Entries Tagged as 'the mental game'

What has changed?

With my handicap increasing with every round there are golfing matters to be addressed.  How do I identify the major factors in my golfing demise?

A number of things have changed…

First there is the change in the handicapping system. Averaging the best ten of the last twenty scores instead of adjusting by +0.1 if the nett score was over CCR or -0.2 per shot under CCR has made a difference. Under the old system I would be off 6.7 rather than 7.8.  This tells me it is not the handicapping system that has caused the problem.

Second there have been planned changes in set up and swing. A couple of lessons and a lot of practice, and I am generally happy with the result.  I am playing and practicing more consistently that I have for years, but not scoring anywhere near as well.

Perhaps the biggest factor is my change of course! For six years I played on a course that has four bunkers, and three of them are fairway bunkers.  Miss a green, and it was a chip.  Miss a fairway and there you could generally make good distance towards the green. While water was in play on twelve holes, it was only a major factor in risk factor on one.  Now there are close to 90 bunkers on my home course.  Only four of the driving holes DO NOT have fairway bunkers, and all but  six of the greens have bunkers LEFT and RIGHT. The rest of the holes only have bunkers to ONE side of the green. Miss a fairway and there is a good chance you will be hacking out on to the fairway.

Is my course the reason for my golfing struggles, or are there other factors that are more significant?

Last Saturday…

After a few weeks of improved golf my last round was approached positively.

My previous round (35 points, 20 of them on the back nine) was the best I had played for over a month. Statistically I hit 5 of 7 fairways on the back. Hitting fairways set up a sequence of 8  4’s that ended with a  missed birdie putt on the last.   After that sort of form I was looking forward to getting on the course again.

After 18 holes I signed for 30 points, and needed a birdie on the last to get that many.

What went wrong?  On six holes I was in excellent position for my approach to the green only to leave the ball in a greenside bunker, or even wide of a bunker. There goes 6 points.  There were other errors, but my approaches to the green  (usually sound) were just a bit off, and it turned out to be costly.

What do I want to remember?

  • My drive on 9.  With a little left to right breeze I planted my left foot to start the downswing and let rip through the ball.  A 250 metre drive left me with a chance at birdie on the 491 par 5.
  • Fairway bunker on 2. Ninety metres from the green with another yawning bunker a couple of meters short of the green. A crisp nine iron picked the ball off the sand but went a little longer than expected. It was on the green, even if I was left with a 20 metre downhill putt for birdie.
  • Greenside bunker on 17.  After three poor shots the 60 degree wedge came into play with a long bunker shot. I attacked it hard and was surprised when the ball landed pin high left of the flag, took a bounce forward and then spun back right of the pin to finish about a metre from the hole.

It was a good days golf. I struck the ball well off the tee (mostly), and my touch around the greens was very good.   The positive signs keep coming and a handicap reducing round is on the horizon.

Statistics:

FIR 47%  GIR 27% Putts 26

Related posts:

Revising Goals…

Six months after declaring a goal it is time to revisit.

At the start of the exercise my handicap was 4.9, it is now 5.5.

At the start of the exercise I was without a golf club, I now play at one of the top 100 courses in the country.

Before this year I had two lessons in 6 years, I have now had two in 6 months.

So where is my golf heading?

The statistics tell me my handicap could soon be closer to 7 than 5. In the next few weeks two of my best rounds will drop of my ‘last 20’. My last five rounds have not been in my best ten!

Familiarity with the course has made me more aware of the hazards, more confident in my putting, and more strategic in my approach to each hole.

Early season swing changes have settled in, and my ball striking is more consistent.

What is missing are low scores.

Where to now?

210 metres to the bunker...I made it easily!

My handicap goals have not changed, but getting there is tougher.

Continuing to work on aspects of my game that are off the mark – driving accuracy (<50%) and greens in regulation (<50%) – will eventually bring results.  Attention to ‘the mental game’ has already increased my enjoyment and reduced my stress, but is yet to end in lower scores.

My current emphasis?

Timothy Gallwey identifies the Performance, Enjoyment, Learning triangle.  No matter how I perform enjoyment remains, and learning can take place.

