Recovering From a Bad Start

By John Macgregor

Even if you do all that you can to prepare for your round of golf, sometimes the first tee shot or the first hole just doesn’t go your way.  Golfers put too much emphasis on the early part of their rounds, thinking these shots are a recoverytell-tale sound of how the whole day is going to go.  What normally happens is your disappointment and frustration with a few bad early shots turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy, and the rest of your round goes how you expect it to.

Another funny thing often happens.  After you play bad for several holes, you might “give up” and just get up to your shots and hit them quickly.  You really aren’t “giving up” but instead you are letting go of conscious control and finally trusting your body.  Normally when you do this, good things happen and you play well.

Focusing on Score

I’ve already stated how I hate score goals.  If you go into a round with a specific number in your head of what you are going to have to shoot to make it an enjoyable day, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.  A good example is using your handicap.  Most golfers establish a handicap and use it for friendly games with their playing partners.  If they do not play up to that number, they feel disappointed.  Well, your handicap is really the average of the best 25-30% of your rounds.  The other 75% of your rounds are not included and if they were would likely bring your handicap up to a higher number.  So why get disappointed that you aren’t playing in the top 10% of your capability each time?  It’s unrealistic.

Taking Things Hole-by-Hole

You have to treat each hole like it’s a separate game because it is.  What you did on hole one has no effect on your score on hole two.  You get a fresh start, so mentally start treating it as one.  I played a round last summer were I bogeyed the first hole, parred the second, and ended up birding six of the last seven to shoot 31.  I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I kept thinking back to the bogey on one.

The point is, you don’t know for certain you are going to have a bad round until you’ve made your last putt on 18 and tallied up your score.  Even if I bogey my first 15 holes, if I had a hole-in-one on no. 16 it would be one of the best golfing days of my life.  You just don’t know what’s going to come up during your round, so keep an open mind.

Focus on Learning

If you make every round a learning experience, you get away from the dependence on score.  Bad shots are great learning opportunities.  They are a chance to figure out what you did wrong so you can correct your mistake in the future.  If you take that perspective on your swing errors, you are going to have more fun.

Enjoy Yourself

Think of what else you could be doing if you weren’t on the golf course.  This is supposed to be a recreational activity away from work and other obligations.  Take a look around, enjoy the scenery and the camaraderie with friends.  This is a great way to focus on having a good time, helps you stay in the moment so you can focus on the process, and gets you out of your head thinking about only your score.


S² Tip

Treat each hole like it’s a separate game.  What you did on hole one has no effect on your score on hole two.

Success Story

Jimmy Walker began his PGA career with a forgettable 0-187 record. After his recent win at the Sony Open Walker has now won 2 of his last 6 events on the PGA Tour. Way to go Jimmy!

In Another’s Words…

“You swing your best when you have the fewest things to think about.”

– Bobby Jones