A painful lesson

Here’s a painful story from last weekend. The temptation was not to write this. The embarrassment too great and the easiest this to do was hide and ignore it. But the lesson I’m about to share with you is too important to keep hidden.

If you feel you’re not getting the most out of your golf game then this lesson is for you. If you continually stuff up and ruin your score with a bad 2 or 3 holes then listen up. This will be the most important golf lesson I can give.

Here’s the story.

The Club Championships started last weekend. I haven’t been playing that much, but I still wanted to do well. For the most part I’m fairly confident of turning up and playing with a game that is respectable. This is the beauty of automatic golf.

But a friendly warm-up hit on Friday shattered my confidence. Over the last few holes I sprayed a few drives. And I’m not talking about small misses – these two drives went sidewards. I let them worry me. I was thinking about it overnight and I even got to the range early the next morning to iron out any problems. This is something that I haven’t done in years.

Half-way through the warm up I stopped myself. I could see what I was doing – letting a few bad shots get to me and ruin my confidence. I shook myself up and reminded myself to play golf – to get out there and play golf the way that I wanted. This meant I had to stop analysing my swing and all of those bad shots.

The little pep talk had the desired effect. I started well and the ball was finding the target. And don’t think I’m saying I played perfectly – I still hit the odd wayward shot, but they were still acceptable.

During the round I had a surge of confidence. I realised that automatic golf is the only way to play golf. It allowed me to break free from the confusion and self-doubt and play great golf. It allowed me to deal with nerves and the pressure of the moment. It was fun and made me realise what makes golf such a great game.

So what was the painful lesson?

With four holes to go I was only 1 over the card. No course record score but good enough on this tough day. Then self-doubt crept into my game. I became worried about hooking my drive. Instead of letting go and crushing the ball, I tightened up and steered the ball. It sailed way left, lucky to miss serious trouble, and I escaped with a bogey.

On sixteen I hit driver when I should have laid up. I let the pressure get to me and my decision making was poor. On the approach I tried too hard to hit the ball close. When a safety shot was required I went for the pin instead. The ball missed the green in an impossible situation and I made another bogey.

Now three over the card my score was slipping and my good work was undone. But things got worse.

After making a lucky par putt on 17 (I totally messed up my second and third shots) I walked slowly to the 18th tee. My confidence was low and I was concerned about the upcoming tee shot.

Normally I would smash driver but on this occasion I chose the 3 wood. There was nothing wrong with this decision. If you’re in doubt it is often a good idea to drop back a club (or two) and make the best swing that you can.

My first swing was a poor one. I didn’t commit to what I was doing and I was punished for it. The ball took off to the left and headed straight for the trees.

My provisional was no better. I tried to swing with a draw and get the ball in play. It was an abysmal effort. This ball flew straight over the fence and onto the neighboring road. The third attempt was worse.

By now it was becoming funny. I still had high hopes of finding the first ball so I wasn’t too concerned. I took my 4th shot from the 18th tee and saw it follow a similar pattern. Frustrated and thinking my first ball would be ok I took off in searching mode.

It’s amazing how quickly 5 minutes can go when you’re desperate to find a ball.

It was lost and I was now aware of the damage done. I would have to walk back to the tee and play my 9th shot. I’ve been playing golf for a while now and can’t remember the last time I racked up more than 10 on one hole. I had this hollow feeling and realised I still had a lot of work to do to find the hole.

“What would happen if another ball went over the fence? Maybe I’ll hook this one and lose it right? Shit, I could make a 15 here if I don’t get it together.”

In what was a relief, I nailed my 5th tee shot. I found the green and two-putted for a 12. My score had been destroyed in a moment of madness. My confidence shattered, I’ve now got to pick up the pieces and attempt to play next week.

So what went wrong?

The simple answer is I stopped trusting my game. I was too worried about missing the ball right and protecting my score. I stopped believing in auto golf and tried to play in a way that I thought was right.

I’ve never been so disappointed in myself but I think it’s going to be a good lesson. I don’t think I’ll ever take my game for granted and I’ll certainly be attempting to lock in my automatic game.

And this is the lesson that I want you to take from this.

Golf is hard. We get nervous. And sometimes we don’t feel that good. But you can’t let self doubt get you away from playing your game. No matter how good or bad you feel you’ve got to swing with freedom. And here’s another point.

You’ve got to stick with it. As I’ve learned this week automatic golf can leave you quickly. You can’t just assume you’re playing automatically, because if you’re playing poorly the chances are you’ve gotten off track. You can’t have it both ways – you can’t be thinking about your score, playing safely and playing automatically at the same time. It’s not possible.

So if your automatic game has left you you’ve got to make a decision. You’ve got to re-asses why you play the game and decide whether you’re going to turn up and go through the motions or really let go and play the game without fear or doubt.

The first option is easy. It really is. The second option takes courage and requires a level of honesty that you’re not going to find in a golf magazine.

