In this edition of golf tips, we take a look at decision making and the mental side of the game of golf.
We are always looking for the next new thing in golf. Something that we can add or change into our game to turn us into a better player. For today’s golf tips, we are going to look in a bit of a different direction. Not necessarily changing something about that way that you play, but changing the decisions that you make on the course to turn you into a better player.
Take a second to think about the number of times you are stuck in between two options when you are on a course. Driver or play it safe off of the tee. Go for it or lay up an approach shot. Chip it with a wedge, or hit a bump and run when you are close to the green or stuck between clubs from specific yardage. There is a lot that goes into it from the mental side. If you are prepared for these situations, your game is going to improve. Even if at first glance, it doesn’t look like you changed anything about your game.
This is where a lot of people get stuck. There are so worried about the physical aspect of the game (stance, swing changes, path, placement, alignment), that they forget about the mental side. I’m not saying these aren’t important, heck, I think I have probably written an article or two about each of them. You just can’t forget the mental aspect of the game, and you could even argue that it is more important.
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There’s an old story about Tiger Woods, and what he would occasionally do to people that he played with. He would ask them if they breathed in or out when they swung or when they putt. This isn’t something that you would ever think about otherwise, yet he was able to put this thought into their head, almost always negatively affecting how the person played. It was one more mental thing that they had to try and add to their process, and it shows just how important that side of the game is.
Golf isn’t necessarily like chess, where you have to think multiple moves ahead. You don’t want to think about the tee shot on the next hole when you haven’t even made it to the green yet. You still need a plan though and can map out a shot or two in advance. One that can make a world of difference is your second shot on a par 5. If you are near the end range of your three wood and are trying to get there in two, chances are, this is going to be the wrong decision. It’s quite a difficult shot, and a bit of a mistake can lead to terrible repercussions.
Instead, take a club and get to a number that you really like. If you like to be 100 yards out, cause you really like your gap wedge, play a short iron to get to that number. You’ll find yourself with a good opportunity for a birdie. Yes, the eagle chance is gone, but your odds of scoring better on the hole have gone up drastically.
Then there is the situation that everyone has been in, and it likely happens more than once each round. It’s when you are in-between clubs. Do you try and hammer your 7-iron, or hit an easy 6-iron? For nearly all of us, you always want to use the bigger club and swing within yourself. You don’t need to try and change your swing and blast a club 5-10 yards further than you normally hit it. It rarely works out, and the longer club is more in line with how you should be playing.
This advice has another benefit. You won’t be short if you hit it clean. Even trying to hammer the lower club, you still may not get there, and would still be short of the green. Unless there is a hazard or a lot of trouble behind the green, you want the bigger/longer club. You will never make a shot that ends up short, but a shot that goes long by a little bit always has a chance.
Not all of us know, or want to admit or even try to do it, that golf can be and should involve a decent amount of thinking. You don’t need to go Beefy Bryson on your approach to the game, but planning out and taking 15-20 seconds to hit your shot is perfectly acceptable. If you’ve learned anything from today’s golf tips, I hope that your next time out on the course you take an extra breath to think about the plan for your shot. Your score will thank you.