The mental part of this game is killing me. I play almost every day, usually alone, or occasionally with someone I meet on the course. On my home course I'm relaxed and my game has been progressing nicely. However, once a week I play with a group of friends on various courses around the area and its always a challenge for me ... duffed tee shots, bad iron shots and poor puts. Its really embarrassing! I know I'm a much better player than that. On a normal day I will shoot 4 or 5 over par per 9 holes. With my buddies I struggle to shoot bogie golf (typically more like 10-12 over in 9 holes). I'm so frustrated. Anyone else deal with this??
Mental Block is ruining my game
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I'm a much worse golfer than you at this point, but I experienced the same thing over the last month or so.
Went golfing about 2 months ago with 3 buddies for the first round I'd played in over 2 years. Predictably, I stunk it up. - 151. Yes, that's a golf score.
Got a pro lesson, some new sticks, and started hitting the range or playing either solo, or with my one buddy. Scores dropped considerably. Mid-High 50's for 9, and a 128 for a round of 18 with my one buddy.
I'm thinking, 'I got this! I'll be competitive next time we all get together as a group!'...
All the while, I'm trying to get my buddies out for another group round. How am I doing that? I'm talking about how much better I'm scoring, and how much I like the improvements to my swing, and how much I am enjoying getting into the sport. And I mean, talking about it A LOT.
We all go out finally, and I can't hit a tee shot AT ALL. I mean, haven't shanked them like this.. truly? EVER. And boy am I upset out there. The anger is flowing. Scarcely contained.
Shot a 154. Yes, that is also a golf score. WORSE than before I dove head first into golf again. Worse after getting a pro lesson. Worse after some new game IMPROVEMENT irons... I couldn't understand it.
Well, it turns out I put too much pressure on myself to perform against, and in front of my friends. I tried too hard to prove that I was better than I had been, and possibly better than a couple of them. (They hadn't been practicing at all!)
The main thing, besides being angry about my poor shots was embarrassment. I felt sheepish and ashamed after talking up my game so much about how bad I had played. And I couldn't let it go on the course. It totally snowballed.
Well. I know this all now. I think I can defeat this by simply remembering to make good shots, pay attention, and most of all, to just relax and have fun. It really is only a game.
Good luck to you!
(BTW, I played with a stranger, 2 days after my meltdown, and shot a 126. My new personal best!)
My golfing setup is super consistent. I golf pretty much every weekend with one good buddy and sometimes a few random other friends/acquaintances whom I don't care about as far as what they think of my golfing. So I don't run into this problem much.
But once or twice a year I get to golf with my two brothers, both of whom I'm solidly better than. I always go in wanting to show off how much better I've gotten in the past 6-12 months, and though I'm better enough than them that I still always beat them in raw score, I'd bet a ton of money that I've never beaten them in net score (if they had handicaps). I always play worse than average with them.
It's just because of the pressure you put on yourself to perform. You get tight, swing too hard, or just get way out of rhythm with the nerves and tightness.
I've been thinking about this and next time I play with my brothers I'm going to: 1) leave the driver in the bag the first couple holes at least, and 2) honestly try to play everything 10 yards short. My plan is to assess each shot, decide what my normal club would be, and club up at least for the first couple holes. If I'm sitting over a 195 yard shot and I pull out my 4i instead of my 5i, I know I can't really go after it or I'll be f-ed. If I smooth things out and actually hit it extra far right over my target cause it was so smooth and easy, then WTF, I feel much better about that then having taken a 5i and yanked out early trying to smash it and be all impressive and hitting a stinger push slice into the trees.
Thanks for the replies guys. I knew I was not the only one dealing with this and it is nice to hear others go thru the same issues. I know its primarily about me trying too hard, and I know that the only real competition is between me and the course (and between me and my self), and to really play better anytime is reliant on me being relaxed and just let it happen ... just wish it wasn't so much easier said than done.
In my opinion, the toughest part about this game is being able to develop a swing (and more imporantly, a mindset), that can stand up under pressure. I will tell you that in my experience, no amount of range work or practice can teach you that. You have to throw yourself into the fire and learn - often painfully - by playing in as many uncomfortable situations as you can.
