care) then well done. You’re in a tiny percentage.

But the game gets hard when you want to improve. At first your scores come down quickly. There’s a rapid learning curve and it seems only a matter of time before you’ll be playing off scratch.

But the game gets tougher. You reach a plateau. You might even gets worse for a while. And then for a while longer.

Next comes frustration. You don’t know why you hit some shots well and others poorly. You keep searching, hoping you’ll figure it out. Years go by and before long you realise you’ve been playing for ages and haven’t improved that much.

This is despite lessons, new clubs, practice and dedication.

Why is the game so hard?

I’ve pondered this question for a long time. And while I’m not sure I’ve got the complete answer I think I’m getting closer.

Remarkable golfers are able to somehow crawl inside their game and feel what’s required to hit great shots. They’re able to see their game from the perspective of the club, the ball and the target. They are able to have a deep and shallow view at the same time. They know instantly the right club and shot to choose and they almost never go against this gut feeling.

There’s golf and then there’s golf as art. The art factor is where remarkable lies and is the result of having your heart and soul in the game. When you can crawl into your game and see it with real clarity, when you can live and breath your game you can play golf as art. You can become a master.

Can everyone do this? I don’t think so. Most are looking outside themselves, searching for the quick-fix or tip that will change their fortunes. But these don’t exist. You can’t buy mastery like you can a golf club. And you certainly can’t find it for $47 on an internet site, book or DVD. There’s also nobody handing out mastery in the pro shop.

You’ve got to earn it. You’ve got to bleed a little, make some mistakes and feel uncomfortable. This is why everyone can’t play remarkable golf. This is why most golfers find the game hard.

Here’s my advice to helping you find your A-game: Be patient with yourself. Don’t be in a hurry as you explore your real golfer inside you, as you unlock your swing, game plan and strategy that matches your skill and talent so you give NO chance for fear or self-doubt to take over.

This is the answer to unlock your mastery.

There’s lots of noise out there. Many will tell you the secret’s in a new club, swing tip or theory. Chances are these ideas have failed you in the past and will continue to do so.

There’s also plenty of boring golfers. Golfers who copy what everyone else does and beats the “I know what I did wrong” drum. I hope you aspire to be different. To show your real talent and not be scared to be you. Play the game that deep down you truly want to play. To play remarkably.

I wish you well.

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42 Comments

  • Steady

    Reply Reply August 2, 2010

    Hi Tribers,
    this is a very important point in what Cameron says,
    “You’ve got to earn it. You’ve got to bleed a little, make some mistakes and feel uncomfortable. This is why everyone can’t play remarkable golf. This is why most golfers find the game hard.”
    There is no easy quick fix. Scars are not found on Cowards. People need to be patient if you want to find YOUR GAME.
    Cam said
    “Here’s my advice to helping you find your A-game: Be patient with yourself. Don’t be in a hurry as you explore your real golfer inside you, as you unlock your swing, game plan and strategy that matches your skill and talent so you give NO chance for fear or self-doubt to take over.

    This is the answer to unlock your mastery.”
    Follow that with singing or counting to DISTRACT yourself then and only then can you find YOUR GAME. Have the guts to stick with it.
    Cheers Steady

  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply August 2, 2010

    Ben Hogan would agree. When asked how you achieve a good golf game he said “You dig it out of the ground”.

  • Steady

    Reply Reply August 2, 2010

    Hi Cam,
    thought this maybe of interest on our current post. Taken from fox sports and John Cramptoms paper – Victims and Competitors. Greg Norman’s Auguster Meltdown.

    After slipping into his third Green Jacket, Faldo commented: “I hope I’m remembered for shooting 67 and not for what happened to Greg. But obviously, this will be remembered for what happened to Greg.”

    Australian Golf Digest … April issue on sale Wednesday, March 17. Australian Golf Digest
    The simplistic explanation for the events that unfolded was that Norman “choked” under the pressure. His daily scores (63-69-71-78) lend weight to that theory. But there is another version of events that provide insight to what happened on that second Sunday in April.

    In the aftermath, Australian sports psychologist John Crampton dissected Norman’s performance in an essay entitled Victims & Competitors at Augusta – 1996. Crampton speaks with authority given that he (and his company Performance Enhancement Systems) has worked extensively with the Australian Institute of Sport and various other sporting bodies across the country. He is a long-time member of New South Wales Golf Club and is the nephew of Australian professional Bruce Crampton.

    The crux of Crampton’s piece explains Norman’s meltdown in terms of fluctuating between a victim and competitor.

    What does he mean by that?

