Don't get distracted …

I played last week with some different players and was guilty of getting distracted and NOT playing my game.

My game has really improved over the last few years. For the most part I play automatically and only choose shots I know I can hit. This has allowed me to play very consistently and enjoy a level of play that has seen my handicap drop to below zero – considering a lack of practise time, this is something I’m happy with.

This was not always the case.

When I did have time to practise (and I used to practise a lot) I would expect to shoot good scores. This thinking had me playing aggressively, going for every pin (whether or not it was tucked away behind a bunker etc) and attempting to hit every drive as far as possible (to be honest I used to hit the driver too much, I didn’t contemplate laying up).

This mindset never allowed me to play my best golf. I was too erratic! There was no margin for error and I was playing on the edge. As I’ve gotten older (and maybe a bit wiser) I’ve learned to play more within myself. My scores are better and golf has become easier.

Last Sunday I let myself get distracted. Playing with two elite golfers, my thinking changed from playing the shots I know I could hit, to trying to impress them. This only happened on two holes but I was disappointed with myself. The first time, I attempted to hit an approach to an impossible pin. The shot was crying out for a conservative shot to the left. I let ego get the better of me and went for the miracle shot. I paid the penalty, by dropping a shot.

The second time was worse. Instead of playing a three-wood on a short par 4 (the perfect shot for me) , I decided to use my driver and go for the green. This aggressive shot would probably be OK for Tiger Woods, but for this slightly overweight golfer it definitely was not on. The ball failed to clear the trees, got a bad bounce and headed further into trouble. My ego driven mistake was made worse when I couldn’t find the ball. The subsequent penalty derailed my round and ensured I didn’t shoot the best score I was capable of.

Those mistakes kicked my mind into gear and I played the rest of the round playing “my game”. I forgot about impressing playing partners, hitting miracle shots and letting my ego get the better of me. Hopefully I can avoid making the same mistake in future rounds.

If you want to be the best player you can be you need to be honest with yourself. If you don’t think you’re capable of hitting a certain shot with any percentage of success then you shouldn’t go for it. Delusional or wishful thinking is not being honest. This does not mean that you have to always lay up and play conservatively. The excitement of the game shines through when you can pull out a great shot – the difference is knowing your limitations. If you think you can hit an aggressive shot successfully go for it! If you know deep down the shot is “mission impossible” best you reign in your ego and choose another strategy.

I have found the really good golfers are able to play “their game” through all situations. They don’t let an important game or a pressure filled shot change their thinking. They approach all shots with a similar mindset and enjoy a reliable golf game. They don’t get distracted and they definitely don’t let their egos get the better of them.

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