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The Big Number

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iacas

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I attended the Division III ECAC championship this past weekend.

And I saw a lot of quadruple bogeys. On a relatively wide open golf course. It made no sense to me. None.

This golf course was not that difficult, and the vast majority of the big scores were from two simple errors:

  1. Being far too aggressive at the wrong times.
  2. Making utterly horrible swings.

For the first, I mean stuff like this: you hit the ball in a fairway bunker, and have a 4-iron left to the green. Rather than hitting it out short and left where there's 80 yards of space and taking your chances on pitching it up on the green, I watched a player flare one right into some tall grass from which he couldn't find his ball. So, he replayed the shot… and did almost the same exact thing. He found his ball, played out short and left (throwing milkweed pods everywhere), pitched on, and two-putted.

For the second, I'm just talking about shots that are so horrible they don't even really have names. You can't do anything but stare at them as they sail 40° right, or pull-hook so violently you turn around in case it boomerangs back at you. Just get rid of those shots. Where do they even come from? How does a guy who can shoot 75 one day hit three of those shots the next day? I have no idea, but if you occasionally hit one, figure out what causes it and eliminate it immediately. You can't avoid Black Death and you can't avoid penalty strokes if you have a big miss that creeps up into your play now and then. On that point, Hank Haney is right.

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How does a guy who can shoot 75 one day hit three of those shots the next day? I have no idea, but if you occasionally hit one, figure out what causes it and eliminate it immediately. You can't avoid Black Death and you can't avoid penalty strokes if you have a big miss that creeps up into your play now and then.

I can't shoot 75, but I know this lesson very well. I guess the people who can play at that level with these kinds of misses just learn how to score well despite their swing flaws.

I suppose I should consider myself lucky that I've never been good at this game, or else I never would have embarked on an epic journey of swing improvement :-)

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For me it's a combination of lack of discipline, unrealistic self assessment, desperation and poor execution.  I'm no where near shooting a 75 but I make mistakes that are equivalent at my level.

I hit a bad shot and leave myself in a position where I have 2 options, 1) the safe play will cost me a stroke but leave me in good position to bogey the hole and 2)  the "hero" shot that allow me to par or even birdie the hole.  The "hero" shot is one I'll pull off 25% of the time, but for some reason when I'm in the position I forget that I only pull it off 25% of the time and instead remind myself of the times I've made it.  I'm usually faced with these shots when I'm not playing my best and trying to save the round.  As I stand over the ball I forget the reason I'm in this place to begin with is I hit a bad shot off a tee or good lie and messed up and I'm more likely to mess up this shot. 

Usually as soon as I hit the ball I know the results aren't going to be good and I mentally kick myself in the ass because I knew the right play and somehow convinced myself that I was Phil Mickelson and could actually hit this shot the way I envisioned it.

I take solace in that the pros do this as well sometimes.  We see the great saves that Phil and Bubba hit to win tournaments but we will never know how many pros cost themselves money because they went with the low percentage "hero" shot versus the safe play.

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Being far too aggressive at the wrong times.

Right, take your medicine, hit a smart, solid shot where you have a really good chance to get the next shot on the green. Bogeys don't destroy rounds.

Making utterly horrible swings.

Yeah don't do this ;-)

I think if golfers do a good job of prioritizing their faults they'll see less and less of these big misses.

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Do D3 golf tournaments allow players to have caddies? If so, why wouldn't the school hire 5 (or whatever the team is comprised of) decent coaches who know their player's strengths/weaknesses to caddie for each? Is that against the rules, too expensive, or just a bad idea for some other reason?

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Do D3 golf tournaments allow players to have caddies?

No, plus it would be far too expensive anyway. I imagine a few D1 schools "could" do this, but I don't think anyone at the collegiate level can have caddies in collegiate events. Obviously if they're competing in USGA events or something, they can.

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Common sense golf, I am a practitioner.

Wasn't always but I learned a lot from tracking stats. I know that even on my good days a certain amount of bogeys are going to come. My goal is make sure it;s just that if I get into trouble. All about being patient because the better scores will be there as well.

