By Anokh Jai
“I was hitting the ball great on the range but when I got on the course, everything fell apart.” How many times have you heard someone utter these words? On the range and practice green we practice all types of shots and develop our swings until we’re hitting great shots. Then, what is it about the course that causes a golfer’s game to fall apart?
In my opinion it’s down to four factors; pressure, unfamiliar conditions, loss of confidence in the swing and not staying in the present.
Pressure: When on the range or practice green, very rarely do golfers introduce an element of pressure into their routine. Most golfers grab a bucket of 50 or 100 balls and whack at ball after ball without much thought of the outcome. They do not set themselves a target for each shot as they do on the course. Here are a couple of drills you can introduce into your practice routine to build-up the mental strength to deal with the pressure you feel on the course:
- Divide your bucket of balls into groups of 10. Pick a target area on the range and set yourself a goal of how many balls you want to end up in the target area. Make it realistic! The idea is to build up confidence and consistency.
- On the putting green apply the same principle. Take 10 golf balls and choose a hole on a relatively flat surface. Mark out one putter length from the hole. Putt until you manage to sink 10 consecutive putts then increase the distance to two putter-lengths and repeat the drill.
Unfamiliar Conditions: On the range, golfers always look for the best lies, usually on a flat surface with a nice cushion of grass under the ball. This puts golfers in unfamiliar territory when presented with a bad or sloping lie on the course. Practice hitting balls off the worst lie you can find on the range (in divots, on slopes, bare ground, etc…). Focus on what you can control – your swing and ball contact. Forget about the lie, it is out of your control.
Loss of confidence in your swing: As a teaching pro, I have worked with and played with golfers who, as long as they are hitting the ball well, they trust their swing implicitly. As soon as they miss-hit the ball, confidence starts to evaporate. They try to analyse what went wrong and fix it by trying harder or making changes to their setup or swing. The harder golfers try to fix things, the worse they will play. In golf, everyone plays a bad shot, even the top PGA Tour players. What they don’t do though, is hit a consecutive bad shot because they silence the thoughts of making any changes and focus on making a good swing. Build up the confidence and trust in your swing by developing the following:
- Build up a consistent pre-shot routine. Take your grip, stance, ball position and alignment the same way before every shot. Most bad shots are a result of inconsistent setups.
- Maintain a maximum of two swing thoughts over the ball. As you add more thoughts, your reaction time slows down.
- Focus on making a good swing on the next shot rather than on what went wrong on the last one.
Stay in the present: How many times have you played a birdie only to get a bogey or worse on the next hole? Many people call this “birdieosis.” I prefer to define it as “not staying in the present.” Your mind is either thinking about the great birdie you just had or how to make a par or another birdie on the next hole. Your mind is either in the past or the future – neither of which you can control. Stay in the present and focus on every individual shot rather than the one before it or the one after it.
Golfers dedicate many hours on the range and practice green to improve their game. Creating a routine for your practice is a great way to achieve these improvements faster. Focus on one process at a time. Take your time on each shot, developing a consistent routine until you have turned that process into a feeling. Once you are satisfied with the feeling, start working on the next process. Practice makes permanent.
Anokh Jai is a Master Golf Teaching Professional at Total Golf Solutionz. Ltd