I love the game of golf, but I realize that to be good – really good – you need a certain amount of God given talent and a technically solid and repeatable swing. Of course, lessons and practice can help you develop a better swing, but I have come to accept the fact that my game has limitations when it comes to talent and technique.
That doesn’t mean I don’t have my good days. I recently shot a totally legit 78 in the Stanley Cup (our club’s member-guest for 50-year-olds and up), primarily because I was 1-under on the Par 3s. Ten days later, however, I shot a lucky 87 by making two longish putts over the last three holes. It was a day when my drives had no pop. I hit the fairways, but my ball was going 10 to 20 yards less than my usual so-so efforts. Bottom line: I just didn’t have it and my didn’t-have-it makes for a long day.
The truth is that even the best golfers have days when their swings aren’t in sync – The Zone isn’t going to be found. That’s when it is time to rely on your head game versus your normally reliable downswing and release.
Here are 10 non-technical thoughts and reminders that can help turn a bad round into a pretty good one:
Tiger’s Game Day Dietary DOs & DON’Ts: “I avoid teeing off on a full stomach. I drink plenty of water before and during the round. Fruits are a good source of energy, namely apples and bananas. I avoid heavy food (hamburgers, hotdogs, etc. at the halfway house; they can make me lethargic.”
“Approach the golf course as a friend, not an enemy.”– Arnold Palmer (1929 to 2016), winner of 62 PGA Tour events, including 7 Majors.
“I close my eyes and see the shot. I look at the ball and see the type of shot I have in mind. I see it fly and I see it land. It’s a way of seeing the result before you do it. I visualize the end result.” – Swedish-born Annika Sorenstam (Born 1970) won 10 Majors, 95 worldwide professional tournament, including 72 LPGA tournaments.
“Course management is like being in a chess game. You’re maneuvering for position.” -- Patty Sheehan (Born 1956), who won 35 LPGA tournaments, including six Majors.
“Don’t’ let slow play make you angry. That’s easier said than done, but if your mood turns dark, it can negatively impact performance. You’ll start swinging with more tension; you’ll tend to rush your shots and you’ll project blame for bad results on ‘having to wait too long.’” – Instructor David Leadbetter (Born 1952), whose students have included Major winners Nick Faldo, Greg Norman, Ernie Els, Nick Price and Michelle Wie.
“To make oneself a successful match player, there are certain qualities to be sought after, certain ideas must be kept in mind and certain phases of one’s attitude towards the game that come in for special notice. The three I have taken are these: love of combat, serenity of mind and fearlessness.” – Glenna Collett Vare (1903 to 1989) was known as the female Bobby Jones. She won six U.S. Women’s Amateurs, two Canadian Women’s Amateurs and one French Women’s Amateur.
“Don't let your attention wander when your opponent is putting first. You will get valuable information as to the pace and slope of the green from watching the course of your opponent's ball.” – Sandy Green, author of the book, Don'ts for Golfers, A. & C. Black, Ltd., London, 1925)
“Everybody has choked. In the 1974 U.S. Open, I kept hitting the ball right to right. My nerves wouldn't allow me to adjust. That's what choking is -- being so nervous you can't find a swing or a putting stroke you can trust, and gaining momentum from it. Byron (Nelson) gave me the best cure for it. Walk slowly, talk slowly, deliberately do everything more slowly than you normally do. It has a way of settling you down.” -- Tom Watson (Born 1949), who has won eight Majors.
“Breathing is our best defense against the roller coaster of emotions this game wants to take you on. You don’t have to take my word for it. It is backed up by science. … The time between shots is the most important period in golf. This is when you have time to focus on your breathing and get control of your physiological response. If you wait until you’re over the ball, it’s too late.” – Golf magazine Top 100 instructor Sean Foley (Born 1974).
And just for us older golfers: “Attitude is the one place an older golfer has an advantage. By age 50, a golfer has perspective and wisdom that should give him a formidable mental game.” – Raymond Floyd (Born 1942), who won four Majors, 22 PGA Tour tournaments and 14 Champions Tour events.