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Bogeys don't destroy rounds.

Totally on the money.

HOWEVER, from the perspective of a crappy amateur golfer, I can say that it's often looked at a little differently when your handicap isn't 0 or 1 or 2.  Birdies are few and far between for most all of us, so every bogey is a "guaranteed lost shot."  We're almost never getting it back in the form of a birdie or better and that makes it a lot easier to tempt yourself into trying something a little too risky on occasion.

I've gotten a lot better in the last few years at being more of a David Simms and less of a Roy McAvoy but it took playing in tournaments to realize it.  Tournaments forced me to look at a number other than "the best I can do today" as my goal for each round.  After a couple of tournaments with a double or triple bogey that unnecessarily cost me some money, I wised up and started laying a lot smarter and more conservative. :)

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HOWEVER, from the perspective of a crappy amateur golfer, I can say that it's often looked at a little differently when your handicap isn't 0 or 1 or 2.  Birdies are few and far between for most all of us, so every bogey is a "guaranteed lost shot."  We're almost never getting it back in the form of a birdie or better and that makes it a lot easier to tempt yourself into trying something a little too risky on occasion.

Interesting perspective. Yeah then you have to be more careful not to make silly mistakes if you can't "get one back".

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Interesting perspective. Yeah then you have to be more careful not to make silly mistakes if you can't "get one back".

Oh, absolutely.  It's even more imperative for us that we avoid big numbers.  I believe that this topic goes hand-in-hand with Erik's "Stop Conning Yourself" thread because the problem surfaces in the moment when our thought process isn't "what happens if I mess up this hero shot?" but rather something more along the lines of "Oh, I can totally hit this shot."

And, often times, the cycle repeats because we really don't want to concede a double bogey when there is still a 0.1% chance of salvaging a bogey, etc, etc, etc. :-P

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My biggest number is always the number of beers I consume during a round.

If my score on a bad hole exceeds my beers per round, I'll practice harder, or perhaps increase my drinking. 

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Not sure if you have kids of HS or college age, Erik.  I can attest having been around both, (have 2 sons) kids don't think like adults and they certainly don't listen to dad, coaches, other adults or authority figures either!

I followed my best friend and his son around an Ohio HS sectional golf tournament at CC of Hudson.  This young man, a HS senior at the time, took risks his dad and I would NEVER consider on a golf course.  230 yard second shot around the corner with nothing but 100' tall oak trees and the kid pulls a 3-iron and murders one from the fairway.  His dad couldn't even watch the shot.  Green side bunker his son ALMOST holed for eagle then 2-putted for par.

Kids that age just don't have a conservative bone in their bodies. They understand the reward side of their actions more than the risk and will always choose reward.  I didn't get it while my boys were going through it, but I certainly understand it now. And don't question them about it, they won't listen and will likely do the same thing the next, next and  the next time, too.

The OTHER thing I know is that those kids you saw doing dumb and bad things?  They don't care.  The reward was far greater than the risk of a bad score on one hole.  Kid makes an 8, he just moves on.  They don't dwell on things and certainly don't let it bother them.

One more reality:  My son's team lost a HS playoff football game to a team they should have beaten. Just one of those games where nobody showed up ready to play well on my son's team.  Him included.  My wife says, "Oh boy, Blake is going to be devastated."  He comes home with two friends, they go downstairs with a bunch of food and play video games.  Game's over.  No sense crying over spilled milk.  They just move on.  And quickly.  Personally, I really love the disposition of kids today and wish I worried less about outcome and more about the moment!

We can all learn something by hanging around 16-25 year old kids!

dave

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"I have no idea, but if you occasionally hit one, figure out what causes it and eliminate it immediately."

Didn't realize it's that simple.

Heh....

One of my golf partners says I play like a 2 hcp on some holes and a 22 on others. 

My only answer is that if this kind of error is common for you - meaning, the unexplained shot sailing 40 degrees offline or hitting 4 inches behind the ball or whatever - it is highly likely there is a purely mental component to your problem.

