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Staying mentally in the game as a Mid-High Handicap


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Hey Friends, 

I’m very new to the community as well as a renewed love for golf. I’m asking for some good ways to stay sharp and have a better time playing the game. Honestly, I don’t go a round without having a complete meltdown and have very hard time getting back in control. It’s the difference between shooting 80-85 and 90. Any tips to stay focused and keep my heart rate down during high pressure shots would greatly be appreciated.

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As a higher handicapper I also have a couple (or maybe more) of real meltdowns per round. As I review the 'meltdown' hole it's generally due to one or all of the following: lack of my normal preshot routine, taking chances that deep down I know I can't achieve, or just going through the motions. On the latter - not sure if this quote came from PIA/Marriot's books or another - "every shot counts". I have that quote displayed on my 'cheat sheet'. It's a constant reminder for me.


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I think this is a fascinating topic - thanks for bringing it up.

 

Age has become a real factor in focus for me.  Since getting into better physical shape and working out I've regained the lost distance that I thought had accounted for my poor play (handicap index moving from .8 to over 8 in the past six years).  I certainly have recaptured some of that loss - down to below 5 - but not all of it because I lack consistency. 

 

While that appears to be physical errors they are really mental - I "forget" some basic swing mechanics - things that I've learned to set up through pre-swing thoughts and then my grip starts to tighten and instead of just going back to those basics I tighten up my grip and the next thing you know I'm having stretches of doubles and triples so that I might have a sequence of scores like this - 76,75,87,84,83,70,78 - its almost all a matter of focus when those higher scores appear. 

 

In the past I learned to conquer the lack of focus by consciously slowing everything down - doing that made me a very consistent golfer and a tough competitor in tournament play - Now when I say slow down I don't mean slow play I mean internally, mentally, making sure that every step pre round had a purpose and while playing locking in for the minute or so that it would take to pull a club out of the bag, visualize, set up, hit execute a shot and then wind down to relax for whatever came next.

 

I don't know if that last paragraph helps - it took me a while to develop that attitude but once I did it worked well for me.

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Taylor Made Sim2  10.5 (Opened 1 click) Ventus Blue 5  R flex

Ping G410 5-9 wood  Alta 65 R flex

Wilson D7 forged 6-GW -  Mamiya recoil 460 R flex

Edison Wedges 54 and 59 KBS Tour Graphite 80's

EVNRoll ER 5

Titleist Pro VIx optic yellow with revkev stamped on them

Tour Exotics 3 wood is in the bag because we are allowed 14 clubs.  It's a great club for pulling balls out of the water or from bushes - you never want to put your hand into anything in Florida unless you are absolutely certain that it's safe.  There are rare wind conditions when I might hit it off the tee on a few holes that I play.  

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13 minutes ago, revkev said:

while playing locking in for the minute or so that it would take to pull a club out of the bag, visualize, set up, hit execute a shot and then wind down to relax for whatever came next.

Really like this comment from the Rev.

One thing that has helped made a difference for me this league season was putting together a strategy card for the course prior to the round. Our league plays a lot of different courses so there are a lot of new venues when we play. I spent some time, usually about an hour or so, with the course scorecard and Google Maps (any satellite map should work), looking at the layout of each hole, analyzing distances and landing areas, and mapping out a plan of attack for each hole. I select a tee club based on the landing areas, distance, and accounting for my normal misses, then mark down what I expect the remaining yardage to be and probable approach shot club.

During the round, I do my best tell myself to 'just stay on the card'. I played some of my best rounds following that mentality, and I felt a lot less of the first tee/early round nerves. I'll attribute that to the card eliminating the need to quickly develop a strategy for a hole as I arrive at the tee box and try to choose a club. Knowing all I've had to do is grab the right club and make a decent swing and I'll be in a good spot helped me play a lot more relaxed and limit my focus time to making the shots. 

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Driver:  PXG 211 Project X Evenflow CB, 50g 5.5

Fariway:  PXG 211, 3-Wood Project X Evenflow CB, 60g 5.5

Hybrid:   PXG 211, 3H Project X Evenflow H, 80g, 5.5

Irons:  :titelist-small: T300 4-5, T200 6-PW Nippon 880 Pro R

Wedges:  :cleveland-small:  CBX2 50*, 54*, 58*, TT Dynamic Gold Wedge Flex

Putter: :EVNROLL: ER2 Murdered Out

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Here's another thing I've tried to continuously remind myself as a mid-handicapper.

Having the mid level handicap means on some holes I'll play like a pro, and on some holes I'll play like a chump. The occasional big number on the score card is inevitable. Try not to focus on them when they show up. Just remind yourself they are part of your game and know that when they do occur, it just means you've got a couple of good holes to come.

