As golfers we all have completely different interpretations of how our rounds went. My gut feeling is that most golfers are way too hard on themselves, and they often have wildly unrealistic expectations of what their performance should be on the course. No matter how hard we try, we just can’t accept the fact that golf is mostly a game of mistakes.
I don’t know the actual count, but I’ve probably played over 1,000 rounds of golf in my life. A lot of those rounds were on public courses with random partners, and in competition. In all of this time golfing, I have never seen anyone conquer every phase of the game in one round, and I’ve been around some really good players who have shot some very low scores.
I’d like to dispel the myth that you need to be firing on all cylinders in all facets of the game in order to become a better golfer.
The three phases of golf
When I play a round of golf I generally think about my game in three different areas for the sake of simplicity.
1) Tee Shots
2) Approach Shots
3) Finesse Shots (Anything inside 100 yards)
When I think about the better rounds I have ever had, I generally have only been able to be great in two of these areas. For example, I’ve had rounds where I have shot par that featured great ball striking from the tee, and my approach shots, but ended up having 36 putts. Other times I’ve had those same scores, but couldn’t hit a tee shot to save my life. I made up the difference with some solid iron play, and being able to get up and down for par 5-6 times.
Take a look at this round I posted earlier in the year. It was one of my better days, and despite a little rough patch I ended up shooting a 73.
My tee shots were abysmal during this round. If you take a close look at some of the holes you’ll see I made contact with a few trees about 50 yards from the tee box. However, my irons and short game picked up the slack. So this squarely was in the 2/3 category.
I would say I shoot my average scores when I only am doing one phase of the game really well.
When things go terribly, then it’s a big fat zero.
Overall, I still have never had a round where I got all three. I never have witnessed any other golfer accomplish this feat either.
The good news
We put so much pressure on ourselves on the course to hit every shot well. The fear of messing up can cripple us, and it often results in the mistakes that we were dreading.
If I’m telling you that I can shoot in the low 70s, and I did it while not being proficient at one major part of the game, then that means you can shoot your target score while making some serious mistakes out there too.
(You should be breathing a sigh of relief right now)
There are so many golfers out there that just assume they need to be good at every part of the game in their rounds. They are on short mental leashes, and the second their tee shot lands in the trees they have already declared the hole over.
That’s not the way golf works if you want to become a better player.
Eliminating the big fat zero
We’ve all had rounds where things are going our way, and the game might seem a little bit easier that day. Those are the rounds we remember, and they reveal our potential as golfers.
If you want to lower your handicap, and shoot better scores on average, those are the days you shouldn’t be thinking about though. The rounds you want to focus on are the ones where you score a 0 out of 3, or days you just couldn’t get anything right. Those are the days that drag you down, and rock your confidence.
I didn’t become a better golfer until I started consistently posting rounds where I scored at least a 1 out of 3. Once I started moving away from the 0/3 days, then things started to change.
How do you do it?
Consistency in golf is a complete package, and I’ve been trying to write about all of the different parts of that package on this site. I believe most golfers aren’t as far off from being more consistent players than they might think.
It should go without saying that putting in purposeful practice is a big part of solving this equation. If you are clueless with a wedge in your hands when you get around the green, then it’s not terribly complicated to figure out that if you spend some practice time in this area then it will lead to more confidence on the course, and lower scores.
Additionally, I’ve written about how being on an actual golf course more often will help you play better. Too many golfers live on the driving range, and they are just uncomfortable when they only have once chance to get the shot right during an actual round.
The last piece of the puzzle, and the most overlooked one is between your ears. The mental strength of a golfer is just as important as the quality of their shots. The words “golf" and “adversity" should be linked together in the thesaurus. If you can’t deal with adversity, then you will never get better at golf.
Most golfers will end up in the 0/3 zone because they just give up on their hole, or their rounds in general. Most of you reading this have the ability to hit a great tee shot, or sink an 8 footer for par. The problem is that during the mental fog in a round of golf you lose sight of this. It certainly happens to me, and I have to fight against myself every time I play to avoid succumbing to these negative thoughts.
How many times have you hit an absolutely dreadful approach shot from the fairway? You chunked it, and you have about 40 yards left to the green. After rushing up to your ball you hastily pull out your wedge, and don’t give any thought at all to claiming yourself down and making sure that you can just get the ball on the green for an easy two putt bogey, or possibly a par save.
Instead, you are still cursing yourself for the swing that is already over and done with. Those are the moments where you go from a 1/3 round to a 0/3 round. At the time it might not seem like it, but that 40 yard wedge shot is probably one of the most important shots of your round, not the one you got you there.
Being Patient and Digging In
I’d like to put all of this together in one neat statement to summarize what I’m trying to say. Here goes:
You don’t need to be perfect to have a great round of golf, you need to be patient with yourself. At least one part of your game is going to fail you. If you can remind yourself that mistakes are OK, and have the mental resolve to dig in when they occur, your scores will improve.
That’s it right there. You can practice, get out on the course plenty, but if you don’t have the mental resolve to deal with your mistakes then you won’t reach your full potential as a golfer.
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Bonus Content:Be sure to check out my complete guide to putting.