There’s a fundamental question you need to ask yourself when you play golf. This is not the obvious question golf books / non golfers would suggest the questions you ask yourself are;
a. how much am I willing to spend on the game ? or
b. how much time am I willing to commit ?
Those aren’t real questions. Once you’ve got ‘the bug’ you know what the answer to those questions will be;
a. as much as I can afford get away with
b. see answer to a. above
No, the fundamental question to ask about golf is, “What do I want to get from a round of golf; enjoyment or getting the lowest score?”
How you answer this question will influence your whole approach to the game. I read a book from John Daly recently and his first chapter was all about… turning up early and practicing – the irony, I thought. However it made absolute sense though. If you are serious about getting the lowest score you can then you need to spend 20 minutes or so warming up. Otherwise you will lose 3 shots each round (a conservative estimate to me).
How many players in your club spend 2 minutes let alone 20 practicing before a round? Stretching and taking 3 swings with a 5 iron don’t really count.
If you want to play golf for fun then don’t leave the house until 5 minutes before your tee time. Or, stay in the bar until someone comes in to tell you your playing partners have teed off. However, don’t be surprised when you come in with another 100+ round.
It may well not be as straightforward as that though. You, like me, may well feel that you really want to score as low as you can because that’s where the fun is. That’s the challenge. So we may occasionally get to the club a few minutes early and have a quick half-hearted putt before we stroll to the first tee.
Part of the problem is not a big deal but just requires some thought and a little courage. In psychology / management jargon it’s about making a choice – Do you want to look good? Or do you want to get the job done?
A classic example of ‘looking good’ instead of ‘getting the job done’ crops up when you are 3 feet short of the green. How do you deal with shots just off the green. Do you, like me, sometimes choose a pitching wedge from 6 feet wide of the green rather than use a putter? I know a putter will get me closer on 8 out of 10 occasions yet somehow it doesn’t feel right. I feel that I should use a wedge. There’s a pressure on me, a macho, male thing about having to copy the professionals. I can see it in the faces of most of my playing partners – they all feel the same. They’d rather lose a hole going for that ‘tiny gap between the trees and fading it around the corner’ shot than adopt the sensible ‘just chip it back on the fairway’ route. This isn’t everyone – just most of them. The one that doesn’t do this plays off scratch. Perhaps there’s a lesson there.
Ironically the main problem comes when I’ve hit the best drive of my life on the shortish par 5 7th. I know now that I should hit a nice iron, chip over the pond and have a putt for a birdie.
However…. there are demons in my head saying;
“Go on, get a 3 wood and go for it.”, “When will you ever get the chance of doing this again?”, “Go on – wimp.”
So I do and it goes in the pond, I duff the chip, 3 putt and hit driver off every tee thereafter and come in at double figures over my handicap.
So are you saying be boring and don’t take any risks?
Well not really – I’m advocating take a sensible risk and don’t sulk if it goes wrong and don’t carry on taking risks if it works… if you’re committed to getting the best score you can. If you committed to having fun then, in the words of the enigma that is John Daly, “Grip it and rip it.”
However if you are committed to getting a lower score, as I am, then perhaps the next time I’m on the edge of a par 4 in 2 I’m going to reach for a putter, lag it up and tap in for a par……. well, maybe as long as none of my regular playing partners are watching.