I went through the same thing as you earlier this year. After a few years of practice, I had become a regular "driving range pro." If you saw me hit a bucket of balls, you might think I was a mid single digit handicap.My swing was pretty well grooved with the pressure off. I could even shoot a few mid-high 70's rounds, usually in low pressure matches with my buddies. But when the men's club events came around, I would collapse like a folding lawn chair. My swing would disappear, I'd miss 3 footers, and I would completely dread the prospect of any shot that require a semblance of touch. I think I had a stretch where I shot a net 80 or higher in 3 out of 4 monthly tournaments. It was miserable, and it made me seriously contemplate quitting semi-competitive golf. But I stuck with it, kept "grinding," as it were, and my scores and my mindset have begun to follow.
Aside from the generic "stick with it" advice, there are a few specific things I think you can do to improve your results in uncomfortable situations.
- Develop a pre-shot routine. Find a sequence that feels comfortable to you and really dedicate yourself to it. I recommend spending a few range sessions where your primary concern is nothing more then ingraining that pre-shot sequency into your muscle memory. Then, when you are playing that next casual round on your home course, make sure you follow through with it on every single shot. I didn't realize how important this was until I started developing a routine of my own. It's amazing how our bodies have a tendency to rush or tense up during times of pressure and a consistent routine will mitigate a lot of that.
- Focus on your grip. Seems simple right? It's the first chapter of Hogan's book for crying out loud! Again, it wasn't until a few months ago that I realized that my "comfort zone" grip featured a horribly weak right hand that had my right palm almost facing the ground. Sure, I'd had lessons before and accepted the corrections that my pro had suggested. But I had always reverted back to my comfortable grip a few weeks later. This was fine in low pressure situations. I could usually compensate in other ways enough to hit a ball that generally went pretty straight. But when I got into a pressure situation?? All bets were off. During some of these tournament rounds, I pulled shots out of my @$$ that you wouldn't believe I was capable of if you had watched me on the range. Not to quote Hank Haney, but I think the biggest fear most players have during tight spots is the "big miss." The snap hook, banana slice, etc. that leaves you open to double bogey or worse. For me personally, once I finally corrected my grip, that "big miss" fear dissapated almost entirely. Sure, I may miss a handful of fairways still, but my misses will be playable if my grip is correct (this does assume a fundamentally sound swing, but should be generally applicable). This takes a ton of the fear out of pressure situations.
Sorry to get long winded, this has definitely been an area of concern for me in the past, thanks for letting me ramble!
You're probably trying to kill it and outdistance the other guys, even without realizing it, probably over swinging and it's wreaking havoc on your game. Funny things happen when guys get together, the naturally tendency is to to think that the longest ball is better even if no one even says it. Work on slowing down, shortening your backswing, swinging easy, and most importantly convincing yourself that the best shot is NOT the longest, but the one that leaves you in the best position for your next shot. Like mdl said above, club up. If someone makes fun of your club selection, ignore it. Basically try to ignore every shred of machismo that threatens to derail your swing and play the smart game you are used to when you are by yourself.
Boyder, I am in the same boat. I have worked very hard on my game and have finally been able to achive some good scores. However, whenever I play with certain buddies or on certain courses I get very tense and try to "push" my game. One of the best rounds I had this year (the one where I finally broke 100) was with a friend who made the comment the whole round "this is the most relaxed I have seen you all year." The entire round I was "in the zone" and played with a high level of confidence without a care of what the score was or how well I did. Since then I have began struggling somewhat with maintaining that confidence level. While I did also beat my personal best at another course last week I was easily distracted, kept trying to kill the ball and make "perfect" shots. I only finished well because my putting and some good recovery shots saved me but I also know I did not play my best.
One of the best things I can recommend is to read the books "Golf Is Not A Game of Perfect" and "Your 15th Club," both by Dr. Bob Rotella. These two books have been the greatest factor in my golf game improvement this year and not only have completely revamped my mental game but have made the game more enjoyable to me.