For a game that has inspired beautiful poetry, is the subject of breathtaking photography/art, and is played quite literally by millions and millions of people — golf is a cruel, vile, inexplicably frustrating game.
The confidence you need to be good at golf has to be built up. It takes rounds and round and rounds of good, solid play to build up the confidence necessary to keep playing well. Conversely, it takes two or three bad strokes to eliminate all of that confidence and leave you feeling blue and swing like a pretzel.
Ultimately, however, the success of your next round depends on you and nothing else. Sure, it can be incredibly difficult to move on after a terrible round and there are plenty of reasons why — but the most important thing to remember is that you and you alone are in charge of those emotions, thoughts and habits that create these situations.
As Taylor Swift says, however, you’ve got to, “shake it off, shake it off.”
Here are 7 solid tips for shaking off a really, really bad round:
Stand up comedian and TV host Matty Blake has a theory — the “Rule of 10” — which roughly states that, “should a tour pro go super low on Thursday, you can almost bet the mortgage that his round on Friday will be about 10 strokes worse.” This is something that all amateurs know all too well.
How many times have you gone out one day and fired the round of your life only to play the next day and play like absolute garbage? All that confidence (false as it may be) that was gained from your career round gets wiped clean after an afternoon of confusion and a swing that feels like an unfolded beach chair.
In a case like this, you need to remember Matty Blake’s “Rule of 10.” While there is no scientific research to back it, all you need to do is pay attention next time a guy on Tour shoots 62 or 63 — the next day, see what they shoot. And then see what they shoot the third round, if they make the cut. Odds are, they’ll bounce back.
Why? Because neither of those rounds are the norm. Both performances were anomalies and ought to be treated that way. While a great round should be enjoyed, don’t expect it to be the norm. Conversely, you shouldn’t get too shaken up about a bad round as it, too, is not the norm.
If you had a bad round last week there’s no connection between it and the round you’re having this week. No round, no shot –nothing is connected physically on the course and that’s what amateurs need to understand.
By dwelling on the bad round, sure, you can create a mental connection But that connection isn’t founded on anything solid or factual. If you’re in a “slump” it’s because you’ve convinced yourself that you are.
One of my favorite quotes from the 1988 baseball classic, “Bull Durham” is when Crash Davis tells Anne that a player on a streak needs to “respect the streak” and that “if you *think* you’re winning because of something you’re doing or you’re not doing, then you are.” Obviously, that’s been edited a bit for content, but it’s true — not only for good play and winning streaks, but for losing streaks and stretches of bad performances.
If you’re willing to accept that your plight is figment of your imagination because nothing physical is creating your situation, you’ll be better for it and those “slumps” won’t last much longer than a few holes.
Jack Nicklaus is the greatest golfer of all time (don’t argue with me!) for a number of reasons — but perhaps, more than any of the other reasons, Jack was great because of his ability to bury bad rounds. To move on and forget the bad swings, the bad breaks and the bad scores and to only work and build from the positives.
Nicklaus once said, “I don’t remember the losses” when asked about his “Duel in the Sun” with Tom Watson at Turnberry in 1977. There are plenty of other stories about Nicklaus saying things like, “I’ve never lost after having a 54-hole lead in a major” — which isn’t true. Twice, the Golden Bear has lost after holding the 54-lead in a major.
The mental fortitude of the games best is often chronicled — almost ad nauseam — but it’s for good reason. It truly is what separates the have’s from the have-not’s and the have-not’s from the never wills.
For you and me, it’s no so easy to just “forget” the bad rounds, especially if there’s going to be a week or two between rounds. When pros tell amateurs, “just forget about it. Tomorrow is a another day,” they don’t understand that we amateurs have a TON of down time between rounds to think about golf and, unfortunately, our last round. We don’t have the luxury of teeing it up the next day most of the time.