    Well, imagine every player in the field of the 1996 Masters standing along Magnolia Lane. Then ask the “victims” to stand near the carpark and the “competitors” to stand near the first tee. Of course Faldo would be near the first tee. But where would you place Greg Norman? And where would Tiger Woods stand after missing the cut with two rounds of 75?

    Victims are players who are controlled by situations or circumstances, according to Crampton. Competitors are able to remain in control of their thinking, tension levels, technique and their game plan during key competitive opportunities. A “competitive opportunity” is a chance to improve your score, position in the field or potential to perform in the event. Victims have trouble converting opportunities; competitors convert a realistic share. Was Norman a victim at Augusta by this definition?

    Norman spent most of the first three days of the 1996 Masters as a competitor on one of the most demanding courses in the world and one of the most watched sporting events. But on Sunday, Norman spent his share of victim time when he could least afford to – early on the back nine.

    The 1996 Masters started and finished early for Norman. He played wonderfully early in the week, adequately for the first half of Sunday, and then poorly at the beginning of the Sunday afternoon. And nobody wins the Masters by playing the last nine holes poorly, Crampton wrote.

    Meanwhile Faldo played a consistent, patient, solid tournament for the first three days. He didn’t enjoy the fanfare afforded Norman and probably didn’t even miss it. Faldo was given an unexpected invitation by Norman to contend for the title on the ninth and 10th holes, and, after the 12th, he refused to let go.

    “What happened to Greg Norman at Augusta in 1996,” Crampton wrote.

    “He got found out in a small number of shot-making situations that were probably a combination of shot selection, shot execution, and emotional control errors.

    “The many off-hand and poorly informed comments criticising Greg that have circulated since the tournament have really not added anything to our understanding of what being an effective competitor is about. Any analysis of a competitive performance (good or bad) must consider the environment and the statistical realities of the event.

    “Augusta National is brutal on players who make mistakes. Norman’s string of mistakes and their consequences proved just how little difference there is between 68 and 78. Without the approach on nine, the chip on 10, a putt on 11 and a full shot on 12, Norman would have waltzed home. Obviously, he played those shots, and has to live with the consequences.”

    Food for thoughtn as to why Auto golf gives you the best oppurtunity to play YOUR GAME.

    ——————————————————————————–

    For a more detailed analysis of one of Australian golf’s most fateful days, but the April issue of Australian Golf Digest, on sale Wednesday, March 17.

  • david frugtniet

    Reply Reply August 2, 2010

    Where to start? How to know you are on track? Obvious improvement? Consistency?
    I do like what you say, but there doesn’t seem enough of a definite map to follow…..
    It is possible to give us specific direction(s) that are easy to understand and follow?

  • Gregor McCulloch

    Reply Reply August 2, 2010

    Golf is hard because after some improvement we let our ego tell us that we are better then we actually are. You need to find a level of golf that you can perform consistently for an entire round. Unfortunately the bad news is that you don’t hit the ball as[consistently] well as you think you do. Remember that round when everything worked ? That’s not you. It’s potentially you, but not consistently you.
    Your game is the one where you actually hit your drive shorter than you would like and the one where your short game needs improvement.
    Play a round only playing shots and clubs that you are 100% comfortable with, throw away your driver or 3 iron if you are not confident. Find out exactly how far you hit each of your clubs – it’s much shorter than you would like to think. Ditch the fancy shots around the green for a chip you know will hit cleanly. Your play will be conservative and safe but you will stay away from trouble and you will not run up big numbers. Keep away from shots that you would like to play, but actually can’t, until you have practiced them and are confident. If you have tried them in practice and you can’t do it, then they are not your game and golf will be hard again.
    If shots keep going left, or right, there’s nothing wrong with your swing. That’s how you swing. So forget about new clubs or finding a better swing. Go automatic and don’t worry.
    Just my thoughts.

  • Tony Lucas

    Reply Reply August 2, 2010

    Tribers
    Just a quick take on what I think and I am going to pinch one of Steadys here and what you need to do is play YOUR WAY .Look at some of the case studies Cam has done plus look at Cams video as well and you may be surprised that you will pick up something that will help you to play your way.We are after all different so pinch a little bit from here or there and it may help you find what you are looking for.
    Cheers Lukey

  • Mark

    Reply Reply August 3, 2010

    Thanks for this article Cam. I especially enjoyed your comments about how remarkable golfers can crawl inside their game.

    Great comments by Steady summing up my game “Norman’s string of mistakes and their consequences proved just how little difference there is between 68 and 78.”