I’m up for the challenge. Are you?

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kevin - October 12, 2010

Well written – a lesson for all golfers in your story

I’m ready to tackle my chipping yips now!!

Dean Bramich - October 12, 2010

oh my god this is so familiar this sort of stuff happens to me all the time i guess it shows us how frail we can be when playing golf even the best of us succumb

Bernie Folkes - October 12, 2010

Hi Cam & all
A super post. Cam, my heart goes out to you. However, as you said at the end of the post, you have learnt a valuable lesson which I am sure we all have.
To all, in Cam’s E-MAIL of 8 October where he asked “….what’s bugging you….” I replied to him that I was continually having great first nine holes (whether I started on the 1 st or the 10 th hole) then I was getting nervous, speeding up, thinking toooooooooooo far ahead, bl..dy Pesky saying “you’re a winner” etc. In summary I was “losing the plot”. Cam’s reply was to read the above post.
Yes, I am “enlightened” and can’t wait for tomorrow. I will try and play automatically – then in the words of the Doris Day song “Que Sera Sera – whatever will be, will be”.

Tony Lucas - October 12, 2010

Well I am glad to see even the guru of auto golf can get it wrong and show us mere mortals that if you don’t stick to auto golf and banish doubt and fear things will and can go wrong.I played in the second round of my championships on Saturday and the same as last week I allowed distractions (doubt as well)to interfere on three or four holes on the front nine and thus played a little ordinary.I was however able to get auto golf happening on the back nine and played much better.What did I learn from this and Cams post simple auto golf on every single shot and let the rest happen.
Cheers Lukey

Wayne Micallef - October 12, 2010

HI CAM, sorry to say this but i feel somewhat better after reading about your dissasterous round,i have been trying to get my game back where it was a couple of weeks ago. Although i have not really had a blowout hole, i don;t seem to be scoring very well. Confidence is a very difficult thing to practice.

Gregor McCulloch - October 12, 2010

disaster holes – where do they come from. I think you have just described it. You change the way you are playing after one bad shot and the next thing you are all over the place. I need to remember this !

‘Confidence is a very difficult thing to practice.’
I don’t believe you can practice confidence, it just comes to you. If you try to be confident then Pasky will tell you about the other thing – lack of confidence. And ‘trying’ is not something you should be doing any of
Perhaps like me, you have become careful and you are lacking freeflow in your game.
Follow the auto routine and swing like you’ve already landed the ball where you want it. Your game comes back within a few shots. It works

Cliff Carthew - October 13, 2010

Sounds like my game when I start well. Will try to stop the mind and just play my ame as I did to get to a good position.

Greg - October 13, 2010

Hey Cameron and All, doesn’t this sound like the story for so many club golfers. I played off single figures 18 months ago and smashed my way out to 15 with anger and frustration. I joined Golf Tribe with some trepidation as all the instruction in the world hadn’t helped with the matter between my ears. I took Cams advice and played 3 rounds on my own without a care and just swung and putted seconds after reaching the ball.Where had this game been ? Auto Golf what a rescue. For anyone having problems , please try this. Sorry about the Championships Cam.

John Eaton - October 13, 2010

Hi Cameron
Not good hearing about your blowout in the championships. Played my first round of championships last saturday, had 15 over on front nine and 3 over on the back , and i still dont know how or why. Still practicing ..looks like things are getting better.

Paul Gilbertson - October 13, 2010

hi cam
Im a golf tragic and am rapidly approaching my 60th birthday,i have tried your recent advice on the automatic method of playing and have astounded myself,i was recently on a 19 handicap with my social golf club and we play fortnightly at 25 different courses in queensland over a year.I have just had my best round in11 years by shooting a net 53 on a par 70 course and received a cut of 6 shots to my handicap.I now have to battle with this handicap for our champs which start in two weeks,bugger.

Grayden Provis - October 14, 2010

I’m still wondering what its like to be one over after 14!!!!!!!

Great post Cameron. Thanks for being prepared to suffer the pain of that round twice so that we can learn something!

Tony Lucas - October 16, 2010

Cam and tribers
Played in the third round of our championships today and-in the main auto golf was to the fore and I was genuinely pleased but unfortunately I like Cam experienced one blow up hole.It was our 13th a par 3 where I hit an ordinary tee shot which left a fairly easy chip that for some reason ended in the bunker (no problem I’m thinking)but it did not come out (5 in the bunker)and thus ended up with a 9.I feel the mistake I made was that I did not step out of the bunker and then start again any thoughts?
Cheers Lukey

Bernie Folkes - October 21, 2010

Hi Lukey, Cam and all
Lukey, apologies for taking so long to post re your last round. I feel for you re the bunker scenario, hopefully it is now well in the past. Best of luck in the last round of the championships. Unfortunately I had a similar scenario yesterday, I tried to get tooooooooooooo cute with a bunker shot and the ball rolled back into my foot marks. Like you I should have walked out of the bunker, re grouped etc. However, “pride/stupidity/Pesky” took control. Such is life.