One thing that I’ve started doing when I have really bad rounds is to symbolically bury the round. I’ll actually dig a hole and bury the card (yes, I may be a crazy person — but you play golf, too. You’re also crazy) or burn it in the fireplace, committing the terrible round to the afterlife where bad rounds go to live out eternity forgotten.
Try it next time — As I remember, most people will do just about anything to forget about a bad round.
Remember the scene in “Tin Cup” where Roy McAvoy (spoiler alert!) has the shanks right before the U.S. Open? Molly finds him in his camper decked out in every gimmicky piece of golf instruction paraphernalia known to man — a lost and desperate soul, indeed.
The takeaway from this scene is to not get too technical. When something is wrong, don’t try to overhaul your swing. There are so many components to a good golf swing — to making that good swing repeat every single time you swing the club that it’s absolute lunacy to try and re-do your swing or dwell on bad mechanics.
I know it’s easier said than done, but when you have a bad round and have played quite well in the past, you need to remember that you are a good golfer with a good swing who is capable of good scores. One bad round does not make a career. Getting too technical with your thoughts or overhauling your swing is a last ditch effort to fix your game that should only be employed after, say, five or six consecutive bad rounds. Otherwise, it’s the equivalent of throwing a Hail Mary on first down.
Once that final putt falls, it’s time to forget about it. It’s done. Maybe go home and re-enact the ceremony from the tip No. 5 or just simply watch a movie. Listen to some music on the car ride home, talk about baseball or your fantasy football — Just DON’T. TALK. ABOUT. THE. ROUND.
It doesn’t matter how good you are at the game, bad rounds happen to everyone. If you’ve ever teed it up, you know the soul crushing feeling of defeat that bad rounds bring with them. That being said, did you tee it up again the next week? Of course you did. Sure, that round may have left a bit of a scar, but after a few days (or in some cases, hours) you’re ready to dance once again — even if it is with a wee bit of apprehension.
Getting away from the game is a great way to detox from the debacle you just experienced. It doesn’t matter what you do, but moving your mind away from the botched chip on 16, the plugged bunker shot on 12 or the four-jack on the par-4 fifth is the best thing you can do for you psyche.
While some like to get away from the game, others like to immerse themselves in it. If you find yourself lamenting yourself for days after the round or losing sleep, perhaps you need to nip the bad feelings in the bud with a little range sesh.
Surprisingly, a lot of golfers will hit the range to warm up, but refuse to hit it after a round — good or bad. After a good round, I suppose I understand. There’s that feeling that everything is clicking and there’s no sense in potentially messing with a good thing.
That being said, what is the disadvantage to hitting even a small bucket after a bad round? Throw your Beats on and listen to some calming music (maybe some smooth jazz or Rat Pack stuff — not AC/DC or anything that’s only going to exacerbate your already elevated adrenaline levels) and work on what was ailing you on the course.
The only saying about not being able to fix your swing on the course is still true — which is why a quick trip to the range while the issues are still fresh in your mind is a great way to prevent them from happening next time. If you can make 10-20 good swings without the pressure of trying to score hanging over you, then odds are you’ll be able to leave the course with some positives — instead of the overwhelming feeling of disappointment that was consuming you as you walked off the 18th green.
After you’ve gone out and imploded like a half-finished Las Vegas Hotel, the most important thing you can do is find the positives from the round and build on them.
Sure, there may not be many, but you’ve got to find a few. Odds are, you didn’t do everything poorly during your round. There was at least one aspect of your game that was solid even if it wasn’t great. Maybe you shot 110, but only had 30 putts for the round? That’s certainly a positive. Perhaps you shot 96 with 40 putts — but hit 9/14 fairways? Then you’re driving the ball well and ought to be proud of that.
As I stated before, there’s certainly no connection between one round and the other. Because of that, there’s no physical link to a bad round last week and one today. The only potential link is the mental one which is created by the player and only the player. There is no other force that links these horrible rounds except the mind of the golfer that cannot savor the good shots for their individual worth and instead dwells on the meaningless number posted the last time they hit the links.