This past spring, I remarked to Matt Meeker that I was nearly perfect on shots that I “called.” If, after a wayward drive, I said I was going to cut the ball around the tree and onto the green, you could take it to the bank.
After I said this, I started thinking, “If I’m so good at hard shots, why am I missing so many easy ones?” The answer makes up today’s lesson.
This Lesson Is For You If:
You want to improve your ball striking and your scores
Why Hard Shots Are Easier
I’ve come up with a list of five reasons why hard shots are easier than easy shots. If you can consistently apply these five ideas to your “regular” shots, your ball striking will improve. These same concepts can be applied to improve your short game, too.
Reason #1: Commitment
When you’re in the deep woods and there’s only one path to the green, your choice is clear. You know that the ball needs to fly at a specific trajectory, go through the gap in the trees, fade ten yards, and land on the green. You step into the shot with total commitment because you know there’s only one way to succeed.
In contrast, you have nearly infinite choices on your average par 3 tee shot. You could cut it, draw it, flight it high or low. You can hit more club or less. This often leads to taking the club back while thinking, “Is this the right club?” That indecision can be fatal.
Takeaway: Committing to your shot is critical, whether you have one choice or endless possibilities. Before you step into each shot, say to yourself enthusiastically that this is the right plan. Full commitment to a mediocre plan is better than half-hearted commitment to a great one.
Reason #2: Focus
That shot out of the trees is tough. It knows that it’s tough, you know it’s tough, and it knows that you know that it’s tough. The tree shot demands your full attention.
The stock 8I from a perfect lie knows that it’s the shot you hit thirty times during every range session. You can probably hit this shot decently with your mind on other things…so you often do.
Takeaway: Give every shot your undivided attention. We don’t want to psych ourselves out by focusing on the difficulty of any given swing, but we need to respect each shot enough to give it our best effort.
Reason #3: Stakes
When you call your shot, you’re putting pressure on yourself. You know that if you call for the big cut and miss, you’re going to hear about it. Even if you’re playing alone – or you have friends who don’t razz you – you feel the pressure of taking on a big, risky shot, and that adds to your focus.
Takeaway: If you’re keeping a real, honest scorecard, you need to recognize that every swing has stakes. Every shot is a chance to set up a birdie, save a stroke, or give away hard-earned progress. While we’re not trying to paralyze ourselves with pressure, we need to care enough to concentrate.
Reason #4: Fun
Every time that I call a shot, I have a smile on my face. I know that I’m taking on an added level of difficulty and risk by choice. And, because everyone knows I’m choosing a low percentage shot, I feel free. If I miss it, I’ll go hit it again. No big deal.
Is this the opposite of #3? Yes. Golf is a funny game. Humans are funny creatures.
Takeaway: Know yourself. If you need high stakes and pressure to perform, ignore this and focus on grinding out every shot. However, some players need to be loose. Most need to find a middle ground. If you find yourself wearing down your molars with stress, focus on the fun and smile.
Reason #5: Imagination
It’s virtually impossible to hit one of these wild recovery shots without seeing it in your mind’s eye first, and that is a massive difference maker. Before I take the club back, I’ve seen the ball launch low, curve right, and land on the green. All I have to do is make it happen again.
When I’m hitting that stock 8I, I rarely take the time to visualize. The rationale is that I’ve seen this film before, let’s just hit the shot. But that lack of imagination can lead to a lack of commitment and focus. Being unfocused can lead to laying the sod over the ball.
Takeaway: Make visualization a part of your pre-shot routine. This does not need to take long, just a second or two with your eyes closed to imagine the club striking the ball and creating the exact trajectory, shot shape, and result that you want.