There’s a benefit to having a
regular golf course. You learn the contours.
You memorize the distances. You play with the
usual foursome. But the downside is that you
end up playing the holes in the same way, and
everything becomes stuck, from your shot
selection to your swing patterns to your score.
Laird Small, director of the Pebble Beach Golf
Academy, has some ideas to move things
1. Play from different tees.
Change your starting location and you
change the ensuing shots. Chances are that
guys are playing from too far back. The result
is playing too many long irons and rescue
shots. Moving to the front tees may slap the
ego, but you’re going to be forced to
work on your short game. The other upside is
improving your score. With your usual tees,
you have a usual finishing score in your head,
and any time that you approach breaking it,
you often choke. Starting from further up will
bring your score down and force you to find a
way to maintain it. You still have to hit the
shots and convert but getting over that hurdle
will help when you return to the longer tees.
“The barrier is less in your head,”
2. Avoid the choke.
To better handle the pressure, treat it
like an e-mail—recognize that it’s
there and deal with it later. Before you hit any
shot, go through your regular checklist, and if
you don’t have one, create one. Take a
breath. Three rehearsal swings. Positive
command. And make sure you’re
positive. “The last thought tends to be
what happens. Your intention needs to be so
strong that you’ll do this,” Small
says. And be vigilant with your consistency. At
the threshold of greatness, don’t
deviate from what got your there. It’s
like with a successful football team.
“Keep executing plays that work. The
best players hit the same shots over and over
again,” Small says.
3. Mix them up.
To transition back to your regular game,
play the front 9 from the short tees and the
back 9 from the long ones, or vice versa. Once
again, you’re adding in some discomfort
and you’ll be forced to ideally do one of
two things: Shoot well starting off and have to
hang onto that good score, or have to whittle
away at a beginning high number and make it
respectable before the clubhouse.
4. Don’t check the weather.
Just go out and play, regardless of the
wind, rain or temperature. Each condition
offers different feelings and requires you to hit
different shots in order to do well. “It
makes you more balanced. You can handle
adversity,” Small says.
5. Pick a different starting club.
Play from your usual tees, but put away
the driver and go with a 5-wood or 5-iron. You
now have a different shot to the green, most
definitely longer, and the successive shots will
change as well. With this experiment,
don’t stress too much about the initial
final score. You’re working on a long-
term plan, making your game more dynamic,
flexible and answering the question,
“How does your handicap travel from
course to course?,” Small says.
* * *
Steve Calechman is a contributing writer
for CorePerformance.com. Along with being a
contributing editor for Men’s
Health magazine, he’s
written for Natural
The Old Farmer’s
Almanac, The Robb Report,