    I always seem to be at the 78 side of the game, with a string of minor mistakes throughout my game. Difficult to accept at times, but hopefully I’ll dig just a little bit deeper and figure this game out sooner or later 😉

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply August 3, 2010

      @Mark: Automatic golf is the answer. There is a fine line between good golf and great golf. Automatic opens up a different world – you start to experience your golf in a new light, things happen and you learn stuff. It’s also a lot of fun 🙂

  • Tim

    Reply Reply August 4, 2010

    To anyone out there who is contemplating the automatic route but is too afraid to step outside their comfort zone and LET GO. Automatic golf is the key to playing better golf and enjoying the experience. My advice is to take Cameron’s 3 round challenge to better golf. If your struggling with your golf then your likely to have been jumping from quick tip to quick tip, with very mixed results. This is a very destructive pattern of events which usually results in the same cycle of events over and over (play bad – new tip – brief nostalga and odd good shot – back to playing bad – and so on.) AUTOMATIC GOLF is a system designed to improve your golf by improving the processes and means by which you approach the game. Try something different, chances are you have nothing to lose anyway. There is a better way to play…..this is it!

  • Steady

    Reply Reply August 4, 2010

    Hi Tribers,
    Tim makes a great point by stating that ” AUTOMATIC GOLF is a system designed to improve your golf by improving the processes and means by which you approach the game.”
    By finding your natural shot ( fade/draw), armed with this knowledge you can approach to playing golf the way YOU are meant to play. Not the way a course is set or how you are told to play by someone who doesn’t swing the club for you.
    Find YOUR way and golf then becomes less stressful.
    Side bar – I had a lesson off a very good friend of mine who is a golf pro. He said to me “Steady I have given literaly thousands of lessons and you fade the ball.
    For years I have tried to look to draw the ball because as silly as it sounds a draw looks GOOD? ( EGO)
    It has taken me this long to realise that i play with a fade and though it may not be pretty or excitable this is me.
    As Cameron says “What you bring to the course is YOU.

  • Tim

    Reply Reply August 4, 2010

    Dear Tribers,

    I want to share with you my experience from today’s round. First I will give you a brief summary of where I am on my automatic journey.

    I have practiced hard for the past 5 years, devoting close to 5 days a week to golf during this time. In my opinion, with this amount of hard work I should have already reached my goal of being a touring pro. However, like many I hit handicap road blocks and got stuck on the merry-go-round of golf quick tips. To cut a long story short, I reached a point of frustration hard to describe and decided I needed to change my approach to the game. I went to see Cameron Strachan and with his guidance I am getting very cloes to fulfilling my dream.
    Anyway back to today. I drove to the golf course promising myself to let go and play golf. That was my goal for the day and one that should have been easy to do. My biggest problem is that I used to be a very techincal player and unfortunately, I often find myself getting back into old (bad habits). Like Cam says “there is a time and place for technique but it aint at the course”. I made the mistake of practicing some technique in my warm-up and even though I knew I shouldnt do it, I couldnt resist taking it to the course. This is very easy to do, mainly because one feels like they are being productive and making improvements to their game. 9 holes later and im 4 over the card and never looking like playing well. I am tired, frustrated as hell and the game seems so difficult. My anger and frustration was such that on the 10th hole I said to myself “stuff this what is the point of trying anymore, I am just gonna smack this stupid ball as far as I can.”
    I took this attitude the entire back nine and finished 1 under (in miserable, wet conditions also). As a side note I missed 4 putts from inside 10 feet on the back nine all of which were very makeable. I was not very far away from shooting 31 for 9 holes with the attitude of “I dont give a stuff anymore”.

    The moral of my story if you have not already worked it out is this:
    -Never take technical thoughts to the course
    -Play care-free golf
    -LET GO
    -Play by instincts
    -Trust yourself
    -GO AUTOMATIC
    -HAVE FUN
    -….oh and pray that the greens are in good condition 🙂

    Thanks for reading

  • Cameron

    Reply Reply August 4, 2010

    @Tim: The tricky thing in golf is not learning how to drive, chip or putt. I reckon we can all do this well enough to shoot scores that are way lower that our normal. The hard thing is to do the opposite of what you’ve done today…

    … and that is to have your attitude from the second nine locked in from the first hole you play. The right attitude is somewhat easy after a poor start – but it takes courage to have that carefree mindset from the beginning of your round.

    The same thing happens to golfers who hit the ball well on the driving range but poorly on the course. The difference is in your attitude – it has nothing to do with your swing or skill level.

    Great insight and a valuable lesson for all.

