Today I will share with you the secret of how to play better golf immediately. Sound intriguing? Of course it does, as I am chock full of intriguing ideas. Granted, most are not particularly useful, or even very good, but this one is. In fact, it is brilliant. And like so many brilliant ideas, its genius lies in its simplicity. So confident am I in my approach to better golf, that I offer this guarantee: If you are not completely satisfied with the advice in this post, you may return the unused portion of this blog and I will refund 100% of the purchase price. I know. Awesome.
The real beauty of my approach is you can implement it without practicing or taking lessons. That’s not to say you shouldn’t take lessons—you should. But if you follow my advice, you will improve without doing so much as going to the range. My approach to better golf addresses the mental aspect of the game. I am not a psychologist, but I am an expert on the psychological damage that can be inflicted by playing golf. I have played golf long enough and passionately enough to have borne many psychological wounds, some of which have left permanent scars. My approach removes those scars and ensures we will incur no new mental trauma.
Many of you have heard or read that we should play as if we were kids; the idea being that kids play with less stress and worry over the outcome of shots, so they swing more freely and with less anxiety. That’s ok as far as it goes, but I take it one step further and say you should play with actual kids, preferably your own. If you don’t have kids, you should borrow some, but they should be related so that you care about them, at least nominally. The kids should also be fairly young. The ideal age range is between 5 and 13. If your kids, or those you borrow, are younger than age 5, your golf outing will resemble a cat roundup. If the kids are over 13, they will think you suck, just like everything else sucks and you will wish to kill each other at some point early in the round, if not in the parking lot beforehand. Since killing children will have the exact opposite effect of improving your game, at least in the long term, I strongly advise leaving the older kids behind.
Assuming you have some age-appropriate children available, here’s why you should play with them. You will be so focused on the kids that you’ll forget to care about your own score. That’s it! It’s simple but it’s true, as I learned from experience. When my kids were junior golfers, I invariably played well when I played with them because I would forget my own game and focus on what they were doing. I would step up to the ball and hit it, then rush off to help one of them. I’d make six footers like they were tap-ins without even lining up the putt. I once played a round with my wife and kids while on vacation and stood on the par 5 18th tee knowing that I was playing well but having no idea where I stood to par and not really caring. It was a nice day and everyone was having fun. My daughter realized that I was playing well and innocently (I think it was innocent, although we did have a bet) asked me if I was under par. Of course, I mentally added my score then and there and realized that I was 3 under par. I further realized that the short-ish par 5 finishing hole would be the perfect opportunity to get to 4 under par for a round of 68.
I promptly hit out of bounds and took a double bogey. That still left me pleased at 1 under, but less pleased than I would have been at 3 or 4 under. But the point is obvious. We get in our heads when we play golf, and in our heads is a very bad pace to be. Playing with our kids forces us to take the game less seriously. When we play with our friends, even in a casual round, we become competitive, and when that happens we want to win. And we begin to “focus” to think about how to win—and that’s when that vicious little brain of ours (we have just one amongst us, as most women will attest) goes into hyper-negative mode. We don’t want that to happen, so of course it does.
The answer then to our mental weakness is to find a way to banish negative thinking. At least that’s what the sports psychologists would have us believe. They tell us to “visualize” the shot and to use “positive self-talk” to get rid of negative images. Then we go to the course…and still we think. We think because we are humans, and even if we are stupid humans, we think. We can’t turn our brains off on the golf course, and the more we think, the more we try.
Worse still, we remember. We remember bad things that have happened to us on the golf course. If we’ve played long enough, we have many bad memories--of horrible shots and bad breaks, awful swings and immense soul-searing agonies that have befallen us time and time again. We have nightmares of choking under the pressure of a club championship, member guest playoff, pro-am performances, college try-outs and other indignities suffered at the hands of the golf gods that make us want to curl up in a ball and whimper. We remember: pull hooks, high flares, hitting houses, narrowly missing children in the next fairway; cold topped tee shots hit while trying to impress the ladies who were kind enough to let us go through; bladed sand wedges, hoseled 8 irons, necked 3 woods; out of bounds right and water left; hitting the tree they said no one could hit from that angle; abandoning a brand new Pro V1 that landed OB by the pool on a crowded day; and, even…choking on the 18th hole of a family outing that occurred years ago. Or maybe that’s just me.
But I don’t think so. When we play golf we tend to remember the bad stuff and we fill our heads with swing thoughts that all begin with the word “don’t.” We do this because we are trying just so hard to play well; to live up to the potential that we once had; to shoot a good round so we can bore our wives to death with tales of our daring-do on the links. And therein is the real problem. We try because we care. Let me propose a solution. Let me suggest that, while we have to think, we don’t have to care. Our golf rounds, no matter what’s on the line, just aren’t that important…even to us. We just won’t let ourselves accept that. We don’t want to accept that. We want it to be important; therefore, we care about the outcome. Here’s the antidote for caring.
I want you to leave work and go to the course immediately. Start not-caring right now, as in “I don’t care if I get fired.” Trust me. If you don’t care about cutting out of work early, your boss won’t either [Editor’s Note: That is not true]. In fact, when you stop caring about things, no one will care what you do. Go to the course. Park in a handicapped spot right by the front door because no one will care [Editor’s Note: also, not true]. Go to the snack shop and get a hot dog and don’t leave a tip because the counter girl won’t care [Editor’s Note: She will spit in your food].
When you arrive at the tee, cut in front of the guys in front of you without even asking, saying, “I’m sure you won’t care, since I’m obviously in a hurry.” They will laugh because they will see how care free you’ve become [Editor’s note: They will beat the snot out of you, unless it’s at a country club, in which case they will call the pro and demand that he “have a word.”] Then, you should… [Editor’s note: we have omitted 3 paragraphs of “not caring” examples here because each was more ridiculous than the one before and, of course, completely untrue].
Ok, so none of that’s true. But what is true is that you should stop caring about your golf game—at least you should stop caring as much. When you do, I can tell you with 100% certainty that no one else will care that you no longer care. Why? Because they have never cared about your game.
That, my friends is the dirty little open secret of golf. Say it with me: NO ONE ELSE CARES ABOUT MY GAME. We all know this on some level, but we sooo want it to not be true. We care, so everyone else we know should care, right? Wrong. Say it again: NO ONE ELSE CARES ABOUT MY GAME. This is your mantra and it will help you achieve the ultimate goal of not caring yourself. You’ll play better golf, guaranteed.