I recently finished reading James Sieckmann’s book Your Short Game Solution. I think it’s a great read, and a worthy system for golfers to adopt for their wedges.
One of the greatest takeaways from the book though had nothing to do with the short game though. It was actually a mental tip.
All great golf writers and teachers have clever ways of relaying similar concepts in different ways. Ideas that resonate with one golfer might come across as completely foreign to another one.
This one struck me as soon as I read it.
Sieckmann spoke about developing a post-shot routine, which is something I had never really thought about before. I wanted to share with you his thoughts on the subject, and how it can possibly help you manage your emotions on the golf course more effectively.
He believes that how you react after a shot is critical if you are going to realize your potential as a golfer, and I couldn’t agree more.
(By the way, you can file this whole post in the easier said that done category)
The Post-Shot Routine
The basic premise of Sieckmann’s recommendation is that there are two outcomes after you swing a golf club, one that makes you happy, and one that doesn’t. He believes that you should internalize your good shots, and objectify your bad shots.
This is an excellent piece of advice, and I want to explore the thought a little further so you can understand what he is saying, and think about how you can adopt this strategy on the course.
The Good Shots
Internalizing a good swing means taking ownership of it, and embedding a positive emotion in your mind. You’ll see plenty of players on tour doing this when they twirl a club, pump their first after a big putt, or even crack a smile as they walk down the fairway with their caddy.
Golf is a difficult game, and often our emotions are usually only on display after the bad shots. If you take the time to give yourself credit after the good ones, and keep that memory in your mental Rolodex, then you can draw from that success in the future. A teammate of mine in college once told me that he would think about all of the great iron shots he hit whenever he felt like he was doubting himself on the course. It was always something that stuck with me since he was such a great player.
Some golfers don’t need any help in this department because sticking a 7-iron next to the pin is usually a joyful event for everyone. If you act like that should have happened, well then maybe it’s time to loosen up a bit and crack a smile! It’s nice to pump ourselves up a little bit and remember that we are capable of hitting great shots.
There is one caveat that I would like to throw in though. Sometimes at my course you’ll hear guys yelling and screaming from 3 holes away after they drain a birdie putt. That is a bit excessive, and in my opinion it tilts you a bit too far in one direction on the emotional spectrum. I’d bet good money that the same guy is tossing his club 3 minutes later on the next hole after he hooks his drive.
Objectifying Your Bad Swings
The next part of the post-shot routine has to do with your bad shots, and it’s a place where every player can improve significantly.
It is very difficult to react to a poor shot with anything other then a little anger and disgust. However, if you can make it part of your routine to stop yourself and ask a very simple question, “What could I have done differently?” then you might just save yourself a few strokes during your round.
Every bad shot you hit on the course has some kind of core issue. You may have chosen the wrong club, swung with poor tempo, or simply had a technical breakdown in your swing. It’s impossible to know the true reason every single time, but taking the time to think about what might have went wrong helps remove the emotion from it.
This is what he means by objectifying the mistake. You detach yourself from it, and use it as a learning opportunity rather than a moment where you lose control.
The most important part of this post-shot routine is letting go, and moving on. I’ll quote Sieckmann exactly because I think these are words every golfer should try and live by:
The last step of a quality post-shot routine, and perhaps the most important, is ‘letting go’. Once you’ve mentally corrected a bad shot, be done with it. Don’t take the negative experience of the last shot to the next one. Don’t take it to the next hole. And for sure, don’t take it home. Negativity stifles the learning process and makes peak performance impossible. It’s like carrying around a ton of bricks; it tires the body and burdens the mind. Is that what golf is supposed to be like? No! Golf is a journey that should be filled with joy! Regardless of what happens, each round has a potential to be a great one.
This is the part of the book you should star, highlight, circle, and do whatever else that will help you remember this one thought. He nails it on the head here.
What does it look like on the course
I played the other day, and I had a hole where I thought that I did exactly what James Sieckmann is talking about, and it probably saved me 1-2 strokes.
It’s the hardest hole on my course, and is a 440 yard dogleg right that doesn’t set up well for my draw. There were two specific shots where I could have gotten down on myself, and ended up with a double bogey, or possibly worse.
Tee Shot: I blocked it about 50 yards right of my target. After I had just birdied the last hole this was a moment where I usually might have fumed it up a bit, but I reminded myself that this is a common issue for me and I have to work on not being late with my hands off the tee.
Approach Shot: After punching out from the trees I had about 125 yards left to the green. I hooked my wedge well left of the green, which is a huge unforced error because that shot is usually the strength of my game. I took a second, and thought about what I had done. It was likely my classic over-the-top swing, and I had closed the club face at impact. I shrugged my shoulders and moved on.
I was able to get up and down for bogey from a tough spot, which might not sound like much. However, if I had let the negativity from my tee shot or approach shot carry over to the difficult pitch shot, or putt for bogey, then it’s likely I would have ended up with a 6 or 7 on the hole. Those are round-killing situations that need to be avoided at all costs!
To briefly recap
If you can start reacting to your shots in a similar fashion, and make it a routine, then you will conquer one of the biggest obstacles that hold golfers back from reaching their true potential.
Internalize your good shots, and store them in your golf memory bank.
As for the mistakes, do your best to keep your distance from them emotionally. Try to think about them in a objective way, and make them a learning experience rather than an opportunity to beat up on yourself.