Ever wonder why your game seems in the zone on some days and you can’t hit the broad side of a barn the next? Playing to our potential every time out would be wonderful, but as human beings is profoundly difficult. From the number one player in the world down to the weekend 35-handicapper, we all fight the battle to elevate our consistency. Here’s how to improve yours.
First, consider the old axiom that says, “If you can’t putt, you can’t score but if you can’t drive it, you can’t play.” I’ve found this to be true to the extent that my most satisfying rounds are when my ball striking is on. As a 5-handicap, a round in the low 70s is good and I’d rather shoot 72 and hit 15 greens with a bunch of two-putts than shoot 72 with 8 greens and have to scramble all day. Good ball striking allows you to relax your mind and puts less pressure on your short game. To give yourself the best chance of having a good ball striking day, adopt this thought: “Hit the shot you know you can hit, not the one you should be able to hit.” I learned this from Dr. Bob Rotella, and found that the quicker the player can figure out that good scoring is driven by confidence and is not necessarily related to massaging one’s ego, the faster they will enjoy sustained consistency. Yes, this is about managing the Driver, and admittedly is difficult because most players love to bomb long drives, but I’ve found that on days where I warm up and struggle with my driver, it’s best to leave it in the bag for the whole round and tee off with a club I know I can put in the fairway. When I first implemented this strategy, I noticed my scores improved most on my bad ball striking days because I wasn’t trying to swing for the fences, or go after the sucker pins, or try the miraculous recoveries. The importance of getting the ball in play is paramount to playing with confidence and nothing will crush your ball striking confidence faster than hitting a driver into trouble on the first couple of tee shots. To affirm, take a quick mental inventory of your last bad round and I’ll bet that most of your trouble began with wayward drives.
Second, take care to not over analyze your swing while on the course. Too many players tie themselves in knots trying to manipulate and contort their bodies with countless swing mechanics. This only builds tension and is counter-productive. Use one swing thought at a time and it should be as free from mechanics as possible. Anything to promote rhythm or good tempo is best. A thought like, “Target – Tempo” is perfect. When I’m playing my best, I notice course management thoughts are in the front of my mind rather than my swing.
Finally, practice your full game the day before you play and make sure you dedicate plenty of time simulating game conditions. Nothing prepares your mind and body better than making an easy transition from practice to play.