Inside the Ropes Blog
One of the questions that I am asked most by players and parents is how do you deal with a bad shot or a bad round of golf. Players are often disappointed, frustrated, or angry with the results that they have on the course and they are not sure how to handle these negative emotions. Many times clubs are thrown, bags are hit, or unpleasant words are said as way of expressing these feelings. Parents are often embarrassed that their junior would act this way and they want the poor behavior to stop. I am sure that on car rides home from tournaments juniors and parents are trying to deal with the emotional aftermath of an inappropriate outburst. What causes juniors to get so angry on the course and what can we do to prevent this behavior in the future? Let’s take a look at the causes of the anger and then what tools can we use to keep our emotions in a place that helps us play our best golf.
Any negative emotions that are experienced on the golf course can be traced back to two root causes, expectations and acceptance, or more accurately a failure of acceptance. Your expectations must be in balance with your ability. Set your expectations too high and you will frequently experience the feeling of falling short of your desired outcome. When you experience this feeling over and over you move closer to anger. Golfers that tend to be perfectionists can really struggle in this area. Expectations can come from internal sources or external sources. Internal expectations are created and controlled by the golfer themselves. All golfers have an expectation on how they think a shot or round should turn out. If the shot or round matches the player’s expectation they are pleased. When the shot or round falls short of this expectation they begin to get disappointed. If the next shot or round falls below expectation they begin to get frustrated. Finally, if the trend continues they reach a point of anger. Golfers are not always in control of their outcome, on a particular shot, but they are in control of their expectations. External expectations are expectations that are placed upon us by other people. Coaches, parents, and fellow competitors are all examples of people that can place external expectations on you. Some of these expectations are real and some of them are what we perceive that others want from our golf games. I strongly suggest that you do not play to standards set for you by other people. Only deal with things you can control, give no energy or thought to the things that you cannot control. Trying to meet the expectations of others is a sure plan for disaster. So are your expectations set at a reasonable level? Are you only happy with a perfect shot or round? If you do not have reasonable expectations you are set up to fail before you even start.
Acceptance is the other side of managing ones emotions on the golf course. Many players simply cannot accept the things that happen to them in a round of golf. Playing with people they do not like, poor course conditions, or bad breaks lead many players to fall into the role of the victim or complainer. As the player continues to dwell on whatever misfortune he has suffered, he sets himself up for further problems because his mind is not on the shot at hand. You need to understand that challenges occur for all golfers and that the way you handle this adversity largely determines your success or failure in a round or tournament. The best golfers are the best problem solvers. They know they will face challenges in every round of golf they play and they are prepared to deal with them. Your job every time you tee it up is to go out and solve problems as you encounter them. High winds, difficult lies, challenging up and downs should be embraced as an opportunity not a time to play the victim or feel sorry for yourself.
Now that we know that expectations and failure to accept results are the cause of our negative emotions what can we do to fix the problem. First, set up the game so you have a chance to win. You do this by creating a set of reasonable standards for your golf game. This set of standards should be non-judgmental and non-emotional. The best way to set up this standard is through statistics. Say you want to shoot 75 as a standard score. In order to shoot that kind of number, you need to hit 8-10 fairways per round, 10-12 greens in regulation, have around 30 putts, and get up and down half the time when you miss a green. By hitting this, reasonable standard day after day you will consistently meet your expectations. If you would like to move the standard score lower or higher based on your abilities simply move the stats with them to set your personal standards. By evaluating your round this way you eliminate the need to feel perfect. You can miss a green or putt and not feel like the round is caving in on you. The best time and the only time to evaluate is after the round. Simply compare your round to the standard that you set. Where did you exceed your standard and where did you fall short? If you will set up you expectations and evaluations based on the above formula you will experience a much more enjoyable round and lower scores. For more information on creating standards please visit my website MindManagementGroup.com and read the blog entitled the Secret Formula for Being on the PGA Tour.
How do we learn to accept results on the golf course? There are two excellent tools that I like to use to raise a golfers level of acceptance. First, as stated before you must see yourself as a problem solver. You have to make a shift in your mind to see these situations as a time do something fun or creative and not as a time to go in to victim mode. Do not waste time and energy asking yourself bad questions. Why do my balls always bury in a bunker? Why does this always happen to me? If you ask yourself bad questions you will always get bad answers. Instead ask questions like this: How can I make a par from here? How cool will it be to get this up and down? Where do I need to land this ball to get it close to the hole? When you ask good questions to help solve the problem you are 90% closer to finding a great solution. Your energy is now involved in solving the problem and not feeling sorry for yourself. This is where the champions mind is when he is in trouble, where is your mind? Are you focused on the problem or on the solution? Second, begin hitting shots without judging them. Do not see shots, lies, or situations as good or bad. Simply take it for what it is and hit the best shot you can hit. I like to practice this with my players on the range. Just hit shots and watch them fly. There are no good swings or bad swings; there are no good shot or bad shot. Hit five balls in row and place no judgment on them. At first you will find this to be very challenging but, after a while it becomes easier. Many of players have told me that this is their favorite time of our sessions. They regain the feeling of hitting golf balls just for the fun of it. Try this drill in your next practice session. I am confident that it will be a regular part of your training.
Negative emotions are a part of golf. But, if you have the right tools you can begin solve these challenges so you can remain in control and play good golf. Be very aware of your expectations and level of acceptance as you prepare to hit shots and deal with the results as they come. I promise you if you work on these things those car rides home will be a lot more peaceful for you and your parents.
