Scoring when you don’t have your best stuff

Being a scratch player, to me, means being able to score well when you’re not playing particularly well.  When some part of your game is off it takes guts to grind out a good score.

My scores in the last 3 rounds have been about 10 strokes over my course handicap.  Ouch.  Now, I am working on some swing changes so that takes time and patience before it translates onto the course.  But it is difficult to know you can shoot a 78 and end up with and 87.  It’s tough when you can feel the round slipping away but you don’t know how to get it back on track.

Today I feel I learned something important.  Throughout the round I did not feel like I had my best stuff.  My ball striking was off and I wasn’t sure where the ball was going to go.  I had a slow start 3 over par for the first 5 holes.  But I finished strong going 3 over par over the next 15 holes.  I really had to grind on each shot.  I only hit 7 greens in regulation, 4 fairways, but I only needed 26 putts.

What were the keys to this round?

1. Staying patient

2. Vividly visualizing

3. Staying within my capabilities

1. Staying patient

For me this was probably the most difficult thing to do.  It was very frustrating to hit those early misses.  I had some of the worst ball striking I’ve had in a while.  I also had to rein in the feeling that the round was getting away from me.  I reminded myself that this was really early in the round and to just try and play comfortable, and not go for too much.

2. Vividly Visualizing

I think this was a major key.  Normally I pick out a target and I think about what I want the ball to do, then I do a slow half-swing emphasizing the movement I want to feel.  Today I did something different.

I would walk up to the ball, and from behind vividly imagine the flight path.  I would see the ball take off a roughly the same speed that an actual shot would, but I would see it leave a bit of trail (sort of like the tail of a comet) as it headed to the hole.  From this point of view of looking at the ball from behind it I would also see me taking the swing that would hit the shot.  Sort of like watching a preview of it.  I had never really done this before this way.  I also would not address the ball until I had really clear visualization.  Then once the visualization was really clear and I addressed the ball, it sort of felt like stepping into the shot that I saw.  I would address the ball, see the path again and swing.  Once I started to do this it was amazing how many shots actually took the path that I visualized.  Obviously not every shot did, but it was amazing to me how many actually did what I saw in my minds eye.

3. Staying within my capabilities

Although it was tempting to hit the “hero” shot, I did my best to stay within shots I knew I could pull off.  When I was chipping or pitching instead of really trying to get it to the hole I gave myself slightly bigger margin for error.  I think this took some pressure off me, and the pitches and chips came off really well, on a number of holes I was left with easy tap ins for par this way.

Although my ball striking was not where I wanted it to be, I was happy with the score at the end and I felt that I am on my way to being a scorer and a scratch player.

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