One of the main things I noticed in the countless pro-am’s I played on Tour, is that most amateurs have unrealistic expectations. That is to say, they either think they are better than they are, think this game is easier than it is, or don’t understand the concept of scoring in golf.
When Jack Nicklaus was in his prime, years ago, and was asked how many shots he hit the way he wanted to during a tournament when he was playing his best golf, he replied, “7″. After Tiger Woods won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, he was asked how many shots he hit exactly the way he had envisioned them on the last day. His response to this was, “1″.
These statements are indicative of two important lessons: 1) That to win a tournament against the best players in the world, you don’t need to play your best possible golf. 2) When the top players are scoring their best, they don’t need to hit lots of great, beautifully struck shots.
So in other words, the primary objective and the only thing that counts at the end of the day, “scoring low”, does not mean hitting lots of impressive, gorgeous shots the way we would ideally want to hit them. If you are waiting to score better, until your swing is more full proof, iron clad, and synced up in perfect rhythm to deliver pre-packaged great shots on demand, you’ve got a long, endless wait.
‘All or Nothing Mentality’ = Bad Scores
The revered sports psychologist of the Tour players, Bob Rotella, wrote the book, “Golf is Not a Game of Perfect”, because there is no such thing as perfect golf and thus one must learn how to manage their missed shots. What really constitutes playing the so-called, ‘perfect round of golf’, is using the swing you have that day, to get the ball in the hole in the fewest shots possible.
For better or worse, golf is a game of errors in which our human limitations are greatly exposed and exaggerated. Most amateurs don’t realize or accept this, and instead of working with their mediocre shots and imperfect swings in order to make them work that day, they foolishly search for just the right swing in hopes of hitting a stellar, great feeling golf shot. Even if they do hit that one amazing shot, their mental approach is so far off base during their 4 hours of play, that their score will reflect their ridiculously flawed ‘all or nothing mentality’.
I often had my best tournaments on Tour when I was not striking the ball well. The acceptance of this reality seemed to prepare me for the rigors of the day. I knew not to expect much from my physical skills, and thus had to summon the discipline necessary to stay even- keeled, tough, and mentally strong. I made my ball striking work for me that day, as crappy as my swing felt and as far off the sweet spot I was hitting them.
I didn’t get sad, mad, or pity myself, although it could have been very easy to succumb to the frustration over the fact that all the years and years of swing practice seemed all for naught. What I finally came to realize, is that all of that practice got me in touch with my swing, its intricacies, my tendencies, and the cause and effect at work. It didn’t reduce my swing to a unerring robotic motion, but it taught me to learn about myself and my swinging motion. I could never fully avoid untimely bad shots, but I could minimize the horrible ones and make the bad shots not so bad.
To summarize, when you are on the course, accept your abilities that day, be creative as you wield the club, and find a way to get the ball in play. There are no pictures on the scorecard, so get over your desire for perfectionism. Concentrate on getting your ball to intermediate targets any way that you can, provide yourself a cushion for error, shoot away from tucked pins, take more club if you need to, and don’t try to be the hero. Anyone can shoot well when their physical game happens to be going well, but it takes a savvy, smart player to shoot low when their mechanics are in disarray!