On the couch – tips to save your score.

The first in a series of articles by our GoKart Shrink, Stephen Smith. This time it’s how to keep a score going all the way through the round. Sit back, read, then watch your numbers tumble…

“Golf is only played one shot at a time but it took me many years to realise that”
Bobby Jones

This statement is as true today as it was when the great Bobby Jones made it in the 1930’s. However, every one of us is still guilty of looking at the scorecard, realising that a good score is possible and then throwing it all away.

Yet we are told it is a simple issue to sort as all sport psychologists tell us we only  have to “Stay in the present” to overcome this problem. And all golfers know that we should not get ahead of ourselves on the course – yet this is exactly what we all end up doing when there is the possibility of a good round on the card. To evolutionary psychologists this is not really surprising as they know that millions of years of evolution have geared our brains to do anything but “Stay in the present” – unfortunately most of us sport psychologists are only beginning to catch on that good process for 21st century golfers cannot ignore the impact that this evolutionary heritage is having on our brains and behaviour . Simply put, the reason why you and I are here is because we are the descendants of ancient ancestors who managed to survive the perils of ice ages, saber tooth tigers and rampaging woolly mammoths long enough to ensure that their genes were continued. Part of that success was down to the fact that they were able to look at any given situation (the present) and scan the horizon and future for possible danger whilst referring back to past experience to predict where that danger lurked in the undergrowth.

You may consider yourself far evolved from these cave man ancestors but the behaviours that enabled them to survive are still programmed in your brain – they are alive and kicking and are absolute card wreckers when it comes to the game of golf.

As soon as you mark your card with the latest par your brain immediately starts to look back at your recent experience- the previous holes and scores- then map forwards to the potential dangers of the holes to come in the future.  Just as the cave man tried to make his way home from the successful hunting trip (with the least amount of danger so that he could hold on to his prize).  We try to do the same as we make our way home to the 19th without losing the good score we have made. Our brains start to move out of the present and forward to the holes to come with the inevitable consequences for the hole we are playing right now. All of a sudden a good card is ruined and is yet another “What might have been” tale to be recounted in gory detail over a pint.

Coming up with a psychological ploy to combat this has been the “Holy Grail” for my profession and there is no one perfect solution- if I had the answer I would be writing this from my yacht in Monaco Bay.  However, there are few ploys that you can try and one will be right for you and  your personality. You should give each a chance and there may have to be a bit of trial and error before you find what suits you best but it might just rescue you from throwing away that trophy winning score.

Ignore that card- the magic thumb
Probably the most difficult of the 3 options to master but easily the most powerful if mastered. This technique requires you to mark the card but ignore the score and never start to add up or monitor how well you are playing. As soon as you have entered the score you put the card away. Exponents of this technique say it helps to use your thumb to cover the previous holes so you cannot add it up. Another key element is not to go through the 9 hole ritual of checking the score- there is no need to check that card until the end of the round is there?

Its not a game of 2 halves
Building on the issue noted above this technique breaks the course down into a series of mini cards the than 2 sets of 9 holes. It works well with a lot of people who find the previous  exercise too difficult as they always have a feeling of how well they are playing – they just know when its good even if they have not added up the card or they simply cannot get the score element out of their mind.  In this method you take 18 holes and break them down into 6 sets of 3. The game starts and finishes with each set of 3- in essence you are playing six mini rounds of golf and you either win/lose or draw with the course on each and get a point as appropriate. At the end of the round you are looking to see if you can win 6-0. Its not quite one shot at a time but starts to move you towards that whilst recognising your personality and need to be aware of the score – it’s just a different score.

A similar rationale to the above but it focuses on scoring the process. Yes you mark your card as normal but you carry a separate card where you rate your self out of 10 for each shot in terms of your preshot routine and how well you set up for the shot.  It is a score of how good a chance you gave yourself to execute the shot well and you do note rate the outcome of the shot itself. It is a technique more likely to be used by the better golfer but one that would help most golfers- as long as they do have a good preshot routine in the first place

You could of course try a number of variations on these techniques and here at GoKart we would love to hear your stories of how these have helped you or you techniques to beat the score card.

Until next time


© Stephen Smith 2010

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