If every golfer had a magic genie who could grant them one wish, most of them would ask, "please make me more consistent!" This is one of the most common requests amongst anyone who plays the game.
In my opinion, consistency is perhaps one of the most misused and misunderstood words in golf. There are plenty of things about your golf game that you can control and approach with consistency. These include, but are not limited to, many of the topics I discuss on this site (practice, mental game, strategy, your expectations). However, there are also plenty of elements that you will never control, and inconsistency will reign supreme forever.
In this article, I want to discuss one of the more frustrating parts of golf, and why learning to accept this truth will put you on a more productive and happier path.
A Small Margin for Error
There are a lot of factors that go into hitting great or even functional golf shots. The golf swing is a complicated movement, and the way it delivers the club at impact gives the ball its "marching orders."
I don't want to confuse you with a physics discussion, but three primary factors that I focus on are:
- Impact position of the ball on the clubface
- The path of the club (think in-to-out or out-to-in)
- Where the clubface is pointing at impact (closed, open, or square)
There are plenty of other variables in play (turf interaction, angle of attack, etc.), but for the sake of this article, let's keep it to those three. To get the ball relatively close to where you are aimed, every swing is a challenge to manage those three factors.
Sometimes, your clubface will be too open at impact, and you will miss your target to the right (for a right-handed player). Or, you could be struggling with an excessive out-to-in swing path, and you fight a nasty slice. Other times, you might make poor impact on the clubface and perhaps miss the green on the short side.
Either way, each of these factors only needs to be off by a minimal amount to make a meaningful difference in your ball flight. If your driver is a few degrees more open at impact, that could mean losing your tee shot into the trees versus hitting a fairway.
Long story short, golf is hard (as you know).
Everything Is Constantly Changing
For the most part, golfers have very similar looking swings on each shot. It's tough to notice a few degrees of change in your swing path or missing the center of the clubface by a quarter of an inch. Often, that's why you see TV analysts grasping at straws when they try to analyze a slow-motion swing of a player who hit an errant shot. The swings usually don't look all that different from their great shots.
You might start your round hitting your driver perfectly straight, and not missing a fairway on the front nine. Then on the back nine, all of a sudden, you're battling a two-way miss.
Or, you might feel confident with one part of your game for an entire month, only for it to become a source of panic and frustration weeks later.
Why does this happen? Well, I don't know exactlywhy, but I am pretty sure it has to do with the complexity of the golf swing, and how the motion of your body can vary small amounts within a round, or over weeks and months.
No golfer on the planet can escape this fate. If you pay attention to any professional golfer's performance, you'll see massive inconsistencies in their ball striking relative to their skill level. Even at Tiger's peak, he would have rounds where his timing seemed perfect with his driver, only to lose the ball all over the golf course less than 24 hours later.
Why It's Frustrating (but also why you shouldn't panic)
I know precisely how frustrating all of this is because I experience it just like you do. Things seem great, and then all of a sudden, they fall apart. It feels unfair at the moment, but it's also part of the game.
If you want to become a better golfer, which I assume you do if you're reading this article, then you need to find a way to deal with the inconsistency of your technique. As with any hardship, the first step is acceptance.
Too many golfers beat themselves up over something that is beyond their control. I know I did for a long time, and still do, but to a much lesser level. Either way, you'll stand a much better chance at becoming a better golfer if you can understand the variability of golf. A lot of people never really grasp this concept, and it hinders their enjoyment and prospects at improving.
So the next time things seem to fall apart out of nowhere, take a deep breath, and realize that it's supposed to happen.