Keep Your Head In the Game

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Football Players Are Smarter Than Golfers

A football game lasts 3-4 hours, but there are only about 11 minutes of action.  Does that mean that nothing is happening during that other time?  Of course not!  Coaches and players are frantically doing everything they can to maximize that “down time” to help them win.

A round of golf lasts 4-5 hours, but there are only a couple minutes of action.  Does that mean that nothing is happening during that other time?  Of course not! However, whereas football players understand the importance of that “down” time, most golfers squander it.

In today’s lesson, I’m going to teach you to get the most out of your down time so you can shoot your best scores.

Happy Golfer

What’s So Important About Down Time?

To illustrate the importance of down time, I’ll use a couple of extreme examples.  Golfer A and B are both equal in ability and play the same clubs.  However, Golfer A spends every second between shots cursing his last swing and all the “bad breaks” that he gets.  Golfer B stays positive, enjoys his good shots, and focuses on the shot immediately in front of him.  If they have the same ability and equipment, who do you think will score better?  My money is on Golfer B.


What Can You Do Between Shots?

The time between shots is full of possibilities.  Here are some of the things that you can do:

Control your mood and attitude

To me, this is a top priority.  If you spend all your time between shots complaining, you’re not going to play well.  After you hit a shot, give yourself limited time (5 seconds or less) to react, then get back to being positive.

Keep in mind that the way you carry yourself will affect your mood.  Keep your head up and force yourself to smile.

Finally, protect your attitude from those around you.  Don’t let someone else’s bad mood or negative attitude become yours.

Plan and Analyze

“Failing to plan is planning to fail,” so what are you going to do on this hole?  Try not to get too far ahead of yourself; stay focused on the shot or hole at hand.  What options do you have for the next shot?  What are you trying to accomplish?  What are the best places to be?  What needs to be avoided?

Consider the Conditions

Golf is played outdoors in an ever-changing environment, so you would do well to pay attention to it.  How have the conditions affected play to this point?  Is it windy or still, wet or dry, hot or cold?  Is the wind gusting, swirling, or constant?  How are the conditions changing?  How should these conditions impact your planning and expectations?


Some golfers will be better off with less planning and more “off” time.  If you want to unplug, talk to your partner about sports or the weather, think about how nice it is to be on the course, or hum a song.

Personal Style

Find Your Style

As with so many things in golf and in life, success will come when you find your own personal style.  If your current “down time” behaviors are leading to good results, then congratulations, you’ve already found your style.  However, if you feel like you should be scoring better than you are, I’d recommend that you start thinking about what you do now

  • Do you control your mood and attitude, or does it control you?
  • Do you tend to plan your shots or just do whatever feels right?
  • How much time do you spend thinking about the game between shots?

Changing the answer to one, two, or all three of these questions may be the quickest path to lower scores.

Matt Saternus
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  1. Cedric Theofanous

    I’d love to see an article all about course management. It seems to be an important part of golf that is very rarely written about.

  2. I have a tendency start off a round to grind for pars, but whenever I get a bogy it seems like I’m on a bogy streak and ruins my round. Is this a case where my mental game gets messed up or is my navigation choices? Thanks

    • Matt Saternus


      Mental game and course management are two sides of the same coin. What do you feel is different after you make a bogey? Are you trying to “get it back” with a birdie? Are you resigned to shooting a bad score? The thing I would suggest that you focus on is hitting one shot at a time. You can’t make par from the tee, you can just hit the drive in the fairway. Then hit the approach on the green. Then try to make a putt.



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