Tony Lucas - October 21, 2010

Bernie and others
In answer to your question Bernie I did regroup very quickly and followed the next hole with a par.Having said that though I am not saying I was not disappointed.The main thing out of the exercise was to remember one shot at a time and make sure that is auto.
Cheers Lukey

Gregor McCulloch - October 24, 2010

I was playing yesterday with a guy that was not playing well. On the 12th hole he hit a massive drive right down the middle. Clearly the best shot of the day. He then told me that he had’nt even tried on that shot – how weird. I tried to explain that’s how he should hit all his shots. He thought I was off my head. Strange.

    Cameron - October 29, 2010

    It’s a bit like when you hit your first shot out of bounds and your second almost always ends up going sown the middle. You stop trying so much and it can be almost as if you don’t care.

Grayden Provis - October 24, 2010

“He thought I was off my head”
Yeah, but he’ll probably go away and think about what you said nonetheless. Good one Gregor.

Tony Lucas - October 26, 2010

Cam and others
Played last round of the championships 3 behind was 2 up after nine but then started to worry about my putting and then fell in a hole and ended up getting beat by two.On top of that I didn’t keep an eye on what my opponents score was (bad blue)thought I was home.Good thing I get to do it again and it is not life or death.
Cheers Lukey

Grayden Provis - October 26, 2010

“Its not life or death”

You’re right. Its much more serious than that.


Grayden Provis - October 29, 2010

I was talking to a golf buddy the other day who said something interesting. He knew he was getting too tight, fast and anxious with his golf so he went out last Saturday with the express purpose of “deliberately trying to draw a comment from my playing partners that my golf swing looked too slow”. The comments never came of course. To everyone else it looked “normal”. But he said what amazed him was that the club head seemed to be entering the ball hitting zone so slowly that he felt like he couldn’t miss it. He said the feeling was that he had an eternity to get the club head square and on line into the ball. And the golf was good. Everything came out of the middle, he basically played to handicap (11) and the day was effortless and relaxing. He says he distinctly remembers wondering about half way round why he ever thought the game was hard (:-)) Plenty of lessons here for all of us I reckon. Now if I can just get this back of mine right I’m champing at the bit to get out and join him in some “Carefree Golf”! It really is just a game of “hit the ball”. Period.

    Greg - October 29, 2010

    Great post. Its amazing the pain we put ourselves through for the game we love , when we can go out there and play in a zone at times that makes it so much fun and easy to score.Keep away the demons and swing in your comfort area seems the way to go. Good luck with the back.

    Cameron - October 29, 2010

    @Grayden: It’s amazing how “normal” your golf swing looks despite trying something new. The trick here is letting this mindset happen – trying to repeat it can lead to all sorts of problems. Hope the back comes good soon.

Bernie Folkes - October 29, 2010

Hi Cam & all
Have just looked at the Raymond video a couple of times – interesting. If you haven’t had time to look at it yet – do so.
Lukey, bad luck. Now for next year.
Grayden, I can sympatise re your back. Amongst lots of physio last year, I had approx twenty cortisone shots into various facet joints. This year still some of the same, however, not so many. Ah well, I have had back problems for approx forty years so could be worse. Hang in there.
Happy weekend all.
Re my golf, the “penny is still continuing to drop”. The less I stress, worry about my swing etc the “luckier, in the words of Ben Hogan, I play”.
Cam, I have been reading the books of Harvey Penick. He doesn’t give swing advice just lots of common sense stuff. Welcome your thoughts re Harvey P. Seems like he was an “automan”. Sure appreciate he gave lots of lessons to Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite etc. However, his books contain little or nothing re technical stuff. Just lots of great motivation stuff.

Grayden Provis - October 30, 2010

Cameron said: “The trick here is letting this mindset happen – trying to repeat it can lead to all sorts of problems”

Good call. As you always say Cam, good golf “kind of just sneaks up on you”. You can’t demand it, you have to wait for it. Patience – the bedrock character trait of the happy golfer. See Jack Nicklaus.

Tony Lucas - October 31, 2010

I am not familiar with what your back trouble actually is but I personally have dumped the physio (unless actually muscular problem)and have gone to a chiropractor with really good results and continue to see one (Past 8 years)for maintenance.I look at it this way even if they don’t fix it completely but get you back on the golf course what a plus that would be.Steady was having a problem with his back at one stage and I recommended he try chiropractic and it worked for him.Once again this is only a suggestion because I would love to see you back playing golf.
Cheers Lukey

Grayden Provis - October 31, 2010

Thanks Tony. As I’ve said before, when you can’t play for an extended period you appreciate what a privilege it is to be able to even get out there. Enjoy your golf, don’t fret about it. You never know when the old bod might say “enough”!

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