    Cam

  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply August 8, 2010

    Hi Cameron

    Everyone should watch this short video. Its about the personal journey of Zack Arias, a top photographer , but it echoes exactly what you are saying about the golf journey. Tip: don’t be fooled by the way the vid starts…..its not what you think! Some great lessons here.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZYlQ4Wv8lE&feature=related

  • Cameron

    Reply Reply August 8, 2010

    @Grayden: thanks for posting this. The more I do this the more I realise that automatic golf is about having the courage to walk your own path. The big thing is not to get too distracted by all of the noise out there.

  • Tony Lucas

    Reply Reply August 12, 2010

    Tribers
    Played golf last Saturday and in the main played ok (34pts) but on about four holes I allowed distractions to enter and the following result was of course no good which takes us back to this present post and please do not make it hard stay auto.I keep falling back to what Gerry Hogan said and that was stay with the KISS theory. Keep It Simple Stupid ,how true.
    Cheers Lukey

  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply August 16, 2010

    Cam / Tribers

    Thought you might like this from photographer Ken Rockwell:

    “Talk to any top athlete, dancer, musician or any other kind of performer. While they may spend all week training at high altitudes, practicing scales or going over new steps, when it comes time to perform, they don’t think about anything technical. It just comes out. They don’t think about anything at all. Their own self melts away and it just comes out….

    The things for which the whole world idolize and analyze any of these people just happens. When performing, these virtuosi give not a moment’s thought to technique. It just flows. They are thinking about nothing except getting caught up in whatever feelings move them to do what they do. It is fluid, and that’s why they are the virtuoso……

    There is a time for practice and study, and then it’s time to perform. These are very, very different things……”

  • Cameron

    Reply Reply August 17, 2010

    Thanks again Grayden for another insightful comment. I’d like to add that this approach can apply for all. It is not reserved for top performers only.

  • Gregor McCulloch

    Reply Reply August 17, 2010

    I agree training and performing are two very different things. If you were a caveman trying to kill your dinner with a spear, you wouldn’t be thinking about keeping your arm straight, would you. It would all happen instinctively. But I’ll bet after a few attempts you would have worked out what works and what doesn’t. You would be awfully hungry otherwise

  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply August 31, 2010

    Hi Cam and tribers
    Here’s something a bit different…..
    I’m continuing to have lower back problems which is keeping me out of the game at the moment. Frustrating! In my usual manner though I start experimenting in the hope of finding a way around the obstacle. One of the things I stumbled across was how much better it is for my back if I swing with a very upright stance. Only trouble is of course, the club head ends up way in the air at address! But I took a few practice swings at flower heads about 30cm in the air (while standing very upright) and found it surprisingly easy to pick them off. No problem at all. It got me thinking: what if I had EXTRA long shafts in my irons so that I could stand like that ALL the time? It would mean putting an extra 200-300mm into them. Now I know your first reaction will be “you’ll never control the club head”. I thought that too. But I surprised myself how easily I was able to easily pick off small flower heads time and time again standing like that. I think we grossly under estimate how good our natural hand / eye coordination actually is (?). Anyway, thought i might try and convince a local golf shop to make up an experimental 7 iron like this. It would also have to have a much flatter than normal lie to compensate for the fact the club is that much further away from me (I would have to buy a second-hand FORGED club I guess in order to bend the head down a fair bit). Anyone ever tried anything like this? Any suggestions about how to extend a 7 iron shaft by 300mm? Jam a length of shaft in the end or something I guess? Would be interested in any thoughts. Cheers, GP

    PS….if there’s one thing I’ve picked up from this site its think outside the square. Don’t be afraid to try things, don’t be afraid to question the conventional wisdom, don’t be afraid to play golf YOUR way! 🙂

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply August 31, 2010

      Hi Grayden,

      I’ve had some experience with long clubs. A few guys I’ve crossed paths with have recommended them and I’ve given them a try. The real issue is getting the clubs to function correctly.

      Problem #1: The long shafts generally make them too heavy. They honestly feel clunky to me and I struggled badly.

      Problem #2: To make them lighter graphite is often used. While this makes them feel better they become extremely flexible. This can be an issue, especially for accuracy.

      So I’m not sure of the best way forward here. If it works for you then go for it. Just be aware that longer clubs pose some problems.

      Maybe get some older 7 irons and experiment with some different lengths. Try really long, medium and a tad longer. This will help you find what suits. It’s also cheaper than getting the entire set done.

      Let me know how you get on.

      Cameron

  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply August 31, 2010

    Thanks Cameron. I’ll have a go and see what happens.

