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Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Win Ugly

Winning ugly is something the great players are able to do. They are able scratch out a respectable round when not playing their best. They are able to do this often by relying on a good short game. But part of this has to do with attitude as well. 

The high handicap golfer often hits a few bad shots and simply goes to pot, ruining in the process what might have been a reasonable round had his attitude been different. He hasn't yet learned the real secret to the game, which is to figure out a way to turn three shots into two, or seven shots into six.

Golf teaching articles and videos focus primarily on how to swing the club, which is not exactly meat and potatoes in terms of what this game is really all about. The secret to really improving is to learn how to score with the swing you have on any given day. Turning three shots into two often involves the short game; finding ways to get the ball up and down when you've missed a green. But many strokes can be saved from the tee to the green by picking the right tee shot, or laying up, or missing it in the right places; or simply by getting out of trouble when you find yourself in it. Golf is essentially, as a buddy of mine liked to call it, learning how to "minimize the damage."

Good golfers know that golf is about saving strokes. Making a ten-footer for a bogey is just as important as making the same putt for birdie; sometimes more important from a psychological standpoint. When Bobby Jones talked about the right attitude for playing good golf he told us to begin every round expecting to make mistakes and prepared to have to do some scrambling. And he advised against becoming discouraged if the amount of scrambling required in any given round is more than usual. 

Walter Hagen gave himself seven bad shots a round. He expected to hit seven bad shots a round. That expectation kept him from becoming discouraged when he encountered problems. That would seem to beg the question, how many bad shots should the average player give himself in a round of golf if the Haig gave himself seven? 

So, forget about reading or watching all that junk about never slicing again, or hitting it solid every time. That just isn't reality. No one hits it solid every time, or never slices. Listen instead to Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen. Understand that bad shots are going to happen. Judge your golf game on how well you are able to handle trouble, not on how far you are able to hit it. Congratulate yourself when you manage to make a putt for bogey, when it could have been much worse. Learn how to win ugly; how to score when you're not playing your best.

A great book on this subject was written by Raymond Floyd. It's entitled The Elements of Scoring: How to Score When You're Not Playing Your Best. I highly recommend you give it a read.