Golf is a great game.  There are no excuses, no-one to blame if things go wrong. I will continue to enjoy the challenge and strive to achieve my goals.

Achieving Goals

After four and a half months my 2010 golfing goal is still unrealised. My handicap is 4.9,  a long way from the 2.4 that will mark achievement.

What have I been doing to move toward the goal?

Lessons:

Two of a three lesson series have been completed, with a third not too far away. My set up has changed signficantly.  I have changed from a left side focus to a right side focus, trying to hit through the ball with my right hand rather than my lef t arm pulling the swing. Slowly my finish is becoming more upright and square to the target.

Results thus far: the straight hits are straighter and the default error seems to be a fade

Practice:

During the summer a weekly after work visit to the course was easy. Daylight saving is fantastic.  With sunrise after 7.00 a.m. and sunset at about 5.30 p.m. that is now much harder. Work pressures don’t help either. Where possible I will spend a little time hitting balls during the week, and ‘in house’ chipping and putting is the norm. 

Results thus far:Putting with more confidence and constency, but this is not being seen on the score card.

Thinking

Tips are not on my agenda, but the mental game has been a focus of my reading.  A sound pre-shot routine before every stroke as well as thinking positively about every shot are a couple of foundational aspects that need to be developed further.  Everything I have read about the mental game encourages me to take the final score out of my thinking, and to concentrate on each shot without mentally keeping score. For someone who is striving to reduce his handicap, and can talk through a round a week after, that is difficult.  I’m working on it.

Results thus far:  Pre-shot routine is Ok, but not totally consistent. Being totally confident about swing and shot is difficult after letting a couple of drives slide right of the fairway.

Course Management

For years I have used a course book, and know where the major markers are on the courses I play regularly. Course management takes this a step further. Planning the way you play the course – including which clubs to use for particular tee shots – is another step that needs to be taken. The aim is to step up to the ball with confidence, using the club you know will give the best chance of success, and put the ball in the best area for the next shot.  This means using a 3 wood or hybrid off a couple of tees, and a change in my approach to the game.

Results thus far: This is the latest step, and after one week I can see the sense in it, but am yet to hold back at times when it might be the wisest course.

Summary

This is my approach to golf improvement, with the aim of getting my handicap down. As yet there has been no major step forward in my score.

The best advice has come from W. Timothy Gallwey “The Inner Game of Golf”.  He suggests that the PEL triangle is a key. If the score is all that counts golf will be regularly frustrating. Even the best rounds can be better. Perfection is a round of 18 shots! So we need to think about Performance, Enjoyment, and Learning. If performance is not up to our hopes the game can still be enjoyed, and learning can still take place. 

I am enjoying my golf, and learning.

On Home Ground

Whittlesea Golf Course 12th Green

Whittlesea Golf Course 12th Green

Twelve months of golf around Australia and the handicap crept out slowly.  Even when I was playing well there were occasions when playing holes never seen before meant a well struck shot ended in a difficult spot.

On Saturday I was back on familiar turf at Whittlesea Golf Club. 2009 has not been a good one for the club. Black Sunday fires came up to the edge of the course, and for two months the course was closed. Mid-May the club hosue was torched, and they are now in the process of negotiating with insurers and planning to rebuild.  On course things are not too bad. The greens were in fairly good condition and holding, and the fairways passable. Despite six or more years of drought grass coverage on fairways continues to improve slowly.

Now to the golf…

It was my best competition round for over twelve months, but ended with a double bogey 5 on the par 3 18th. The results was still 5 under my handciap against par, and three under the CCR (Competition Course Rating).

Three poor tee shots probably cost me three shots.  They all went left. The cause  – tension. On each of those shots I was thinking about the importance of a good tee shot to set up a good scoring opportunity rather than just putting the ball in a good position. The hands and arms tightened, and the ball was pulled or hooked left.

Even after a good round there are things to be learned.  There is more work to be done on the mental game and my pre-shot routine.

So am I frustrated with a double bogey finish? You bet I am – but winning the A Grade and dropping my handicap by .6 means that it hurts very little.