Golf is a funny game. Most golfers love hitting golf shots. It’s easy to experiment with all kinds of fun shots when practicing. People frequently talk about how they can hit lots of different great shots on the range and have trouble bringing it to the course. We try low shots and high shots. Hit fades and draws. Throw flop shots way up in the air around the green from tight lies or hit long bunkers shots without concern for screwing up. We hit short putts with confidence and don’t think twice about the come-back putt from long distances on the practice green.
However, we quickly let concern about a bad shot or a bad score get in the way of that same spirit when we’re on the golf course. This concern gets amplified when we’re playing in a tournament and it becomes easy to forget about the freedom and courage we have when practicing. If you want to play your best golf out on the course or in a big tournament, you must bring this love of hitting great golf shots with you. There are some simple ways to learn to love hitting great shots and forget about your score when you’re out on the golf course. Here are a few ways to bring that spirit with you on the course more often.
Decide Great Golf Shots Are a Major Goal
Golf makes it easy to get caught up in shooting a great score or winning a tournament. It’s a sport where your results are clear after each hole and every round. It’s hard not to focus on results, but this will generally get in the way of having that free and confident spirit that allows you to hit great shots on the range.
One of the simplest ways that I’ve improved my mental approach to the game over the years is to make great shots a major goal and simply enjoy the challenge of each new shot. I certainly want to shoot good scores and win matches and tournaments. I just make sure to remind myself that I can only hit one golf shot at a time and one of my major goals for any round of golf is to hit the best shots I can. You’ll hear the mantra one shot at a time over and over in the game of golf. That’s because it is the simplest way to express the best mindset possible.
If you can get yourself to the point where you decide that you’re just going to enjoy the challenge of hitting great golf shots, your scores will get better. You’ll often find yourself in the middle of the round and realize you’re not even sure exactly what your score is. If you can play a whole round of golf where you simply focus on great shots and write your score down without thinking about the score you are going to shoot, you will have taken a bit step towards playing the game with the best possible mindset.
Set Lofty Goals for Yourself and Ignore All Other Expectations
Young golfers, and athletes in general, can spend a lot of time thinking about everyone else’s expectations of them. If you’ve had some success, you might find yourself thinking about how important it is to your parents, family, friends, and coaches that you keep getting better. This is natural, but it’s not helpful. We all want to impress the important people in our life. You’re not making it easier to accomplish that by letting those thoughts creep into your mindset on the golf course. You might find yourself putting more pressure on a particular shot, round, or tournament as you think about all the people that have helped you grow and learn the game. If you want to keep a free spirit, take the time to set your own goals and set them as lofty as you want. Focus on these goals as the motivation for giving every shot your best and keeping a positive and optimistic attitude about your game. If you set higher standards and goals for yourself than anyone else, this will never be a problem. You will play the game and work hard because you love the challenge of chasing down those lofty goals.
Visualize and Fire
Slow play is a pervasive problem in the game today. It’s also at the heart of getting outside of the mindset that lets you freely and confidently hit each golf shot. If you find yourself taking more time over shots, you’ll likely let thoughts of your possible score or tournament position creep into your mind as well. Either that or you’ll be thinking of the things that can go wrong with that shot. Take the time to dial in a quick routine that allows you to visualize the shot you want to hit and gives you the confidence to step up and hit it quickly. Work hard to eliminate those parts of your pre-shot routine where you feel hesitation or delay. Those parts of the golf shot are where you’re likely to let doubt and uncertainty creep into your game.
One simple drill to help you play the game by feeling quickly is to put yourself on a timer. The next time you’re on the range, challenge yourself to hit shots in under five seconds. This means you stand behind the ball, visualize your shot, and then countdown from five seconds to make sure you address the ball and hit your shot quickly. You might not hit them great. You might surprise yourself with how well you hit the shots when you aren’t thinking about it. Either way, you’ll start to get a feel for taking a lot of the unnecessary thoughts out of each shot.
Play Rounds of Golf Without Keeping Score
The USGA might not endorse or agree with this advice. Give it a shot anyways. Play some rounds of golf without keeping score. Find interesting or challenging shots on your home course, drop a ball, and see how you do. Hit a few shots from places you’ve had trouble in the past. Hit enough practice putts on a green you’ve struggled to read correctly until you know exactly how it breaks. Obviously, you will have to play on a day or course when it’s not too busy or you might have to let a few groups play through.
This is one of the simplest ways to remind yourself that shooting a low score isn’t why you love golf. Being out on the golf course on a beautiful day and hitting fun shots is how most of us started with the game. There is something refreshing and nostalgic for me when I can just hit shots on a golf course without playing for a score. It also reminds me that an exact mindset is valuable for hitting great golf shots and frees you up to shoot great scores. This is one of the easiest ways for me to break through a slump and find that simple joy we all feel when we hit a pure golf shot.