When the Wheels Come Off
By bkuehn1952 on 4/11/11
Brian "bkuehn1952" Kuehn has submitted so many columns, we've darn near lost count. We're even thinking about giving him an official title as contributing writer. Enjoy Brian's latest submission.

If you take golf at all seriously, you periodically experience a round when nothing seems to go right. The trouble might start on the first tee or it may hit you mid-round. However, once the train has derailed, it is almost impossible to get it back on the track. Unlike sports where a time-out may be called or another player can be brought in as a substitute, golf is a solitary and relentless activity. When you suck, you suck, and there is no respite – your next bad shot is only as far away as it takes to walk (or ride) to the ball’s new location.

One of the more poignant golfing train wrecks was Greg Norman’s meltdown at the 1996 Masters. It was clear early on that Greg just did not quite have “it” that Sunday. While he had played brilliantly for three days, he was off just enough on that Sunday to not only yield his 6-shot lead to Nick Faldo, but ultimately lose by 5 strokes. You could almost see that Greg knew what was going to happen but was powerless to stop it. I often wonder what would have happened if Greg had been able to call a time-out or go into the locker room at half time.

Having played golf for close to 50 years, I have had more than my share of train wrecks. I like to think I have learned how to survive these regular disasters. When the ability to play acceptable golf suddenly departs, I tend to fall back on one or more mental tricks. Everyone has their supply of golfing band aids, these are mine:
  • The Checklist – Initially, I mentally go through a checklist of the several faults which tend to plague my game. Sometimes a round can be saved by recognizing the error and applying a quick fix. Other times a solution eludes me and all I can do is soldier on.

  • The Revised Goal – At the start of each round, my ultimate goal is to shoot par. However, I know that I achieve that goal about once every other year. So my most achievable goal is a sub-80 round. When I sense a train wreck coming, I will quickly revise my goal to something more realistic. Okay, break 40 on the second nine. Nope! Okay, keep it under 90. Nope! Okay, keep it under 100, etc...

  • The Silver Lining – I maintain a handicap and play in handicapped tournaments. As painful as it is to experience a golf train wreck, at least it may increase my handicap and make me more competitive in the next tournament. We call these disasters “handicap building” rounds. Missing a lot of greens and winding up in the bunker? Hey, who doesn’t need a bit more sand practice! Lots of tee shots into the woods? Every once in a while it is good to clear out the bag of all those old balls.
Along the way I have also learned a few things not to do. First and foremost, don’t insist on telling everyone in the group, “I don’t usually play this poorly.” And certainly don’t repeat that phrase after each poor shot. We all play that poorly on occasion. Besides, I really don’t care; my only interest is how I hit my next shot.

Second, don’t become the bratty little kid and start cursing and tossing clubs. Just because you are having a bad day doesn’t give you the right to disrupt everyone else’s round. Yes, I understand you are suffering. Just suffer in silence, please.

Lastly, don’t quit and go home. I have had my spirits lifted after a tough day countless times by a couple pars to close out the round or with a birdie on the 18th. If you pack up and leave after 14 holes, you’ll miss that great moment that rescues a bad day.

. . .

So what do you do when things take a bad turn on the course? Any tricks that work for you? Anyone have an inspirational story about rescuing a bad round? Share!

This was written by Brian Kuehn, a reader/follower/fellow oober and the opinions are 100% his and do not necessarily reflect those of oobgolf in anyway. Enjoy! I'm sure he's ready for your feedback.

photo source

[ comments ]
Kickntrue says:
Thanks for the article Brian. I'll tweet it at Rory! ;P
birdieXris says:
Great article, Brian! Full of great advice, especially the last 3 items.
bkuehn1952 says:
It is sort of interesting that I wrote this prior to the 2011 edition of the Masters. I had no idea that Rory was about to join Greg Norman with one of the more untimely meltdowns.
lcgolfer64 says:
Nice article Brian! Oh been there and done that... Have had the wheels fall off the train smash into a building full of dynamite... My good buddy (Tobl0006) and I have a saying that we often say: 'I need to go clean up my face' - which usually means excatly that. And we end up taking a the long-route to the next tee box to check the attitude and regroup.
He did this on Saturday after having a couple of chunks out of the fairway. Took the walk came back. He ended up with 83 for the day on his 2nd outing. It took him half the season last year to get that!
dartboss04 says:
great article brian!...it's funny how mental this game is...i had a mini breakdown in a men's club event last year...i think i was 18 over on my first 9, but composed myself and shot 3 over on the back...i was so pissed on the 7th tee, i swung out of my shoes, barely clipped the ball and it ended up 2 inches to my left...as cliched as it sounds, you really do need to take it one shot or one hole at a time, and just move on...easier said than done if it's just one of those days...
Mortalsword says:
What if you don't play acceptable golf to begin with?
jrbizzle says:
Choke down a little, take one less club, 3/4 swing with a full hip turn and finish. Get the ball in the air and on the fairway, even if it means taking one extra chip shot to get on each green.
windowsurfer says:
Boom goes the dynamite. My usual routine is 1) anger 2) whining 3) self-hatred 4) resignation 5) renewed resolve - just tough it out. The time it takes to get to 5) is the key -- the shorter the better chance I have to recover. One of my buddies - a fine player who has a giant brain (somewhat unused during golf) replaces my 2) and 4) with blame: bad luck, rotten course, unfair, god hates me, etc. I see how old that gets and resolve to shut my trap next time I de-rail. Alas . . .
stedar says:
Playing in the high 70's and 80's - hitting 100+ in a tournament I felt like a douche-bag. The strangest thing was, I felt like I was connecting with the ball better than ever, just that the ball didn't travel in the direction intended and out of bounds/hazards played a bigger part than GIR...

