In this post I talk about needing some help with the mental game. I still do.
I’ve been shooting some low scores, for 14 or 15 holes. Like last Sunday in a tournament I was -4 after 14. I blew a gasket and leaked oil the rest of the round. Went from 1st to a gimpy 75 and not in the money.
I’ve had probably 15-20 rounds this year where I’m any were from even par to -5 on the back 9, only to give it back by the time the round is over. I had a 31/41 round of 72 the other day. If there is such a thing as a disappointing even par round, that was it.
I chatted with a couple of the pros at my club about this. They say the key is to not go conservative. Don’t try to protect that -4 round, try to increase it to -5, -6. I see their point. But it’s not like I’m playing conservative all the sudden. I start to literally get butterflies in my stomach and have breathing problems. I’ll then have some kind of brain dead moment where I make a stupid course management choice or flub a very easy shot.
For instance: I’m in a tourney last week. I’m grinding big time. I started out with 9 pars in a row and then birdie #10. On #16, a 200 yard par 3, I decide a 5 iron is the right club. I then grab my 6 iron, clean it and knock it 15 yards short. So disappointed with that bogey, I sky my drive and bogey 17. Bogey 18. Domino effect.
I’m going to try the aggressive idea and see if I can build on that good round. Sounds like a good thing to try.
But what calms those butterflies of excitement when you’re playing great and you’re thinking “this could be the best round I’ve ever shot.” The second you say that you’re dead.
I’m thinking perhaps all the experience of getting that close will eventually pay off and I’ll break through with a personal world record low round. Maybe the floodgates would be open then.
Any ideas, thoughts or input on improving or strengthening the mental side?
One shot at a time.
While I am not playing close to scratch-level golf, I have an idea that may help you overcome your mental anguish.
My hypothesis: It takes a higher-level of focus to play a quality round alone than it does to play a quality round against opponents. When playing alone the golfer is beholded only to his own will to play well. This will — not under the constant pressure of a tournament atmosphere — is wont to waver, fade and disappear. It is then only within the golfer himself to steady and appetize his will. The golfer does this with focus. Hence, playing alone is a focusing excercise, just like curls are a bicep exercise.
My sense is that you are not unable to focus on the finishing holes. My sense is that you do not have strong focus on the finishing holes. And, as much as I hate to qualify my hypothesis as zen-like, it is somewhat zen-like.
It is the most noble and most difficult to perform your best when there is neither pride nor money to play for.
Wow. What a comment El Doque. I don’t recall worrying about the other players. I may have been paying attention to my standing in the tournament here and there. But mainly my focus has been MY score. I need to find a way NOT to think “wow, I’m 3 under right now…”
Your zen hypothesis is spot on. The finishing holes are where I have the problems. I wonder if the grind of playing 14, 15 holes is wearing on my focus.
I like your ideas. I do believe some rounds alone can do some good. Playing alone, and walking the course can be a great for the golf soul. Perhaps not only should I play alone, but play more than 18 holes. Perhaps playing 27 or 36 in a day and trying to really wear myself out physically and mentally would make playing 18 seem easy. Or perhaps I should imagine the course is 22 holes…
It also may be useful to play on an empty stomach during a non-competitive round. This way by the time you reach the finishing holes you’ll be really drained energy-wise. Trying to stay focused will be a monumental challenge.
I’ve learned your mental game is in contrast to your physical condition. Generally when people get tired physically, even a little and they may not recognize it, they start to lose mental focus. I’m not in any way saying that you aren’t in shape, but when you are playing a round of golf and really playing well, concentrating a lot on each shot, it drains you even more.
My advice is this, take a snack with you, or a few snacks, like a banana or energy bar and eat this around hole #5 and again around hole #13. Think of it this way, a round of golf is a workout period…when you go to the gym, do you work out for 4 and a half hours? Sure it may not be as tough as the gym with free weights, but consistantly walking (7000+ yards per round) not to mention probably 150 swings (including all your practice swings), the elements of being outside, plus the mental pressure of playing in a tournament…take some snacks with you man, give yourself that extra energy.
When I was trying to play competitive golf, I did my best to turn my round into six 3 hole events. This may sound odd but it might help. I know it helped me with the same problem you describe. Chart the course prior to teeing off and target your score for each 3 hole “event.” Let’s say #1 is a par 5, #2 a par 4, and #3 a par 4. Your target score for this “event” might be 12..ie 4-4-4. Take your focus off the 18 hole score and play 6 mini events with the object being to eventually make your round a series of 18 one hole “events” and eventually 68 or less individual successes.
I think when you hear really good players speak of “one shot at a tiime” or “staying in the moment” this is what they are doing. The exercise I have outlined will narrow your focus eventually to each individual shot.
I hope this helps.
With my best regards,