Make the Most of Your Good Days

Some days you’ve got it, some days you don’t. Golf instruction tends to focus on salvaging a decent score when your swing is out of synch. But what about those days—rare though they may be—when everything is clicking? Oddly enough, these can be even harder to manage.

When you’re firing on all cylinders—hitting fairways, sticking iron shots, holing putts—the best-case scenario finds you lost in the moment. You ignore your score and the possibility of a great round. You don’t question why you’re in such good form or wonder when (not if) it will desert you.

Of course, amateur golfers rarely reach such a blissful state. That’s why it’s important to know how to handle success when confronted by it. Here are some tips from squeezing the most from your best days.

  • Focus on the process, not the outcome: The so-called “process vs. outcome” mental approach is one every golfer would do well to adopt for every round, and even practice. It’s especially useful when everything is going your way because it keeps you in the moment, focused on the shot at hand instead of the potential outcome—good or bad—of the swing.

    With a process vs. outcome mindset, you concentrate on the things you can control, such as alignment, breathing and swing tempo. Whatever happens once the ball is struck is up to the golf gods. Click through the above links for steps to learning this highly effective mental technique.

  • Get aggressive: The moment they recognize how well they’re playing, many golfers become conservative. They try to protect their score, afraid of making a big mistake that leads to a bad hole and wrecks the round—much like the football team that goes into “prevent” mode with a fourth-quarter lead.

    This goes against logic, however. If your swing is on track, you’re less likely to hit that huge slice or wicked hook. And if you do run into trouble, you can likely recover with minimal damage because your game is on.

    Don’t shrink from the moment—seize it. If you’re confident you can carry a hazard and reap a reward, go for it. Take a run at that 12-foot putt knowing that if you miss, you’ll drain the comebacker. Remember, the idea is to shoot as low a score as possible. And you never know how low you can go until you actually push the envelope.

  • Don’t let one bad result derail you: One bad swing is just that: one bad swing. Nobody in the history of golf has ever played a perfect round, and you can’t expect to be the first. Put maximum effort into every shot, but don’t get down when the inevitable happens. Analyze your mistake, figure out the best way to avoid it later, and focus on the next shot. If you get a lousy break, don’t dwell on it—laugh it off and note that the golf gods owe you one.

    A little positive thinking can go a long way on the golf course.

  • Why ask why? So you’re cruising along, playing “out of your mind” or “over your head.” Great! Don’t think of it as an aberration or a lucky run that’s sure to end any minute. Think of it as you playing to your potential, finally taking your practice swing to the course, doing what you’ve always known you were capable of. If you weren’t, it wouldn’t be happening. Right?

In short, trust yourself. Playing well is never an accident.