The harder part of that is getting on a good run and not reminding yourself there's a big number hole out there waiting for you. That topic would be a whole 'nother mental game thread.

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Driver:  PXG 211 Project X Evenflow CB, 50g 5.5

Fariway:  PXG 211, 3-Wood Project X Evenflow CB, 60g 5.5

Hybrid:   PXG 211, 3H Project X Evenflow H, 80g, 5.5

Irons:  :titelist-small: T300 4-5, T200 6-PW Nippon 880 Pro R

Wedges:  :cleveland-small:  CBX2 50*, 54*, 58*, TT Dynamic Gold Wedge Flex

Putter: :EVNROLL: ER2 Murdered Out

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Great suggestions @revkevand @GregB135.  I'll have to use some of these strategies during my first round of match play for my league's championship.  A very wise golfer on this board keeps on reminding me to just play one shot at a time (thanks @golfspy Rob).  Don't get ahead of yourself and think your going to win the hole. 

Stay in the moment - something us mid-high handicappers have a hard time playing as the emotions get the better of us which changes our tempo, swing and thought process.  Hardest thing to do is to forget about about the bogey, double bogey or worse that just happened.  Most of all, remember to enjoy the game for what it is, you out in nature enjoying the course and company.  Sometimes lost when we get caught up in the numbers.

 

MDGolfHacker

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@PTamney @revkev @MDGolfHacker

First let's imagine we've just missed our tee shot. It's not in the fairway, could be in trouble, but doesn't incur a penalty.

Now let's all take a deep breath, and say it together now.

1... 2.. 3..  "I've still got par from there"

Focusing on the positive makes a difference

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Driver:  PXG 211 Project X Evenflow CB, 50g 5.5

Fariway:  PXG 211, 3-Wood Project X Evenflow CB, 60g 5.5

Hybrid:   PXG 211, 3H Project X Evenflow H, 80g, 5.5

Irons:  :titelist-small: T300 4-5, T200 6-PW Nippon 880 Pro R

Wedges:  :cleveland-small:  CBX2 50*, 54*, 58*, TT Dynamic Gold Wedge Flex

Putter: :EVNROLL: ER2 Murdered Out

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Is your heart rate elevated from stress of the situation or from health perspective as in tired as the round gets along.

if it’s health then the answer is improve your physical fitness.

if it’s stress from the situation your are putting to much pressure on yourself for a non competitive round. Golf for most amateurs is a recreational sport and shouldn’t be stressful. All golfers got bad shots and it’s how you recover.

The best way to improve mental approach to the game is read Dr. Bob Rotella’s books. 

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Driver: PXG 0811 X+ Proto w/UST Helium 5F4

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[mention=90064]PTamney[/mention] [mention=16651]revkev[/mention] [mention=65755]MDGolfHacker[/mention]
First let's imagine we've just missed our tee shot. It's not in the fairway, could be in trouble, but doesn't incur a penalty.
Now let's all take a deep breath, and say it together now.
1... 2.. 3..  "I've still got par from there"
Focusing on the positive makes a difference


Actually it’s possible that - I’ve still got bogey from here easy - May be the best answer. :)

I’ve got par from 219 in the left rough is a prescription for 45 in the right rough over a trap chunk it into the bunker or blade it over the green pitch onto 30 feet three putt triple. :)

2 wedges because I adjusted my thinking yields bogey almost every time and par more frequently than double.


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Taylor Made Sim2  10.5 (Opened 1 click) Ventus Blue 5  R flex

Ping G410 5-9 wood  Alta 65 R flex

Wilson D7 forged 6-GW -  Mamiya recoil 460 R flex

Edison Wedges 54 and 59 KBS Tour Graphite 80's

EVNRoll ER 5

Titleist Pro VIx optic yellow with revkev stamped on them

Tour Exotics 3 wood is in the bag because we are allowed 14 clubs.  It's a great club for pulling balls out of the water or from bushes - you never want to put your hand into anything in Florida unless you are absolutely certain that it's safe.  There are rare wind conditions when I might hit it off the tee on a few holes that I play.  

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@revkev The 'I've still got par from there' mentality for me isn't always 'go for the green'. It's just reminds me that I only made one bad shot. If it's on a par 4, I've still got three shots to make par. Whether that's an option to go for on/around the green, or just hit back to the line of the hole for a pitch and putt I haven't taken par off the scorecard until I've taken that stroke. The biggest thing it does for me is it keeps me from letting my mind dwell too long on the negative result.

