How can you stop your short game ruining your score?

You have the power to control the destiny of your short game. By doing so, the outcomes might just change for the better   

Think about when you play golf and you are very score focused. You want to make lots of pars and some birdies and above all, avoid bogeys and doubles. That is your focus. To get back into the clubhouse with a ‘good score’. The problem is we are focused on the score but can we control it? If we hit a perfect putt on the perfect line at the perfect pace, does it always go in the hole? If we hit a perfect drive and the ball bounces left instead of to the right, we have missed the fairway and the ball sits nestled in some thick rough.  

We can, of course, heavily influence the score by our actions but can we control it? 

When you look at the concept of perceived control, you can see all the dangers from a mental game perspective of focusing heavily on something we have very little control over. No wonder we have such high levels of anxiety throughout the game of golf. The key question going forward is, do you want to remain an anxious flyer or become a much calmer driver? 

We remember hearing a story about the great marathon runner and former world record holder, Paula Radcliffe, which gives us a hint at what we could potentially pursue as a point to focus our attention on in a more productive way than being hamstrung by a score focus. 

Clearly the ‘score’ in marathon running is your time and one of the biggest factors in such a long race is your ability to deal with discomfort. The phrase we have all heard is ‘hitting the wall’. The moment in the race when you seem to have more miles left than energy. So often it is as much a mental battle as it is a physical challenge. 

At those crucial points in the race when it would be all too easy to focus on time and how many miles were still left, Radcliffe had a mental trick up her sleeve.  

When the wall approached her, she would simply ask herself: ‘Can I count the next 20 breaths?’ The answer of course being yes.  

She had a point of focus she could control. A place to rest her mind as she got on with the job of running the race. Yes, I can focus on my breath. Yes, I can count the next 20 breaths. Suddenly a place where she did have control now became her immediate sanctuary to go to. Of course, the beauty of this profoundly simple, but immensely clever, trick was at the completion of each set of ‘breaths’ she would be significantly nearer to the finish line. 

She occupied her mind in a place giving her perceived control over a very challenging situation. She chose to place her mind and her attention somewhere useful. You can be liberated from the tyranny of score thinking by a similar process. 

Taken from The Lost Art of the Short Game by Gary Nicol and Karl Morris – with a foreword from Bob Vokey, the godfather of wedges.

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