Your Ego Is Ruining Your Golf

The #1 Killer of Fun & Good Scores

If I had to select one thing that drove golf scores up, it wouldn’t be the slice, it wouldn’t be badly fit clubs, and it wouldn’t be a lack of practice.  It would be ego.  In this lesson, I’ll discuss the subtle and not-so-subtle ways in which ego is undermining your ability to shoot good scores and enjoy golf more.

This Lesson Is For You If:

Your scores don’t reflect your abilities

Your equipment isn’t helping you score

Score Better Today

Ego works on your golf in myriad ways.  I’m going to list a few of the most prevalent ones, starting with the ones that you can fix today, for free.

If you know other ways in which ego can ruin your game, post them in the comments section below.

Not Taking Enough Club

The most common form of ego golf is taking too little club.  What’s interesting is that we can recognize it immediately in others but rarely in ourselves.

In addition to being the most common form of ego golf, under clubbing is also one of the most damaging to your score.  If you were the #1 scrambler on the PGA Tour, missing a green would cost you a shot one out of four times.  You’re not, so it’s more likely that it’s costing you a full shot (or more) at least half the time.

The Fix

Combat ego with information.  Follow the steps I’ve laid out in this lesson HERE and learn how far each of your clubs actually goes.  Then, put that knowledge to work on the golf course.

Taking Too Many Risks

Another problem that’s easy to see in others and hard to see in yourself is taking on low probability shots.  There’s no faster way to turn an easy bogey into a hard triple than trying to fit a shot between a couple trees or over a lake.

The Fix

Use the 80% Rule.  If you can’t pull off a shot 80% of the time in practice, don’t play it on the course.

Ignoring the Conditions

Any time that we play golf, we need to recognize the context.  How’s the weather?  What’s the course like?  How am I feeling?  These things can have a big impact on our scores if we’re not responsive to them.

The ego golfer ignores feelings of fatigue and sticks with their usual club and shot selections.  He’s also likely to think he can just smash the ball through the wind or cold.  This leads to missed greens, lost balls, and a lot of frustration.

The Fix

Recognizing the difficulties in a given round doesn’t mean that you give up, it means you need to be smart.  If you’re tired, take a little more club and choose higher percentage shots.  You can get a lot of ideas about dealing with the elements HERE.

Playing the Wrong Clubs

Are you playing the clubs that will help you score the best or the clubs that feed your ego?

While I think everyone should play the clubs that make them happy (more HERE), if your goals are score-related, you should play clubs that help you shoot better scores.  There’s a reason that many players at the highest level play cavity-back irons: forgiveness is good for everyone.

The Fix

Allow a high quality club fitter like Club Champion or True Spec to help you choose the best clubs for your game.  Be honest with the fitter about your abilities and goals so they can get you into the equipment that will help you shoot your best scores.

Unrealistic Expectations

If you’re constantly unhappy on the course because, “I can play better than this,” your ego is sucking attention away from the game and toward ego preservation (AKA: excuse making and whining).  When you’re looking for things to blame, you’re not thinking about how to get the most out of your abilities.

The Fix

Use a shot tracking system like Shot Scope to learn about the realities of your game.  If you think you’re a 90s golfer and you consistently shoot in the 100s, you need to adjust your expectations and get to work on your game.

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Matt Saternus

Co-Founder, Editor In Chief at PluggedInGolf.com
Matt is a golf instructor, club fitter, and writer living in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Matt's work has been published in Mulligan Magazine, Chicagoland Golf, South Florida Golf, and other golf media outlets. He's also been a featured speaker in the Online Golf Summit and is a member of Ultimate Golf Advantage's Faculty of Experts.

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9 Comments

  1. I’ve played every style of irons over the years from blades to a full set of Cleveland hibore irons. I’ve had great rounds and terrible rounds with all of them. The 2 things that consistently lead to poor rounds are penalties for going ob off the tee and chunked or skulled shots around the green. I will go to the grave knowing that for me personally, the style of iron I chose to play has very little effect on my score.

    • Brandon,
      a real bad shot is a real bad shot… no club will help with that, the laws of physics are stronger… even super game improvement clubs can only change your so so strike to OK shot; or maybe OK strike to Good shot, but there is no club to help much with real bad shots or turning your bad shots to OK shots… Having well customized club can save you a few shots per round for sure, but it will never make 100+ shooter to sub 90 shooter overnight….

  2. Micah James

    Another element where ego can be damaging: worrying about hitting a poor shot in front of your playing partners/spectators. It’s happened to me on occasion, especially during tournament rounds, especially on the opening tee shot. What I’ve learned from experience is that no one (except you) cares how you hit it. Golf is hard. Accept that and give no thought to what others might think about your game.

  3. Nice article, easily said but hard to do. That darn EGO!!! I’ve been caught by it a few times. But I’m getting better at taking more club.

  4. Tom Donnelly

    You left out one item I see all the time: Playing the wrong set of tees. Personally, I’m not very long off the tee, so I play the forward (usually red) tees whenever possible. However, I’m often grouped with golfers even shorter than me, playing from the back (blue) tees. That’s at least an extra shot per hole. I don’t know if it’s ego, ignorance or just that they want to make golf more challenging, but I see this more often than I can count.

  5. WOW, that fits me perfectly. I was a really good Golfer in my day, a long hitter, a low hcp of +4, played in a couple of Majors and a few PGA Tour events, and was in the Golf Business most of my life. Now I am just turning 80 and have had many physical problems including a bad stroke, but I still try. But, I am reluctant to play with what I need to play with and although I have bunch of clubs I choose to take out the Tour type and try to play like I used to and it adds up to a lot of multiple numbers. This year I am going to try to use what I should and play like I should and get rid of the high numbers, like it says,,,,, BE REAL and get out of the past.

  6. Not sure if it totally belongs here, but I would call “expecting too much the result of a shot” as another great reason. These are shots, where e.g. after great drive you mishit your simple PW to green, as you are so much looking forward seeing how you set up a birdie… Or on difficult shots, there is the magic magnetism of the most dangerous hazard (water, OB…), simply magnetism of the place you exactly do not want to hit into…
    When expecting too much from a shot, a bogey golfer like me usually gets stiffer in muscles, maybe messes up sequence of the moves e.g. by too fast takeaway, and nr one reason: very likely lifts his head way too early, just to see the poor result… (totally unlike the pros, who still look where the ball was, even when their club head is above waist…)… that is why an easy lay up at par 5 with 6 iron you make nearly always well, but so often you miss green with it…

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