This post my be a little different golf lesson than you might think. I wanted to write a little something about how players attach their own personal worth to their score or have some kind of preconceived notion of what makes a good score. With all the information available online about golf and the golf swing, I think it can sometimes be forgotten that golf was designed to be a game. Something to do as enjoyment after working hard all week at the daily grind.
It is critical for your actual score and all future scores that you separate yourself from your score. Your score is a reflection of the number of shots taken to get a ball into a hole from a vast distance away. It is not a reflection of you as a person or your abilities.
I went to Ireland for my honeymoon and had a chance to play Ballybunion. It was my first experience with a true links course and I of course took a local caddy. I was paired up with another American and we went out in a twosome. From what the caddies were saying, we caught the course on a day when the wind was blowing in the opposite direction from the prevailing direction.
It seemed clear to me that the holes were designed to be played during the prevailing wind. So, we get to this one long par 4 that was straight into the wind that day. Caddy goes “It’ll play a little different with the breeze up today.” My playing partner hits his best drive of the day right down the middle of the fairway. He gets to his ball and precedes to hit a career 3 wood right at the green. We get up to his ball and he’s still about 20 yards short of the green. At this point, the guy seems pretty upset. He starts complaining that he hit two great shots and still wasn’t on the green in regulation. The caddy said something I will never forget. “Sir, this is a par four. You still have two more shots to make a par.” Here’s a guy that just hit the 2 best shots of his life and he’s upset. Does this make sense to anyone?
I think in the US we play a game of hit the green in regulation and take two putts. Par is not defined that way. Par is 3, 4 or 5. Each shot is a separate event. Do you really want to put your self worth on the line 72 times a round? Does choosing the wrong club on a par three really mean you’re a bad person or you can’t think straight? Does hitting a ball with a club moving over 100mph with a sweet spot the size of a dime, solidly seem like something that should always happen?
This isn’t to say that these aren’t goals to strive for but at the same time take pleasure in your good shots and don’t take them for granted. It’s one thing I’ve always noticed between me and really good players; how we define a good shot. For me, perfectionist type, only perfect was good. For them, good is good. They take great joy in hitting a good shot and have a much greater understanding of the difficulty we are dealing with. I would go an entire side hitting every shot solid where I wanted and lose my mind as soon as I hit one bad shot.
To me, a bad shot was a character flaw. It made it impossible for me to advance. I would hit the ball so solid so often but wasn’t the best putter. I really needed to stuff it in there to make birdie. Any miss hit was an almost automatic bogey. Then it all changed. I took a job at a private club and my playing and practicing opportunities were very limited. Instead, I spent a ton of time on the putting green because it was right outside the shop. I learned to become a good putter. When I went out to play, I had much more fun. My expectations were lower in terms of ball striking because I hadn’t practiced. The funny part was that I scored just as well because of my putting and short game. In fact, I started taking great joy in making par from hitting the worst shots possible.
I would go out and hit it all over the course on purpose just to see if I could make par from there. The game became much more fun and I learned what it was to score. I was finally able to separate my shots from my internal value of myself. I urge all of you trying to compete at a higher level to find your path to this understanding. Once you find it, scoring will take on a whole new look.