“That Second Guy Is Good”
Tell me if you’ve heard this one before:
You walk up to your shot and totally flub it – a chili-dipped chip, a fanned approach, a drive blasted OB. You immediately reach into your pocket, drop another ball, and proceed to execute the shot perfectly. “That second guy is pretty good,” your buddy says, laughing.
If you go to a practice round at a PGA Tour event, you’ll see that even the best players in world experience this. The second guy will always be better, but in this lesson, I’m going to help you close the gap.
This Lesson Is For You If:
You make mistakes on the golf course
You’d like to make fewer mistakes
You want to hit more shots like “the second guy”
Hindsight is 20/20
Sometimes your bad shots are the result of or a bad swing and sometimes there’s a bad decision involved. Either way, I often find that the flaw is evident roughly 4 milliseconds after the ball leaves the club face. Then I’m in line for some self-scolding. “Matt, that’s a sucker pin, you should have aimed at the middle of the green!” “Matt, you ignored the wind!” “Matt, you swung out of your shoes!”
Now, there’s nothing wrong with making mistakes…unless you don’t learn from them. That’s the part most golfers have difficulty with, and that’s what I’m here to fix.
Go to School on Yourself
You already know the mistakes – you acknowledge them immediately after you’ve made them – but how do you stop repeating them? I’ve found that the best way is to keep track of your post-shot realizations right on your scorecard. If you aimed at a sucker pin, write “Aim at middle of green.” If you failed to read the green before your chip, write “Read green carefully before chip.” You get the idea.
Writing it on the scorecard does a couple important things. First, it forces you to process the information more deeply. We remember very little of what we hear; we remember much more of what we write down. Additionally, you now have a reminder for the rest of the round to not repeat that mistake.
Finally, and hopefully I’m stating the obvious, you should not do this after every shot. I am only suggesting that you do this a few times a round after particularly bad, correctable errors.
The Next Step
Writing notes on your scorecard is a great first step, but you can do more to fuel long term improvement. After the round, bring your scorecard home and collect your notes in one location. It could be a small notebook, it could be a Word document on your computer – use whatever is convenient for you.
After you’ve assembled a few rounds of notes, see if there are any mistakes that come up frequently. If there’s a recurring swing issue, work on it or get yourself in for a lesson to fix it. If you keep making the same bad decisions, find a way to remind yourself on the course. Get “Aim for the middle” printed on your golf balls or stitched onto your headcovers. Make a list of three keys that you attach to your bag. Do whatever it takes to stop repeating your most common mistakes, and you’ll see your scores drop in no time.