  • Steady

    Reply Reply September 3, 2010

    Hi Tribers,
    I came across a great poem by Rudyard Kippling called If.
    Hope you enjoy it. Very Appropiate for Fathers Day.
    Cheers Steady
    If

    If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
    If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
    If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
    Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

    If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
    If you can meet with triumph and disaster
    And treat those two imposters just the same;
    If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
    Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;

    If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
    And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breath a word about your loss;
    If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
    And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

    If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
    If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
    If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
    Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply September 3, 2010

    “If you can miss a 12″ putt and not blink THEN you’ll be man my son!” 🙂

  • Gregor

    Reply Reply September 4, 2010

    I’ve not been playing much recently due to other commitments so I was delighted to play today on a lovely sunny day. After parring the first, things were looking good. Not so good after putting two balls OB onto the beach off the 2nd tee. When I lost another ball on the 6th hole I realised I was not enjoying my game, so I thanked my playing partners for the round so far (which I have never done before ) and then headed to the 13th tee to play in on my own. Frustratingly, I then parred 5 out of the 6 remaining holes and I didn’t do anything different. I mean nothing different. I wasn’t over thinking or getting angry with myself for the first 6, it just suddenly clicked into place for no apparent reason.
    I find this happens a lot, does anyone know why ??

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply September 5, 2010

      Gregor,

      There can be a fine line between playing great golf or being back at average again.

      I can almost guarantee that your first few holes were close. But, somewhere deep inside, you were holding back. Maybe it was some expectation or the playing partners. I’m not sure but if you have some deep reflection you’ll find it.

      The back nine proves you have the skill and talent. When you just play the magic happens.

      Btw. I’m in Scotland soon, are you keen to catch up for a game?

      Cameron

  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply September 4, 2010

    My guess: you cared on the front nine, you didn’t on the back nine.

  • Tony Lucas

    Reply Reply September 4, 2010

    Gregor
    I am not an expert by any stretch of the imagination but I normally find that I have been distracted and that could be anything from a comment from one of your playing partners which in turn makes you start to think about other things.Another thing could be I have started off with par and then without realising you let MR EGO in and whilst you appear to be doing the right thing you are not so what I am trying to say is try to be aware of the pitfalls and learn from that.I hope it is of some help to you.
    Cheers Lukey

  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply September 6, 2010

    Gregor: what course do you play at? Being able to land on the beach off the second tee sounds FANTASTIC!

  • Gregor

    Reply Reply September 6, 2010

    Cameron,
    yes, I’m keen to meet up. You’ll need to let me know your dates and I will keep myself free.

    Grayden,
    I play at Royal Troon in Scotland. It’s a great course, very challenging, even on a sunny day it’s still windy and you always need to stay patient. To hit the beach is a bad shot !!

    Gregor

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply September 7, 2010

      @Gregor: I am in town from the 16th – 25th September. Was supposed to play at Troon on my last visit but got washed out. Let me know if you have some free time.

      Cameron

  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply September 6, 2010

    “To hit the beach is a bad shot !!”

    Yeah, but what a way to go! I’m very envious. What a great golf course.

  • Gregor

    Reply Reply September 8, 2010

    Cameron,
    I have days off on 18th, 19th & 24th & 25th. Let me know if any of these days suit. Could manage other days but all depends on work
    Gregor

  • Cameron

    Reply Reply September 8, 2010

    Gregor, the 18th sounds great. Let me know if this suits?

  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply September 9, 2010

    Cam / Gregor: if you get to play Troon together it would be great if you could shoot some video for us to drool over

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply September 11, 2010

      Will take the video camera – might have some other surprises as well.

  • Gregor

    Reply Reply September 18, 2010

    Cameron,
    I have been replying by private email but had no answer, so just in case there is a probem with the email can I confirm again that I’m fine for tomorrow. Probably just panicking!
    Foreast looks good, so looking forward to it
    Gregor

  • Gregor

    Reply Reply September 20, 2010

    Tribers
    I’m delighted to report that the said golf game did indeed happen despite my obvious panic.

    Cameron,
    thanks for taking time out of your schedule to meet and play, and as always to impart some of your knowledge and strategies during the round and after.

    I am now resolved more than ever to make my game completely automatic

    cheers,
    Gregor

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply September 24, 2010

      Hi Gregor, I have put together an article about the day here. I’ve got a few more to come and this makes a start.

      Cameron

      PS thanks very much for showing me Royal Troon. Loved it!

  • Bernie

    Reply Reply September 20, 2010

    Hi Gregor & Cam
    Wonderful news. Hope the day went well. Wow – to play at Royal Troon. Can’t wait to hear about the day and round.
    Bernie

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