Bill Nelson is the President of Mind Management Group. He works with touring pros from every major tour. Bill also works with some of the top juniors in the world including four currently ranked in the Top 100. He is the official mental coach of the Hurricane Junior Tour and Brian Mogg Golf Academy. Please visit our website MindManagementGroup.com for additional information.
Modeling your way to success...
In this month's issue of Golf Digest, six time major winner Nick Faldo, talks about the ten keys to hitting pure irons. Three of the ten tips have to do with copying or modeling the habits of other great players. This is not a new idea. Great players from many different eras have used this same idea to take their games to new heights. Jack Nicklaus often writes about how he modeled his golf game after Bobby Jones. Today, Tiger Woods admits that his pre round routine is a direct copy of the routine that Jack Nicklaus used in winning eighteen majors. Modeling is one of the five principles that I teach in the area of training and I consider it an absolute fundamental in order to be successful. So what is modeling and how can it help you play better golf?
Modeling is taking the behavior patterns of successful people in your chosen endeavor and simply copying their routines and habits. If those behavior patterns produced success for one person it is logical to conclude that those same patterns will work for you. In other words, why spend years trying to develop a successful golf plan when other have shown the right blueprint for success. Tiger Woods has changed the model for the modern day touring professional. His unbelievable level of fitness, his fist pump, and aggressive style of play changed the way people play golf all over the world. When he first began to have success the other players were so far behind him that it took years for them catch up. Now the gap has narrowed because players watched what he was doing, copied it, and began using it in their own games.
Tiger is not the only model to copy, however. Go to any PGA tour event and you will see many different swings and styles of play. Jim Furyk plays completely different than Dustin Johnson, Vijay Singh’s putting style is much different than Lee Westwood's, and Ian Poulter's playing personality is in sharp contrast to say an Ernie Els. The best thing for any player to do is find a tour player that fits his game and temperament and begin to study what makes them successful, copy it, and implement it into their game.
So how can we take all of these different methods and styles and find some constants or universal truths that exist in all successful players games. Is there a recipe that will guarantee you success on the PGA Tour? I believe there is. This formula does not care how you swing the club, how you putt, or whether you play conservative or aggressive. It is measurable and it is the one constant in golf among all the variables. The secret formula to playing on the PGA Tour has to with statistics. If you can study and master the statistics of successful players you can begin to understand what you need to do in your game to get better. One of my favorite quotes from Lee Trevino is, "Take a guy that wants to play on tour to four golf courses that he has never seen. If he can average 71 over those four courses he can play on tour." Most people are surprised by this number. Many would assume that you would have to average much lower to play professional golf. The truth is 71 is the magic number over a year"s time to have a successful career. So what are the other stats that point to tour quality golf, let's have a look:
Statistics of the average tour player
|Percentage of fairways hit:||63%|
|Percentage of greens hit:||66%|
|Number or putts per round:||29.5|
|Putts per green in reg.:||1.73|
|Driving Distance:||284 yards|
What do all these stats mean and more importantly how can I use them to play better? These are the statistics for the average tour player. If you can produce these results on a consistent basis you can play professional golf at a high level. Take your last competitive round and all rounds moving forward and measure them against this standard. Over time, you will begin to notice where you fall short of the tour players and where you need to put in extra work with your teaching pro or mental coach. Build you practice time around your deficiency areas and watch your scores fall. You may be thinking what if I don't want to play professional golf what if I just want to play in college? The same basic idea applies. Research the scores of the players that currently play at the college you are interested in and see where you are in relation to their scores. Go to a college event and watch the players. Are they hitting more greens? Is there short game better? Do they have more self confidence or focus than you? What do they do different than you do? Take this information and build a success plan so that your game matches their game. Seek out experts in these different areas. If you need help with putting seek out the best putting coach you can find. If you need swing help find the best swing coach you can find. This is what the best players do; this is what you should do.
One last thing, my friend Mark Sweeney from AimPoint Golf did a statistical analysis of all the players that won on tour the last four years. He analyzed the statistics to determine what matters most in determining who wins on tour. This is what he found out:
Important statistics of tour winners
|Greens in Reg.:||72.9%|
|Putts Per Round:||27.6|
|Putts per green in Reg||1.67|
Did the PGA Tour winners hit the ball better than ones who did not win that week? Sure, they did, but not that much better. Where the tour winners really showed improvement over the non-winners was in putting and scrambling. They made more putts which produced more birdies and they prevented bogeys by getting up and down at a higher rate. Based on this information we all need to spend more time on the putting and chipping green.
Modeling, then, is taking the successful patterns of great golfers, studying them, and then using them in our own game to get better. Watch the way good players warm up, watch their pre shot routine, watch the way they handle themselves. Then, take that information and compare it to your game. Where are you the same and where are your different? Make a plan based on the information you discover. Seek help if you need it from qualified coaches. You do not have to figure this all out on your own. There are formulas and blueprints that can speed up the process. Remember success always leaves clues. I hope the clues that you find will take your game to a higher level.
If you have any questions or comments about this article please email me.
Bill Nelson is the President of Mind Management Group and is the official mental coach of the Hurricane Junior Tour. He works with professionals from every tour in the world. He currently coaches three of the top 100 Golfweek ranked juniors. He has personally coached Canon Cup players, AJGA All Americans, Evian Cup players, FCWT All Americans, and NCAA All Americans. Bill teaches out of Keenes Pointe Country Club in Windermere, Florida.