My best score this year was a 74, shot on a 71-ish rating / 120s-slope course. I only made one putt longer than 4 feet the entire day....I think I hit 13 or 14 greens. I had three other rounds that were similar but where I didn't score as well, usually from poor putting or chipping. My point is, I am capable of fairly high level ball striking. But I don't routinely break 80, because I have far too many of these stupid shots.

I commit mental errors as often as I do physical ones, even when I set out before the round not to do so. 

I wish I had an answer....my plan is to work intensively on decision making and figure out why I so often choose unwisely, even when armed with LSW knowledge. Regarding the inexplicable crappy shots, I believe this is a comfort zone/confidence issue, and I made lots of strides in this area this season, although there is work to be done. In prior years, I never could get through an entire round without a couple of these shots...this year I managed to do it at least a few times. I did it by trying very hard to eliminate mental "noise" when swinging....to just trust my body and not think of any swing thoughts. I think like anything new you learn, it is more easily accomplished when there is no pressure or expectation, so as the pressure goes up its harder for me to achieve. It takes lots of successful "reps" at a given level of pressure before you can expect to see good results at that level. I'm hoping to get there next season.  

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Totally on the money.

HOWEVER, from the perspective of a crappy amateur golfer, I can say that it's often looked at a little differently when your handicap isn't 0 or 1 or 2.  Birdies are few and far between for most all of us, so every bogey is a "guaranteed lost shot."  We're almost never getting it back in the form of a birdie or better and that makes it a lot easier to tempt yourself into trying something a little too risky on occasion.

I've gotten a lot better in the last few years at being more of a David Simms and less of a Roy McAvoy but it took playing in tournaments to realize it.  Tournaments forced me to look at a number other than "the best I can do today" as my goal for each round.  After a couple of tournaments with a double or triple bogey that unnecessarily cost me some money, I wised up and started laying a lot smarter and more conservative. :)

And here I was thinking that you were talking about golf............................................;-)

 

Edited by chris3putt

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Not sure if you have kids of HS or college age, Erik.  I can attest having been around both, (have 2 sons) kids don't think like adults and they certainly don't listen to dad, coaches, other adults or authority figures either!

They're college kids, as I said, and they listen just fine. I'm not necessarily talking about my college kids.

I followed my best friend and his son around an Ohio HS sectional golf tournament at CC of Hudson.  This young man, a HS senior at the time, took risks his dad and I would NEVER consider on a golf course.  230 yard second shot around the corner with nothing but 100' tall oak trees and the kid pulls a 3-iron and murders one from the fairway.  His dad couldn't even watch the shot.  Green side bunker his son ALMOST holed for eagle then 2-putted for par.

That was likely the right play there.

The OTHER thing I know is that those kids you saw doing dumb and bad things?  They don't care.  The reward was far greater than the risk of a bad score on one hole.  Kid makes an 8, he just moves on.  They don't dwell on things and certainly don't let it bother them.

That's not my experience at all. They care. They care about every bogey let alone every double or triple. It kills them. It eats at them days later. Weeks later.

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On a more recreational note - recently I was paired with a guy who hit a horrific shot OB off the tee. When I asked him if he was going to take a mulligan he said: "No I never take mulligans. I would just hit exactly the same shot again". That seemed like a really smart answer to me. If I had a nickel for every mulligan I've seen that was exactly the same as the first shot.

Edited by JazzFatCat

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I'm sort of known amongst my group as the steady guy, I don't often make big numbers.  Having said that, I've posted 3 triples and a quad in my last 3 rounds.  So,  even though I think I play smart, those holes can happen at any time but I must say I'm a little disturbed by this trend.

I think the key for me is that I'm typically happy with bogies so I have no problem taking my medicine and playing for one if I find myself in trouble.  I celebrate bogey-saving putts in the same way pros appreciate the par savers.  So, for me, it's being comfortable making bogies cuz the pars will come, notwithstanding my recent ills, which baffle and anger me.

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