Want to Really Improve Your Golf Game? Get Outside Your Comfort Zone
Whenever most people talk about game improvement it almost always results in a discussion about swing mechanics. I’ve spoken before about why digesting multiple swing tips can actually hurt your game – especially from that random guy at the driving range. That’s not to say your golf swing isn’t important. It is VERY important. However, I think many people are missing a key piece of the puzzle when they want to improve and lower their scores.
You have to be comfortable with your golf game and being on a golf course.
How do you get there? Well, you have to make yourself uncomfortable. VERY uncomfortable.
There is one thing I know for certain about golf. If you are not happy with your current results, and you continue doing everything the same, why should you expect anything different?
Let’s explore a little more…
How I Got Uncomfortable
I want to share a little bit about my own experiences of adding discomfort to my golf game, and how it helped me grow as a player.
For years I was stuck in neutral and reverse with golf. Like many of you, I did the same exact things at the driving range and the golf course. There was no plan, I simply went through the motions that made me comfortable.
Then by happenstance, a few things started to change. I moved to a new town where I knew nobody, certainly not golfers. I was forced to play with a completely new group of people at our local course. It put me in that nervous place where you know golfers want to see what kind of player you are.
We competed, played for money, talked trash. There were plenty of embarrassing moments where nerves got to me and I would hit horrible shots in key situations – topped tee shots on the opening hole, shanks when the match was on the line, and nervy putts.
But as time went on I got more and more comfortable with each situation as it presented itself again, and it became more familiar. I started to hit the shots I knew I was capable of and it felt good.
So I Got Even More Uncomfortable
At this point, I hadn’t played in a tournament situation in more than 10 years. My game was improving, I felt good in those local matches, but the competitive side of me wanted more. So I decided to sign up for the U.S. Open Qualifier. In other words, jump into the deeper end of the pool.
I didn’t want to be that guy who showed up and clearly didn’t belong. So I really tried to focus on practicing more effectively on the range, and even on the course. This was another level of discomfort for me since I was never very organized with my practice.
I went through horrible anxiety and fear on the day of the event before I teed off. You can read about the experience here. But I surprised myself and actually played very well.
I played more events that year. I had some very discouraging moments and some very encouraging ones. But one thing was absolutely clear – the more discomfort I put myself through, the more comfortable I felt on a golf course during normal rounds (and competitive ones). All of a sudden my level of nerves during non-tournament rounds was almost non-existent because I felt as though I’d “been through the fire.” As such, my level of play increased overall. My scores were more consistent, and more importantly, my enjoyment of the game increased even more.
What Can You Do To Make Yourself Uncomfortable?
My story is not the same as all of yours. You may have no desire to play tournament golf, which is completely fine. However, I do think there are a few things you can take away from what I’ve experienced.
If your goal is to truly improve as a golfer you need to take a hard look at what you’re doing.
Do you show up to the range and mindlessly hit balls? Do you have any kind of process on the golf course? Are you paying attention to strategy?
It could be as simple as trying different golf courses or even playing for a few bucks with your friends. My point is that at some point you have to push yourself outside your comfort zone. That doesn’t mean it has to be all parts of your game at once, but you should consider picking a few things to focus on.
This year I am trying to do something that I don’t particularly love working on – my putting. It’s a part of the game I have mostly neglected, and my results on the course show it. Is there a part of the game you feel the same about?
Take a Step Back and Think
The easiest thing to do is get stuck in a cycle that repeats itself over and over again. Whether it’s your personal life, work, or even golf – sometimes you need to take a step back and think about what you are actually doing.
If you want to improve as a golfer, then you need to alter your habits somehow. Think about what parts of the game give you the most discomfort. Then come up with a plan to work on them and just do it. The more and more time you spend on them, you will find something interesting will start to occur. Your game will feel more complete and you’ll be a more confident (and likely happier) golfer.
What will you do to get outside your comfort zone this year?
I’ve been making sure I switch clubs more often during my practice sessions. So now I’ve been hitting every club in the bag multiple times every session rather than getting caught in just a couple.
I’m also thinking about plunging back into a tournament atmosphere to go up a level from the league and friendly matches I’ve been playing the last couple of years.
I like both of those ideas!