I have a couple of quotes at the top of the blog. They’re both related to the mental side of golf. The mental aspects of golf are what make it the most amazing of all sports in my mind. No sport gets harder the better you get at it. No matter what the goal you reach in golf it is never good enough. Golf is a game that cannot be won, it can only be played.
No sport can bring you to your knees mentally and emotionally, and one shot later bring euphoria. Golf is like an emotional torture chamber.
I’ve achieved a fairly high level of golf for your average amateur. I’m capable of hitting great shots. I’m great at putting. I have great gear. I have the tools to play good golf and I do shoot in the low 70′s most of the time. As a 2 handicap that’s what I should do.
The physical tools are there. But there seems to be some sort of barrier for me. In a big tournament I almost shoot myself out of contention in the first few holes because I’m so excited, pumped and nervous. I hit terrible shots or make mistakes I’d never make in a casual round with my pals.
A couple of examples:
Today I played the best 9 holes I’ve ever played. I was with my usual Thursday foursome on a fairly tough course. There was a 1-2 club wind which was causing all sorts of problems for the group.
I proceed to go completely unconscious hitting amazing shots and making almost every putt I saw. I had 11 putts on the front. I hit one bad chip on the par 5 7th, only to knock my 2nd chip in the hole for birdie. I make 3 birdies in a row and two others to shoot a 31 (-5) on the front.
The back was another story. I start out with a bogey. No big deal, I’m still 4 under. A couple of holes later I make another bogey, then another, another and so on. On the par 5 15th I’m now only 1 under. I knock a 7 iron on the green and make eagle to go back to -3. The last 3 holes are all bogeys. These are not hard holes. It sounds ridiculous but todays round was a disappointing 72.
Example 2: Sunday I’m in a big tournament. I start out birdie-birdie-eagle. I’m minus 4 after 3 holes. I slowly leak oil the rest of the round to shoot 73.
Example 3: I’m sitting on the 15th tee at -2. I knock my shot into the weeds and never find it.
I think you get the point.
I know in other sports it sometimes takes just getting to the championship once or twice before you can overcome the pressure and win it. Experience. Perhaps this is the case with golf. After a few rounds at -2 to -5 on the back nine, I just need to learn how to close the deal. I need to learn how to shut off my brain and not think “this could be the best round I’ve ever shot” or start projecting what could happen.
I read The Inner Game Of Golf to try to address this problem and didn’t really buy W. Timothy Gallwey’s concepts. (I always wonder about someone who starts their name with a letter anyway).
So what is the solution? Is it more range time? Is it a weekly yoga class? Perhaps meeting with a Zen master? How about a trip to a shrink? Or is it just knocking on the door so many times that you eventually get let in?