Getting Your Golf Out of Debt

Learning From Others

One of the biggest mistakes that many golfers make is thinking that golf is unique from other endeavors.  One of my favorite lessons I’ve written is what chess taught me about golf [read it HERE].

In that spirit, today’s lesson was inspired by a video from a volleyball coach.  Check out the original video HERE, then keep reading.

This Lesson Is For You If:

You change your strategy after bad shots or holes

You want to play golf with more freedom

Get Out of the Hole

Too many golfers play with a “debt” mentality.  This comes from either their score or the quality of shots they hit.

Players who keep a running score in their head are prone to get tight the minute that their score is out of line with their expectations.  A golfer trying to play bogey golf may get tense as soon as they make a double, thinking only about how they’re “behind” and need to make a par to “get square.”

That same indebted feeling can be created when you hit a couple bad shots.  Let’s say that you’re having a great day off the tee and are consistently driving it to your 9I distance from the green.  If you don’t stuff your approach shots – or, worse, if you pull one or hit one fat – you can spiral into the mindset of being “behind.”  The next time you have that tasty 9I shot, you might make a tentative swing trying to avoid another mistake or bunt an 8I when that’s not a shot you normally play.

There is no “debt” in golf.  The golf ball does not know what happened on the last shot nor where you stand in relation to par.  The “debt” only exists in your mind, but it can become real when that negativity bleeds into your game.

Don’t Change

If you’re trying to play your best (and I think that’s all of us, whether that means score or something else), don’t change how you’re playing because of mistakes.

First, there is no “don’t”.  Your brain doesn’t understand “don’t” or “not;” it requires positive, affirmative instructions.  If you’ve sliced a couple tee shots, you can’t “not slice.”  What you can do is make a positive swing and hit it straight.  Trying to avoid further “debt” won’t work.

Second, changing mid-round leads you to try shots that aren’t in your bag.  Most golfers have one stock shot that they’re able to play.  The middle of a round is not the time to try to invent a conservative 3/4 motion.  Even on an “off” day – perhaps especially on an “off” day – you’ll be better served by sticking to the shots you use regularly.

Finally, good strategy is good strategy.  If you’re a regular reader, you know the fundamentals of good course management [check out my 10 Commandments for Better Golf Scores HERE].  Those don’t change just because you made a double bogey or two.  Stick to your plan.

“Well, Actually”

For all the people who feel it necessary to assume the worst when someone is trying to help, let me be explicit about a couple things.

First, I am not endorsing bad strategy.  This article assumes the player is using good strategy and smart club selection.  If you don’t know how far your clubs go or how to aim at anything other than the flag, those are problems you should correct that are unrelated to the “debt” mentality.

Second, I am not endorsing beating one’s head against a wall.  If you have a driver that exclusively produces sixty yard slices, you should work on that, and probably hit 3W in the meantime.  The point I’m making here is that you should not abandon your game because of a couple, or even several, unusual shots.

Free, Aggressive, & Positive

No one in the history of the game has shot a career round playing tentatively.  More championships and personal bests have been lost by players counting their strokes on the seventeenth tee or making panicked decisions after a single atypical shot.

Play aggressively.  Play free.  Play with positivity.  There is no debt in golf, only opportunities to be seized.

Matt Saternus
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  1. Please, please, please drop the ai imagery. Have your readership send pictures if you’re desperate for image content or just shorten the post. As a long time reader, it cheapens your words and associates the rest of the content generative ai.

  2. I did watch the volleyball video from the link. This is excellent advice. It’s also about learned behavior. I have two friends who are always fighting their perceived “normal score.” One always plays on our home course and compares every hole score, heck almost every shot, to his normal score (which is a bit inflated as he doesn’t always play each hole as well as he thinks he does).

    The other one shoots for a bogey round and that’s his “par”. Any hole score over bogey is a deficit he must fight back from.

    We always seem to look at our scores like weightlifters who try to get one more rep and then another as their strength builds before then adding weight and trying for a new personal best. Striving is good but why beat yourself up if on a particular day you can’t reach your past personal best. We should be taking the positives and carrying them forward. Learn from the poorer shots but don’t let them affect your positive outlook.

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