 

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Driver:  PXG 211 Project X Evenflow CB, 50g 5.5

Fariway:  PXG 211, 3-Wood Project X Evenflow CB, 60g 5.5

Hybrid:   PXG 211, 3H Project X Evenflow H, 80g, 5.5

Irons:  :titelist-small: T300 4-5, T200 6-PW Nippon 880 Pro R

Wedges:  :cleveland-small:  CBX2 50*, 54*, 58*, TT Dynamic Gold Wedge Flex

Putter: :EVNROLL: ER2 Murdered Out

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On 9/5/2019 at 9:26 AM, MDGolfHacker said:

Stay in the moment - something us mid-high handicappers have a hard time playing as the emotions get the better of us which changes our tempo [emphasis added]

Yes, that is THE KEY thing! Stay calm, stay patient, and maintain your tempo.

I have a baaad tendency to rush into a shot and rush through my swing ... ignoring my pre-shot routine and totally blanking out on my swing tempo. 

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[mention=16651]revkev[/mention] The 'I've still got par from there' mentality for me isn't always 'go for the green'. It's just reminds me that I only made one bad shot. If it's on a par 4, I've still got three shots to make par. Whether that's an option to go for on/around the green, or just hit back to the line of the hole for a pitch and putt I haven't taken par off the scorecard until I've taken that stroke. The biggest thing it does for me is it keeps me from letting my mind dwell too long on the negative result.
 


Then we are thinking the same way!!!


Watching the Rays game last night when they had to bring their closer in despite a 5-0 lead in the 9th because it was bases loaded no out. The color guy, a former MLB pitcher, stated that the thought process needed to be one good pitch and then that process needed to be repeated each time.

That’s golf always -

Again this is a very helpful and timely thread - it’s exactly what I’m struggling with right now.


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Taylor Made Sim2  10.5 (Opened 1 click) Ventus Blue 5  R flex

Ping G410 5-9 wood  Alta 65 R flex

Wilson D7 forged 6-GW -  Mamiya recoil 460 R flex

Edison Wedges 54 and 59 KBS Tour Graphite 80's

EVNRoll ER 5

Titleist Pro VIx optic yellow with revkev stamped on them

Tour Exotics 3 wood is in the bag because we are allowed 14 clubs.  It's a great club for pulling balls out of the water or from bushes - you never want to put your hand into anything in Florida unless you are absolutely certain that it's safe.  There are rare wind conditions when I might hit it off the tee on a few holes that I play.  

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Great topic.

On my home course its really tough for me to stay focused as it gets so routine.  I still shoot good scores but it could be better.  I tend to lose interest and let the mundane course get to me.    A guy I play with on a regular basis agreed with me so we play skins every round with a few bucks riding on it.  Helps keep the focus with a few bucks and bragging rights riding on it. 

On a new course or course I don't play much I am much sharper as I think through each shot as I generally need to figure out yardage, breaks, my miss, etc. 

Pretty much 100% of the time, I am going have to really grind on a 2-3 hole stretch to not totally blow a round.  That's where focus, deep breaths, and well thought out clubbing and swing thoughts come in to play for me. 

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1 hour ago, pulledabill said:

Great topic.

On my home course its really tough for me to stay focused as it gets so routine.  

Great point. I now play better on away courses then my home course. At home I've pretty much determined that I have to score well on certain holes because I won't score well on others. The latter becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. I need to change up my thought process. 

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Left Hand orientation

:ping-small: G410 SFT driver 

Cobra King F-9  5 wood
:ping-small:  410  Hybrids 22*, 26*

Cobra Speed Zone 6-GP/Recoil ESX 460 F3 Shafts 

:titelist-small: SM7 54* Wedge

:ping-small: Glide 3.0  60* Wedge

:odyssey-small: O Works putter
:918457628_PrecisionPro:NX9-HD

:CaddyTek: - 4 Wheel 
:footjoy-small: - too many shoes to list and so many to buy

:1590477705_SunMountain: And  BAG Boy

Golf Balls: Snell MTB-X 

2020 Official Tester :SuperSpeed: Beginning Driver Speed  - 78

2019 Official Tester :ping-small:  410 Driver

2018 Official Tester :wilson-small: C300

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"Thank you for your input...now I need to go play the shot."  

 

I try not to get caught up in the round, but to stay focused on the shot.  Play one shot at a time, as mentioned above.  I find if I start thinking about the situation, it interferes with my shot.  This includes thoughts like "I can still make par," "I need a bogey to break 80," or "I can't afford another double bogey."  

 

When those thoughts creep in, I acknowledge them, and let them go.  I say to myself "Thank you for your input..."  I then focus on making the shot.  

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