Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Pyschological Barrier to Going Long

I need a caddie. And bad. I think if I won the lottery, I'd hire a caddie. That's about the only luxury I'd want.

What's my problem? Well, there's the issue of reading greens, which I can't do. However, my putting stroke is very good, and my speed is usually quite good, so I sometimes make putts by accident. No, where a caddie would be of greatest help to me is in club selection.

I'm one of those guys who simply can't believe that he hits the ball one, sometimes two, clubs less than he used to. Many amateur golfers share this trait: when we reach into the bag to pull a club for the next shot, we're thinking of the farthest we've ever hit a particular club, rather than the average distance we hit that club.

Coming up short is a commonality among amateurs. It's as if we have some psychological barrier to going long. Going over the green must be a truly terrifying prospect.

During a recent round, I came to a hole where I am always short of the green. Always. It's a shallow, elevated green, and I never hit more than pitching wedge into it, yet I'm always short. I told my partner, "Today it's going to be different. Today, I'm hitting a 9-iron and I'm not going to be short, even if it means going over."

I was short. Somewhere between the time of my declaration that I didn't care about going over the green, and the time my club made contact with the ball, this thought must have occurred to me: Don't swing so hard or you're going to go over the green!

A teaching pro friend does a simple demonstration with his students when he takes them for on-course instruction. He tells them, "You pick your clubs the first few holes, and then I'll pick your clubs on the next few clubs." They always score better when he's picking their clubs - because they're much more likely to get the ball to the green.

This isn't new information to me, however. I'm ashamed to admit that one of my childhood buddies, a scratch golfer, used to tell me the same thing. "Bogey, I'm beggin' ya, just let me pick your clubs for you. I'll take six strokes off your score."

So, yes, if I win the lottery, I'm hiring a full-time caddie. In the meantime, next time I get to that hole, I'm going to hit the green. No, really, this time I mean it. I'll pull an 8-iron. Heck, a 7-iron, if I have to. But I won't be short. Even if it means going over.

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