Golf is a mental game and your performance is highly correlated to how you feel and how you think. A few bad holes can ruin a golfer’s confidence and create a snowball effect for the remainder of the round. However, even a terrible round can be saved if a golfer can establish some positive momentum soon after a bad hole or two. There are several components to getting and retaining this positive momentum:
- You need to forget the previous hole(s) as quickly as possible and remember that your history supports the fact that you’re a better golfer than that.
- You must not extrapolate the poor start into a full round score (e.g., if you’re +4 thru 4 holes then you’re “on pace” to shoot a 90 (+18) for the day)
- You establish momentum by scoring a par or better on any hole.
- You retain momentum by continuing to score a par or better on every subsequent hole.
Note that even a par can stop the bleeding and can help you re-balance yourself mentally. A series of pars can work wonders for your confidence and set you up for a great final stretch. When you realize that a par is a positive event and helps your reestablish momentum, you will avoid many of the potential pitfalls of pressing when things aren’t going your way. Don’t challenge a dangerous pin position or race a putt way past the hole because you are trying too hard to make a birdie. Based on the percentages, this type of strategy typically results in a return to poor play and more bad thoughts. This is how bad rounds typically get worse.
Recently, I’ve had two rounds with a 42 or 43 on the front nine with unfriendly weather conditions. Nothing went right but instead of throwing in the towel, I focused on establishing momentum and strung together several pars in a row. I settled into the back nine and as I grew more comfortable, good things started to happen. My string of pars soon turned into several birdies and a great back nine, which kept me in the 74-76 range for the day. Focusing on playing a consistent back nine where I kept momentum the entire side helped save my rounds and kept me in contention for the tournament title.
Remember, momentum is your friend. Play smart. Know when to be aggressive and when to play conservative. Build momentum and you’re more likely to get positive energy and to enter “the zone” and go low!