It's one of those long days in a hotel room watching it rain that all golfers have known at one time or another. And, it's a great day to blog. We've been playing some great golf in practice and qualifying, but haven't gone as low in our last few competitive rounds. We have a bunch of kids on this team who can take it deep and they do it a lot. When no one on the team goes low, there are a few things I look at to understand what's holding us back. One thing can be our approach to playing the golf course. Was our plan too aggressive or not aggressive enough? Another factor is the course set up or conditions. Were the hole locations in tough spots or were the conditions tough? Last week at UT, it was a combination of a few factors. The greens were quick, the hole locations were guarded by slopes and knolls and we began to play defensively.
Learning to play competitive golf on a tough course or in tough conditions is a lot like learning to drive. When you're taught to be a defensive driver and see all the possibilities, it really slows you down at first. The guy backing out of his driveway might or might not stop and you swerve to the left a bit as you go past. The lady waiting to turn left up ahead is inching forward and making you slow down and swerve a bit to the right. Soon, you realize that you can be aware of others, but if you swerve or stop your progress, you might cause your own accident. Paying attention to possible hazards is part of driving, but not letting them disrupt you from your destination is equally important. This is a lot like golf.
As you make your way to your destination on the course, you need to be aware of the hazards and problems you could face, but you can't let them deter you from your goal. Swinging away from trouble is a lot different than swinging to your target. The first means that your goal is based on what you don't want to happen and the second is based on what you do want to happen. Think now of a simple goal you have. Perhaps it is to save $100 a month or to make an A on a test. Those are simple and easy to state. Now, what sort of goal would you have if you based these needs on what you don't want? I don't want to be broke at the end of the month or I don't want to make another C on this test. Neither of these goals state the actual outcome you're working toward. You might reach the first goals with these or you might not. In fact, it isn't really clear what you want! That is much the same as playing away from trouble or basing your golf shot on what you don't want.
This green is really fast back to front. I don't want to be above the pin.
I'm going to keep this shot under the hole, so I can give my putt a good run.
I don't want to hit in that right bunker.
I'm going to hit this drive at that tree that will put me in the left center of the fairway.
I don't want to hit this putt too hard and face a 3 putt.
I'm going to hit this putt so it drops in the front edge of the hole.
I don't want to miss this putt.
I am going to roll this putt right on my line.
This hole doesn't set up well for my game. I'm hoping to get out of here with a par.
I'm going to hit my 3 wood and control my length so I can get a full shot at this green.
Do you get the picture? You need to be 100% in charge of your goal with each shot and make your goal a positive act that you can accomplish. If you get too caught up in being defensive, you can play good golf, but you can't play your best. Playing with clear goals of what you want allows your body to connect with what you mind sees. It will respond with freedom. Playing with thoughts of what you don't want to have happen takes away your freedom and replaces it with anxiety. The key to freedom on the course is to have full control over your process. Your control lies in your strategy, your visualization, your commitment and your trust in yourself. When you base your approach on what you don't want to happen, you might think you're being strategic, but you're missing out on clear visualization, a reason for commitment and the trust needed to play with freedom.
For us to get back to playing the golf we are capable of playing, we will make sure we state our goals for each shot based on what we want to happen and not what we don't want. Pony Up!