Practise as if you’ll be at your worst

At the risk of giving vague advice without really saying anything I will make this post.

Looking at some of the hopeful golf all-stars of the last 20 years, there’s a pattern where they show extreme potential, but only to have some external factor take them out of the fight. Often a minor injury or personal problem will completely disrupt a golfer’s chances for many years. Where a tenth of an inch in set-up can lead to a 50 yard difference in aim or distance, what should be an inconvenient distraction can ruin a career.

But, it’s not like the golfers that did become the greatest were without these tragedies and injuries. And it’s not just that they were so much better that even their second best was enough to win tournaments. Yes, it’s mostly that. But, what I think is a major factor, and is a factor that leads to effective advice that can be utilized by average-joes as opposed to just “score better by practising more”, is that you should have practised so that you can play despite your problems.

Are you tired, are you distracted, are you stressed? These are things that can take you out of your groove, but they shouldn’t be things that make you a terrible golfer.

For most of my life, when I practised at the driving range, I would go out, try to get into a groove, get into that groove, and then just contentedly hit sweet shot after sweet shot. I’d leave, say to myself, I hit 95% of those last 40 balls really really well, I’m gonna kill it on the course. Of course, that groove would never be seen again.

Practise so that you have something to fall back to when things aren’t going your way. This means, 1. Consciously make note of what you are doing when you are doing it right, write it down even. How long and slow is your backswing? Exactly what is that distance from the ball in your stance? 2. Associate that rhythm or note with something like a lyric or a word, something you can fall back to when you’re not able to intuitively find a groove. 3. Keep it simple. Create a minimum viable golf swing. On the course, you’ll be able to take it slow and build on it. 4. Practise falling apart. Get good at returning to the groove quickly. On the range, switch up your clubs regularly. Distract yourself, then take a second to note what the distraction did to your next shot. Take note of your stance, try to intuitively get back to that stance after an interruption. By how far were you off? Be prepared to not need a groove to play. That first shot of the year? Don’t let yourself take a mulligan on it. Demand something decent.