August has arrived and a lot of clubs are gearing up for their club championships, high school golfers are getting ready for the season and even the Illinois PGA is getting ready for the section championship next week. This means one thing; it’s time for golfers to take all the hours of practice and rounds to the competitive platform. For me as a golf instructor, this means I get ready to hear one familiar story, the one of how a player shot the greatest 9 holes of their life followed by a complete blow up nine or vice versa. Why is this so common amongst amateur golfers either in competition or just in regular rounds on the weekend? It can be traced to one thing, a lack of focus on what is important; the target.
One of my friends and colleagues who currently competes professionally around the country spent some time caddying on the Web.com tour for a player a few years ago. They had good success and with him on the bag, they won the former LaSalle Bank Open at The Glen Club which allowed his player to earn his PGA Tour card for the next season. I asked him what was the number one thing he had to tell his player besides the correct yardage. His response was very simple; he reminded his player what his target was. No matter what, if his player was coming off of a bogey or just made four birdies in a row, the next objective was always to pick a target and then try to hit it there.
When I am out playing golf with friends or on a playing lesson with students, there is one phrase I hear that signals doom is about to follow, and that is “If I make “x” score on this hole or nine I’ll shoot “x” score.” Game over. While the purpose of golf is to try to shoot the best possible score we can, there are certain factors that come into play that we cannot control that ultimately affect what our score is. Imperfections on the greens, gusts of wind, and bad lies in divots are all things that can happen that we really cannot control. What we can control however is what our target is and doing our best to hit it at that target. That is all golf is, and that is what the pros on television do so well, and why they are able to bounce back so quickly from mistakes and also keep hot rounds going and get even hotter as they continue on. They try to hit the ball at their target on every swing and trust the birdies will follow.
Amateur golfers could take a lesson from my friend the caddy and every time they get over the golf ball, pick a target and make sure that is the last thing they think about. You can call this a pre-shot routine, which is a term that is thrown out pretty often, but I see a lot of poor golfers with a “pre-shot routine” who do not know what the purpose of the routine is. It is not always the number of practice swings you take, and for everyone it doesn’t always have to be the same amount of time (Annika Sorenstam’s always was and it worked alright for her, but Tiger Woods’ routine varies in time from shot to shot and he has fared alright as well). The one common denominator is that these golfers are picking a target and getting ready to do what it takes to make the ball go towards that target.
When you are out competing either against other golfers or your personal bests, emotions will start to flow and thoughts of what you could possibly could achieve will flash in your mind. It’s natural and inevitable, but don’t let them distract you from what is important. When it’s time to hit the shot that’s going to win you your club championship or break your personal best, focus and ask yourself one question, What is your target?
Scott Hogan is a Class A PGA Professional and Certified Personal Coach for GolfTEC at their Halsted Row Location. Visit golftec.com or contact Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how you can save up to 20% on Improvement Plans through August 23rd.