Have you ever played great golf and things seemed easy and then all of a sudden, everything got hard? It has happened to all of us who've played competitive golf. I can remember a tournament round when I was all over the flag. My swing felt smooth and I was in control Then, I grabbed the wrong club on an approach and flew the green. My mistake wasn't isolated. It led to more mistakes. All of a sudden, my swing wasn't smooth, it was jerky. I didn't feel in control. Instead, I was reactive, angry, nervous, embarrassed and quite simply, a mess. BOOM! One swing changed everything. Actually, the swing was good, one decision to hit a 7 iron instead of an 8 iron changed everything. It put me in a hazard and caused a double bogey. In hindsight, my bad decision created many more bad decisions, because my mindset changed. I let one shot effect many. If I had anticipated a poor shot and how to act after it happened, I would have been able to continue after the double with a smooth swing and a chosen mindset. Instead, I shot myself in the foot.
In other words, I caused myself problems. Even though I had played seven good holes, one shot threw me off. I was only as good as my last shot. I allowed it to define me instead of allowing my preparation, my experience or my good shots leading to the mistake to define me. Have you felt the same loss of mindset? When you did, did you get fearful? Did you play away from trouble? Did you get tight? Did you lose your rhythm? Did you lose your confidence? Did you start thinking about mechanics? Did you shoot yourself in the foot?
You can blame your downward spiral on choosing the wrong club or a bad swing. You can point clearly to the moment things changed for you, but, all the blame in the world that points at the shot, the bounce, the decision or the distraction that started the spiral isn't really the moment you shot yourself in the foot. That moment is when you allowed that result to change your mindset.
You will be challenged every time you tee it up on the first hole. No round of golf will be easy. You will never play an entire round of golf with perfect swings, shots or decisions. There will be mistakes, mishits and poor choices, not to mention bad bounces or wind gusts that you didn't control. Since you know this going into your round, why would you let any of those occasions change your mindset?
Before you play your next competitive round, decide prior to teeing it up what your mindset will be. You can choose to compete with complete acceptance of what happens and move past whatever it is, whether good or bad. You can choose to have patience and a sense of humor. You can choose to be completely focused on the shot at hand as though it's the first of the round. You can choose to connect and commit to your targets. Do you get the idea? You can choose whatever you want for your mindset before you even tee it up. The trick is, when you get a bad bounce, make a poor decision or hit an errant shot, remembering your choice and focusing on keeping it in your mind. If you are always reactive to results, you will only be as good as your last shot or putt.
Over the years, there are certain things we repeat to our players that we hope allows them to have "actions" instead of reactions when things aren't going well. Actions are planned and happen because you chose them. Reactions are reliant upon results and happen like dominoes.
- When you are out of position, get back into position!
- That sounds super obvious, yet when players get in trouble, they rarely look at the easiest way to get the ball out of trouble. Instead, they look at the hole and work to route the ball that direction.
- Mindset is helped by a plan. This is a simple plan to follow.
- When you are in trouble, figure out how to get a putt for par.
- If you get a putt for par, you might make it.
- If you get a putt for par, you will most likely make bogey and you can cover it with a birdie coming in. Doubles and triples are tough to cover.
- Mindset is helped by simplicity. Remembering this simple rule of get a putt for par will help you hang on to your chosen mindset.
- You're allowed one mistake per hole.
- See above. If you get a putt for par and you jam it past in your desire to make it, you will invite a three putt into the equation. Two mistakes per hole almost always means double bogey.
- Keep your self-talk on action and your chosen mindset. Talk yourself through the situation calmly and choose an action that won't lead to another mistake. Think conservative.
- Even though there is no such thing as erasing a shot or even making up for it, players try to do both things. When they've made a mistake, they take bigger risks to rectify the situation and usually end up multiplying their problems and shots taken.
- When you make a mistake, take a deep breath and give yourself a few options.
- Good players take a bit more time after a mistake. Poor players feel hurried, rushed and pressured after a mistake.
- Give yourself options so you're actively choosing the right next step. Many times when players get in trouble, they get tunnel vision and see only the pin.