Decisions. They are yours to make
Welcome to golf
Welcome to the game that will engage your mind like no other.
A game you will never conquer yet one that will deliver joy like you could never imagine.
A game that will spark a wildly diverse a raft of emotions you will never experience in other sports Why? How? Because in golf you are 100% invested in every shot.
I look back on my sporting life and see a fork in the road. That junction was where I chose to pursue golf over the other the sports I was playing at that time. Specifically team sports. The main ones for me were cricket, basketball and football.
What was the appeal of golf over the others?
Well, it all was up to me. You may have had this revelation yourself.
To succeed or fail was in my hands and, more importantly, in my head.
I like team sports, don’t get me wrong. There is much to be learnt and enjoyed from the collaboration and cohesion of a well drilled team. Players with different skills coming together to achieve an outcome is exhilarating to be part of and watch. This is evident in the popularity of sports like AFL and 20/20 cricket.
In team sports coaches and managers are charged with the job of blending and honing diverse skills & personalities to achieve peak performance with winning the ultimate goal.
In team sports I felt something was missing. Training harder guaranteed nothing. There were too many other factors. Factors I couldn’t control. The quality of the opposition and the performance of my team mates being the most obvious.
Golf on the other hand provided a causal link between my best efforts and better play.
Very few good things happen by accident in golf. Make good decisions and you are on track for improvement and the intense sense of satisfaction that comes with it.
Equally a poor execution, a rash decision or losing control of my emotions resulted in bad outcomes of my own making. Success or failure stemmed from my decisions and no one else.
When you play golf you are the player and the manager.
To be the player you want to be requires you to:
- Decide what is your goal (reach a certain handicap or break a certain score barrier)
- Make the decisions that lead to it happening.
I feel many people have done the first.
In my experience, when it comes to the second part people don’t have any structure to how to achieve their goal or they look in the wrong places for answers.
Have a think about the decisions you make about your game. Are you happy with your play?
If you are; you need to continue preparing and practicing at least as much as you are now to maintain that level. That involves a series of decisions. Slack off and you will go backwards.
If you are not happy with your play then a decision to do things differently is required.
I find many golfers unsatisfied by their golf have unhelpful habits. Not getting to the course early enough to warm up and be prepared to play is something I see frequently.
Others include only practice the shots you like or the ones you are good at. Skills like holing short putts are critical for scoring well, yet how many people systematically practice them?
When you start to think more deeply about your game you will realise you are making important decisions all the time.
What to practice, how long to practice, when to get to the course, what to do to warm up before a round. What gear to bring. Not thinking about these things is a decision in itself.
So if you plan on playing better golf you have decisions to make. When you do there is a real sense of ownership. You are no longer a victim. You become the captain of your ship.
The first step is to stop and have and honest assessment of your game.
A key part of this is being realistic about the time and resources you can invest. Having unrealistically high expectations is setting yourself up to fail.
How much practice do I do and how focussed am I when I am doing it?
Am I practicing all the parts of the game or just the bits I like or the shots I am good at?
How am I preparing for a round?
Any plan to improve should start with assessing your game against better players not just your regular playing partners. If a friend is a few handicap shots lower than you they are not the model to copy. You need to look at the habits of really good players. I am not suggesting you are going to play like them (yet) but there is lots to be learnt from the way good golfers prepare.
Better players are systematic. You can be too.
When you decide to be better, as a coach, I see a number of key avenues.
1. Start with the short game. Developing a rock solid putting and chipping game with a consistent routine for playing these shots. Practicing putting is something you can even do at home.
2. Better preparation. Be ready to play. Have a warm up and be prepared for the conditions of the day. Rushing leads to anxiety and your mind will never be focussed on the task
3. Better practice. Quality is more important than quantity.
4. Better Technique. Improving your swing and adding skills is like adding tools to your tool kit for solving the problems you face on the course. This is often extremely rewarding yet will require resources (time, effort and patience) and will involve getting good advice.
5. Optimised equipment. Equipment is a big part of golf and requires many decisions. There has never been a better time to get good advice on equipment and the major manufacturers are offering more customisation than ever with club fitting and options for women and men of all skill levels.
A good starting point is to find a PGA professional. They have the knowledge to help guide your decisions. Whether that is getting lessons to learn new skills or advice on what equipment best suits your game, having experience on your side makes a big difference.
Remember, the only impossible journey is the one you never start.
It is your game; it is your journey. The decisions are yours to make.