Manage Your Game

Think Better, Score Better

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After most players hit a shot, they usually take a moment to react to it (often verbally and not always with words that I can repeat here) and either walk away pleased or frustrated. Riding an emotional roller coaster like this can do damage to your confidence. A proper postshot routine, however, will minimize your emotional reactions and help to prepare you for your next shot.

After you hit a poor shot, first figure out if it happened because of a mental or physical error. Mental errors include being distracted, lacking confidence and never committing to the shot. Physical errors are swing flaws such as bad alignment, an open or shut clubface, poor weight transfer and incorrect swing path.

If your shot happened because of a mental error, remind yourself that you, and only you, are in control of when you make a swing. Don’t swing until you’re ready. If it were a physical error, understand the cause and effect of the shot pattern. If the ball went right, then simply say to yourself, “I left the clubface open.” Then rehearse the swing you wanted to make. The goal is to walk away from your shot and understand what happened.

The problem many golfers suffer from is that they get mad after a poor shot and don’t learn from it. This makes it more likely that the poor shot will be repeated. By making a practice swing after a poor shot, you’ll forget about the shot and shift your focus to the next one

After your swing, hold your finish for at least three seconds without reacting to the result. Don’t talk to the ball, call yourself any names or use any negative body language. Just watch the ball and hold your finish. Reacting to a shot’s result wears on your emotions.

If you have a hot temper and complain about every shot, compose yourself. Start by doing this postshot routine. Hold your finish without a reaction. It’ll take some time, but you’ll play better and have more energy at the end of your round.


Many golfers let one bad shot ruin a hole because they try (and usually fail) to pull off a difficult shot to get out of trouble. The next time you find yourself with a difficult shot, ask yourself if the reward is worth the risk. Is it worth trying to save one shot, when you might add on a couple more? Consider your skill level and honestly assess what your chances are of pulling it off.

Consider the situation I’m in here. My ball is behind a tree, and there’s a small gap under its branches. I could go directly at the pin, but I might hit the branch, or I could hit a little to the left and avoid trouble altogether. The safer play to the left might leave me with a 20-foot putt, but I’ll be on the green with my putter in hand. If I risk it and go at the pin and hit the tree, I’ll have to hit another pitch shot, and the chances of getting up and down decreases.

I ended up playing it safe. The risk was not worth the reward. I’ll leave the green feeling confident and hope to bounce back on the next hole.

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