by Frank Peter
The never-ending quest for a lower score is the very reason every golfer practices so vehemently for hours on end in all conditions. A lower score isn't a simple task, but there are three very simple rules to follow to ensure a better chance at your best score.
The Three Steps
1. Play the shot you're given, not the one you want.
First, understand that you're not Tiger, Ernie, Vijay or Retief. An honest appraisal of your situation and ability will help you decide the right shot and the club needed to play it. Forget what everyone else is doing; this is YOU. If your buddy is hitting an 8-iron from 160 yards and you need a 6, then hit the 6-iron. Ask yourself if you'd rather lower your score or stroke your ego.
If you answered the former, then put yourself in the best position. You don't need to hit an 8-iron just because everyone else is doing it.
You will begin to get the prized lower scores when you start playing the BEST shot and not the one you're aching to play. Sometimes they are the same shot; most often they are not.
Play the percentages: Think about your real chance at nailing the risky low-percentage shot. Consider how many times you got into trouble by playing this shot. Imagine the strokes you can remove from your round by letting your head rule your heart and your ego.
How many times have you said to yourself, "I'm going to 'go for it'"? And how often has this added two more strokes to your hole. On a long shot, it may be best to lay-up and take the bogey, and save yourself a stroke.
Try to play within yourself. Know your abilities as they stand RIGHT NOW and forget how good you're going to be a year from now. Improved play will come if you don't force it. The less you force, the faster it will happen.
2. Keep it simple: Process vs. Outcome
Simplify your round of golf by always focusing on process versus outcome. Never mind what you can't control: think about what you can control. Consider your breathing, rhythm, your set-up and swing. Watch your pace between shots and visualize every shot before you attempt it. These are the processes that determine your success.
You can control these things. What you CAN'T control are variables such as the weather, course condition, course layout and playing partners' attitudes.
Reflect back on all the times you focused on outcomes, like when you thought you just had to break 90. You probably didn't. Your head was too full of what you were going to accomplish and not how you were going to accomplish it.
Remind yourself that all the information you need to make the right choice about which club to choose and which shot to hit is laid out for you, if you just pay attention. Study the course design and its obstructions and you will know exactly where to go and where NOT to go. Focus on WHERE to go. And understand that the most perfect shot is the one that's best suited to your current ability.
Also remember the "fairways and greens" concept and play within those parameters - meaning ALWAYS stay on the fairways and greens. This applies to those with a 30, 15 or 5 handicap. Deep inside, you know that you can't 'outsmart' the course. No one ever has, except Tiger or Jack, and then only on rare occasion.
3. Practice Your Short Game
Think about all the pros that lost a tournament when they got to the green in one or two shots but simply couldn't get the ball in the hole from there. Everyone likes to go to the range and hit a buck of balls, and admire them fly. But many players badly neglect the short game.
The next time you golf take a look at your partners and how many strokes they lose because of poor chipping, pitching and putting. Then think about how much better you could score if you did even a slightly better job - even if you can't drive the ball as far.
It's important to spend as much or more time chipping, pitching and putting as you do driving the ball. As you know, the idea is to get the ball closer to the hole with each shot. You will do this far more efficiently by improving your short game. You will also build confidence in making tough shots, plus those easy ones that are far too often missed.
The greatest players spend hours on their short game because they understand that hole after hole is lost as the shots add up on or leading up to the green.
The short game is a huge weakness in many semi-pro golfers and it's the very reason they haven't graduated to a higher circuit. While they are busy admiring their long game, they are building strokes on the short game.