Saturday, September 17, 2011

3Jack Prepares For Golf - Part III

Even though this is the 3rd part of the series, I find the mental game to be as important as any of the parts. I don’t think a great mental game will overcome poor golf. But I believe that a bad mental game typically can find a way to ruin good golf. Furthermore, I believe a good mental game can take ‘so-so’ golf and result into a better score than the actual execution.

First, I have some mantras that I want to put into my head going into the tournament.

1) I am not defined as a golfer or as a person by a score in a round of golf

This is where I find that golf can fluster even the greatest of golfers, but particularly on any sub-PGA Tour level. We often see this on ‘The Big Break’ show on The Golf Channel. I find that good golfers want to either be taken seriously as a golfer or take things too seriously. Then they hit a few bad shots and instead of focusing on how to get the ball into the cup with the fewest shots possible, they start to think about how bad they look and that causes them to panic or try to hit the heroic shot to look good again.

2) I play for the results on an average swing, not for results on my bad swing. No ‘hedging my bets.’

I find that most golfers suffer from this as well, including myself. Instead of trying to figure out what shot to hit based upon what the likely results will be on an average swing….they ‘play for the missed shot’ instead. And when you do that, I believe a couple of things happen.

A) You start moving your shots further away from the hole, which over time, causes your score to increase.

B) Since you are thinking about your mis-hits, you start to mis-hit the ball

None of that here. Golfers do not practice to hone their games to play for the mis-hits. They practice to hone their games so their average swings produce better and more consistent results. If I get into trouble, it’s because I took a poor swing and I ‘deserved’ to be in trouble.

3) Stick to your plan and keep a positive body language.

I will get into the gameplan in part IV. But the positive body language is about not allowing yourself to check out mentally on any shot.

4) Have fun out there.

Well, that’s why we play this silly game.


From a mental perspective, I believe in thinking about the process over the score. I believe that if we can master the process, the score will likely come. This stems from statistics. If I go out and hit 14 greens and have no 3-putts and no penalty strokes, the odds of me shooting under par are pretty good. I *could* do those things and still shoot 80, but the odds are more likely that I will shoot under par in that situation.

I think goal setting is a good thing. I believe goals should be something that require the person to perform well to achieve. Goals set too high suck the fun out of trying to achieve the goal. Setting them too low and they become unimportant. Thus, here are my ‘process’ goals:

- Hit 13 greens
- No 3-putts
- Nothing over a bogey on a hole
- No consecutive bogeys

I believe that those are all achievable goals that are not easy or extremely difficult for me to accomplish. The big part of this is to not ‘freak out’ when you miss one of those goals. For instance, if I take a double bogey on the first hole, I need to keep my composure and continue to focus on those goals instead of trying to ‘make up’ for a bad hole. I believe I could reach all of the goals and still make 1 double bogey and still shoot under par.


I think where golfers tend to have difficulty with tournament play is that they are typically told to ‘have fun out there’ and to ‘treat it like a casual round of golf.’ While I think it’s a decent idea, I think there are certain aspects of tournament play vs. casual golf that make that next to nearly impossible.

In casual golf, often times if a golfer hits a 60 foot putt to 3-feet, his playing partners will hit it back to him as a ‘reward’ for hitting a pretty good putt from 60 feet. The issue here is that in tournament golf the golfer still has to putt that 3-footer and when they play in tournaments, that is like a shock to the system to have to finish up that 3-footer…almost like a punch to the face.

This is why when I prepare for a tournament, I try to treat the casual golf more like the tournament golf. And thus when I’m playing in a tournament, the tournament golf feels more like a casual round of golf.

Obviously, when you are playing a casual round of golf your friends don’t want to deal with you lining up putts like they are the putt to win the Masters. But, I believe that therein lies the point…there needs to be a ‘merge’ between how a golfer plays casual golf and how they play tournament golf. They will likely never be exactly the same, but as long as they are close I believe tournament scores will dip.

One of the big things I believe it affects is not only being ‘nervous’, but when a golfer has the adrenaline flowing as well. I remember the last tournament I played in I started on fire on the last round, hitting some big, perfect drives off the tee. I clearly has the adrenaline flowing and then I try to hit a soft PW from 130 yards and I flew the green by about 10 yards. I find adrenaline to be very helpful, but it’s counterproductive if I cannot harness it.



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