Golfers Shoot The Scores They Are Comfortable With
Recently a fellow golf blogger has been chronicling his journey to break 80 (you can check out his site here). He seems to be just on the cusp of reaching his goal, but every time he gets close, a sleuth of mistakes happens that keep him just short of the promised land.
I’ve exchanged a few messages with him on Twitter trying to encourage him to remain patient, and not get too down on himself because I really feel his pain.
I can sympathize with Ryan, and so can every other golfer on the planet. All of us have experienced what it’s like to have a round slip away when we are so close to reaching our goals.
It got me thinking about a concept we all have to deal with when we play, and our quest to improve.
As golfers, we ultimately shoot the scores we are comfortable with, and it’s the exact reason we get stuck in a certain scoring range for so long.
For example, if you are someone who averages in the mid 90s, and you reach the 13th hole at 8 over par, all of a sudden you start getting a bit nervous. Tee shots start going all over the place and your round quickly spirals out of control.
You end up with your 95 because you got a taste of that 85, and you got scared of it.
This is incredibly frustrating, and we can’t help but feel demoralized when this happens. The fear of failure begins to compound itself, and then every time we get close to our goal we start thinking about each time we failed before.
How do you break through?
I wrote a very dramatic article about how I broke 70 for the first time a couple of years ago. That day I faced all of my golfing demons, and conquered every single one of them.
Now I am nowhere close to being someone who can consistently shoot under par. I don’t really have the time right now to put in the work required to do it, and possibly am not talented enough as a golfer to do it (still wondering though). It’s also because I am not comfortable doing it. Last year I had many rounds where I made the turn under par. I even had one where I was 4 under. Every single one of them ended at 72, 74, 73.
Close, but no cigar.
For years I struggled with breaking 80 consistently, and I’m at a point where I do it in about 85-90% of the rounds I play.
Before that I struggled with breaking 90 consistently, so you get where I’m going with this.
Before I conquered each of these milestones I experienced the balls going out of bounds on the 16th hole, and the three putts for double bogey that were crushing defeats (and they still happen!!!).
I know exactly what it feels like to blow it, but I also know what it feels like to get through the mental hurdle. That’s one of the main reasons I started this website and wrote my book, because I want to share all of those experiences with all of you.
My advice to Ryan, and all of you who are struggling with breaking through to your next scoring milestone, is simple.
Do not lose faith in yourself.
If you are good enough to shoot rounds of 81, 83, 82, and 84 like Ryan is, then you have the ability to break 80. That goes for any other scoring milestone as well.
As golfers we tend to fixate on these numbers, and mentally they are hard to deal with during a round when we start getting close to them. I truly believe that most golfers have the ability to shoot much better scores, but they are the ones who are preventing themselves from doing it.
It should go without saying that doing purposeful practice will be a part of your quest to reach your goal, and I’ve written a ton of articles about this on my site.
However, you are never going to break through unless you really believe you can. If that voice in your head keeps telling you that you will fail when you get close, then you probably will.
It seems cliché, but a positive attitude is one of the keys in golf.
Every time I play golf, my goal is to break 80. I consider that the line in the sand of whether or not my day was a success (I still try and have fun no matter what though). The difference now is that I know I can do it, so I’m not terrified if I’m on the 15th hole at 7 over par. It wasn’t easy to get to that point. It took a lot of patience, hard work, and tons of failure.
There might come a day, and hopefully it is not soon, where I’m back struggling to try and break 80 all of the time.
I’ll have to remember these words…
Keep fighting, stay positive, and don’t beat yourself up.
Jonathan C says
Your article about breaking 70 was really helpful. I’m trying to break 90 and my experience is just what you described–good until hole 15, then blowup holes. But your advice has given me a boost. Thanks.
Jonathan – glad it’s helping, thanks for reading!
Dr Douglas J Tataryn says
Great article. I’ve been trying to break 80 for a while now and consistently shoot 86 give or take 6 based on course conditions, luck, and my own performance fluctuations. One of my more dramatic shifts in the game came when I started showing up to the course excited to see how I would play. I literally came to watch… I realized the part of me playing the game was not in my conscious control and all I could do was learn as much as I could each time, be as kind and gentle with myself as I would if one my kids were learning a new sport, and remember to laugh, be curious and intrigued by it all, and have a good time.
I’m 57 and took up golf in my mid late 40s. It’s a great way to hang out with my buddies twice a week. A few years back when I was hitting balls at the range 3 times a week I shot in the 70s 3 or 4 times, but now the only practising I do is on the course.
As a sports psychologist I really appreciate the perspective and attitude you teach in your blogs. Keep up the great work.
Garrett M says
Jon, I have been on a quest to break 80 for a year now (since getting heavily into the game with Covid). Thank you for the approachable advice you offer. This weekend I posted my first full round under 80, and gotta give thanks where its due. I’d been flirting with it, but threw a 74 without it being a spectacular day of ball striking. Just consistently keeping it in play, aiming at areas where I felt my shot dispersion would be relatively safe, and picking my targets on my putting (cup outside, ball outside, edge, middle, etc.). Three things I plan to keep doing…1) telling myself out loud my target on each shot 2) assessing whether my lies are green/yellow/red before choosing my shot/target and 3) choosing my 6-7 hardest holes that I’ll allow myself to bogey prior to the round. Looking forward do doing it again!
that’s awesome! thanks for sharing