What do you do when that happens? Everyone in different. For me, I just "hit" the ball and enjoyed the weather (blue sky, no wind) and the beer at the end went down a treat... Didn't feel so good after being only 2 shots behind the leader going into the last day then hitting myself out of prize giving. I know how Rory feels - although being 2 shots in the lead going into the last round and doing that must be a bit worse...

Just gotta love this game :-)
DougE says:
Good points Bryan. For me, one ugly swing (duff, chunk, skull, etc.) and my confidence starts to waver. Two in a row and I feel that I must look like a beginner. You see, that's MY biggest problem. Worrying too much about what others might think when I know that I can really play this game pretty well.....at times. I try very hard to not curse, or rant or do anything to make the others in the group feel uncomfortable. Usually I just shake my head and droop my shoulders. My only hope for a fix at this point is to calm down and focus on my tempo. That is usually the culprit. But, confidence or lack thereof is a round killer.
white_rabbitt says:
I would recommend reminding yourself of the basics...grip, stance, posture, alignment. Take a shorter swing and concentrate on good contact. Doesn't always help but more often than not it will bring my confidence back up enough to start taking full swings at it again. Also, I do find that my derailments are much worse when I'm riding in a cart! No time to recover or clear out the negativity.
mjaber says:
Usually when I have this kind of day, it's a confidence issue, with all but 1 club. I've tried a number of different things to "right the ship", but the one that always works is to find that 1 club that's working and use it. However many holes it takes to get comfortable again, use that club. Off the tee, from the fairway, everywhere. I've gone 3 or 4 holes with one club in my hand. Once I've gottne comfortable again, I start putting clubs back in play. If they don't work, they're left in the bag for the rest of the round.
Mattypan says:
This actually just happened to me on Saturday. I started out on the front nine doing great for me and shot a 43. Then on the back nine I played horribly and shot a 51. My best round ever has been an 88 and that was before I took several years off. Starting out with 43 was really good. Basically what happened was that my driver fell apart on me and I wasn't able to get it going again. I hit 2 shots OB and it's amazing how stroke and distance twice in a nine will hurt your score. On a day like this I try and focus on the positive and think about how well I did on the front and how sub 90's should happen this summer. Also, another key is to reflect critically on what happened. In retrospect, I lost focus, my posture got worse, and I was probably swinging too hard. Bad rounds happen but I try and make sure to learn from them.
billbadaz says:
good read. I sort of did this on Thursday. On the first hole, I had about 160 in, downhill, into the wind a little. I hit a 7 iron, which was going right at the pin. It kept going, straight over the green. I chipped up close and saved par. Next hole, 168 yard, par 3, uphill. Hit 7 again, PURE, over the green, and into the back bunker. So I hit back to back 7 irons pure, and flew the green. After those 2 shots, I was short the rest of the day. I only hit 5 GIR and the few that I hit I 3 putted b/c I was barely on. I tried to correct by only swinging 80%, and everything was short and right. I still saved an 82, but I was chipping for birdie on most holes. I had to play that way to get thru the round. I am playing a course new to me tomorrow, so I hope I can go back to my swing.
larrynjr says:
I did this last night, playing 9 holes only. Shot double on the first 3 holes, then finally par'd the 4th. 4 more bogies and par at the last hole. Best score of the year and lowest ever at that course for me. Very windy day too.
DaRupp13 says:
Funny how this can start with one hole and if you don't get a grip soon, lead to an full round flop. This happened to me this past Sunday. 12th hole, par 5. I hit a great tee shot, right down the middle of the fairway - only to learn that 250 out (down a hill so out of view) is a creek. I'm right on the bank but playable. I punch out and it goes WIDE right. 1 shot lead to another, and another, and another, I have a 10. Took a lot of effort to put that behind me, but after shaking it off and realizing that this won't be the round of my life (so just enjoy being out there), I started playing a little better.
jeremyheslop says:
I wish I could send this to the guy I played with yesterday. Every bad shot he was cussing to the golf gods and said he practices more than anyone yet still can't cut it on the course. I think if he would just have calmed down and relaxed he would have done alot better.
birdieXris says:
When the wheels start to come off on my round, i find just making a good shot helps. Doesn't matter if it's a chip, punch, chunk-n-run or what. If i hit it in garbage, i just concentrate on putting the ball where i want it. In the fairway. Just seeing a shot turn out how I want it, nomatter how insignificant that shot may be really helps me put my mind back on the right track. Sometimes "great out" is better than "great shot".
Banker85 says:
I am like DougE, where one shot bad ok no biggie, 2 shanks WTF, 3 shanks and i feel i no longer know how to play this game. Hopefully i will be able to fix my errors this year mid round instead of just playing thru like a shankapotomus. But if things start to go bad beers will help aleve the pain, lots and lots of beers. LOL for real!
tartantoml says:
If a buddy is in trouble, get a cold one out of the cooler, open the can just prior to a preswing routine, and the swing thoughts all turn positive.
legitimatebeef says:
Nice article Bryan on a relevant topic. I am all about the revised goal and the silver lining. I am normally kind of a dour pessimist but on the golf course for some reason I am blessed with unnatural optimism. Even if the round is going badly I can always convince myself that my next shot is going to be awesome.
robbie.dejarnette says:
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