Golfers have been conditioned to think that the key to shooting lower scores is improving their golf swing and improving their ball striking. This has created a huge industry for golf instruction, DVD’s, books, training aides, etc.
Well the good news is that you can do much better just by learning to think better and by avoiding mental mistakes. You want to learn to become a “scorer” rather than a ball striker. Scorers come in all ability levels. Raymond Floyd had a great statement on it and Arnold Palmer stated that nobody knew more about scoring than Ray Floyd.
“In fact in my definition of a scorer, the high handicapper can be a better scorer than a low handicapper. To me a scorer is someone who consistently gets the most from their skill level. Someone who often shoots scores that are better than the way he or she actually hits the ball, and in that sense, regularly beats the golf course.”
You can achieve that just by learning to avoid certain mental mistakes that all golfers make at times, but the higher the handicap the more often it happens.
Don’t Have Expectations
If you are thinking about the outcome before you ever tee off, you are in for a long and difficult day. Nobody plays well all the time. The best in the world only play their best about 20 percent of the time.
Having More Than One Swing Thought
You cannot consciously control your golf swing with any more success than you can try to drive a car (consciously thinking about what your body is doing). If you did, you’d probably end up in the trees just like your golf ball.
When you hit a bad shot, and you will, don’t dwell on it and let it affect your next swing by consciously trying to compensate for the previous shot.
Focus on What You Want NOT What You Don’t Want
It is almost impossible to hit a good shot while trying not to hit a bad one. If you are thinking about trees, out-of-bounds, water, etc. you will not hit fairways and greens. Your brain controls everything and concentrating on where you don’t want the ball to go will result in a bad shot every time.
It Is a Mistake to Go Against Your Gut Feeling
In golf today we have very sophisticated electronic devices for measuring distance, but trust your eyes. If you are not comfortable with the yardage you are reading, then go with your gut feeling. Indecision creates worse outcomes than wrong decisions. It is essential to put as positive of a swing as you can on the ball.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up
Be your own caddie and forget about it. No tour caddie would last long saying things like “why did you do that?” or “how could you possibly miss it that bad?”. Jack Nicklaus’ caddie Angelo Argea said that his only job was to carry the bag and tell Jack that he could do it. After all, it’s only a game, let it go. How you talk to yourself on the golf course can make a big difference in how you perform.
Trying Too Hard On Important Shots
Always remember that in golf, effort is self-defeating. The harder you try to force something to happen the less likely it is to have a positive outcome. When you try too hard there is a natural tendency to tense up and there is no shot in golf that is helped by tension.
Playing the Hero Shot
The absolute worst thing you can do after hitting a bad shot is to try to double down on the next one. Never make a bad shot cost you one or more bad shots by trying to make up for it. If you are in trouble take your ego out of it and get the ball back in play by hitting a shot you are comfortable with. Under no circumstances should you ever try to hit a shot that you haven’t practiced before.
You do not have to try all of these at once. Just pick one or two initially and work on them. When you get better and more comfortable, just add one or two more. The idea is to improve on a regular basis and not to try to cut ten or fifteen shots off immediately. If you will work on these suggestions your scores will start to come down.
You cannot change how you play without changing how you think!