The Smallest Course in the World
By birdieXris on 5/16/11
Chris "birdieXris" Embardino does it again with his latest column on how to manage the mental part of the game. Keep up the good work! Enjoy.

Bobby Jones said it best - “the game of golf is played on a 5 inch course, the space between your ears”. Never were more true words spoken about this game, and to understand how to get around that tiny course is the best thing you can do for your game. There's been many a problem with my game lately. My eyes, rust from the winter, and a stuggling flat stick.

I've been doing a lot of research, practice rounds, getting tips from my pro and watching a lot of video on the subject. Everything is better, but there's still something wrong and I've narrowed it down. The thing that is killing my game is something that plagues every golfer at one point or another and will cost more strokes than any scuffed ball, bent club, or crappy teeing ground - the brain.

We all know it, and course designers know it too. There hasn't been one of us who has stood on a tee box and thought “boy that's a lot of fairway out there”. No, it could be 50 yards wide but we stand on the tee box and say “Water left” or “woods right” or “that's not a lot of green out there”. Doesn't matter if it's a hazard meant to be for another hole. If we can see it, it's done the job. It's sabotage on a mental level and that's the worst kind. We forget everything we've learned thus far and make the dreaded “anti” swing. Anti-push, anti-left, anti-chunk – whatever it may be and it leads to anti-score.

So just don't think – sounds easy enough right? I'm accused of that all the time but it's not so simple. Here are some tips I picked up along the way – I hope they help you like they've helped me.
  • Keep your focus, but don't burn out - It's very hard to keep focus for 18 holes of golf. Especially if you're trying to do it all the time. You burn out. Instead, focus only on the shot. When you're done and in between shots, think about something else and let your mind wander. Banter with your friends, think of your shopping list for the after round – even how you want your steak done for dinner. Don't get back on the clock until a few seconds before you reach your ball. This will keep you from “over thinking” your shot and help with making a committed swing. Trying to maintain focus on your game at all times will prematurely tire you and lead to bad or hurried decisions later in the round and distrust in your own thought process.

  • Hit a shot, don't make a swing – When it comes down to it, you can't trust the “strait ball” to be strait. Especially under pressure. In a do or die situation or even when your game gets off a little bit during the round, having a plan of attack will help focus on what you have to do. It's a variation of the “aim small, miss small” school of thought. You lessen the variation in your misses if you commit to one particular shot rather than focusing on just “If I make a good swing i'll be fine”. Which leads us to...

  • No pressure – 96% of the pressure we face on the golf course is mental. Choose your thoughts and words carefully. Don't find yourself saying “if” or “i have to” do something. That's unnecessary pressure and stress. Instead say or think “i'm going to hit this fairway” or “i'm going to make birdie here” - whatever you want to do - and MEAN IT. Confidence is lesson #1 and if you don't have it, you can't get better. If you find yourself lacking confidence in your shot making on this day....

  • Use gimmicks – I don't mean the weird belt that ties your knees together or the thing that hangs from your hat to make sure your head is in the right position. I mean things like the “tiger tunnel” (I got the name from a non playing friend of mine). Tiger used to squat down and put his hands up around the brim of his hat to create tunnel vision. It helps sometimes to read greens and block the sun, but it can also help you block out things you don't want to see when looking at a landing area or looking at the green from the fairway. Also, don't be above using the club shaft as a pointing device. This is something i've used for a while. Stand behind the ball, take your grip and follow the shaft out to your target line to get your aim. When you take your stance, you can use it again to check your alignment quickly. A hole or two of this will boost your confidence immensely and get you back on track.

  • Lastly, Hole out after a tough stretch – So you s-worded 3 balls into the woods, chunked a wedge and sculled a chip over the green. Now you've putted to 7 inches ---- DON'T SWAT THAT BALL AWAY!!! We all get frustrated and even some of us that like to play the ball down have been guilty at one time or another of taking a 2 incher “gimmie” in disgust. Hole it out. Putt the ball into the hole and hear it hit the bottom. Let it signify that the bad hole is over. Let all the stress of that hole and all the weight just fall off your shoulders with that sound. If you don't finish out it's likely to compound the next hole as your head didn't hear that sound. Do it religiously and start seeing your “bounce back” holes improve.

This was written by Chris Embardino , 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 by Zach Klein

[ comments ]
Kurt the Knife says:
Ain't nothing on me measures 5 inches.
birdieXris says:
*Zing* +1 KTK
ppinkert says:
Great advise...I could have used this Yesterday on the 7th 8th and 9th holes. Would have been better then my buddy telling me to "Just hit the ball." and "Have fun." While this may be sage advice it is not that simple "Just hit the ball." To me that’s like telling my boss, an avid cross country cyclist to “Just Peddle.” There’s more to it than “Just hit the ball.” As for the “Have fun.” I have fun quietly. I have fun in the game itself. I don’t need the 6 pack, or the high fives, or the mad dance of joy for a 60’ putt in the hole. The pleasure for me is in the sound of the ball hitting the bottom of the cup. Just acknowledge a good putt and let’s move on. I’m ranting and I’m sorry. I guess I just needed to vent, thank you I feel better. By the way, I know I’m no fun. I did all that wild stuff in my 20s. I have been there, done that, and have the T-shirt. Perhaps I will do better to play alone more often.
bkuehn1952 says:
Good advice and well written. Thanks! Now all I need to do is actually follow the advice.
dartboss04 says:
good article's funny...last couple rounds, my driver just disappeared...obviously i'm doing something wrong, but i'm not the type that really thinks about anything when i swing...i just get up there, try to visualize a good shot, and swing...

it's difficult for me right now, because i need to correct the problem, but don't want to have too many swing thoughts clouding my game...i find that it's difficult to balance...i probably just need to think while on the range and then once i fix it repeat until ingrained...
Kurt the Knife says:
My instructor used to say, "the mind can only reliably concentrate on three things at once. So trying to render all swing thoughts during the swing is futile. Thats why we rely on muscle memory, which is a real thing."
I tell him I usually manage about four swing thoughts.
GolfSmith7 says:
I have been keeping track of how many mental mistakes I make and how many strokes it causes me and I believe it is about 6-7 strokes a game and my handicap is 8.4. The usual mental mistake happens after hitting several great drives doing my pre-shot routine I get over confident, tee it up without my routine and find myself in the woods or something else. I also rush chip shots this way. It gets so frustrating but I have to remember to do my pre-shot routine before ever swing even if it is 3 foot putt. Since I been tracking it I have yet to completed a round where I do my pre-shot routine constantly. I just have mental lapses and that is with me being aware that I am tracking it. Hopefully I will ingrain my pre-shot routine soon for good.
stedar says:
... so easy to say. I had a round recently where I was even with the card after 11 holes. I didn't realise this fact, as I was enjoying the company and talking about everything else but golf between shots. It was at the 12th tee that someone mentioned my great round so far - follow that with 2 x double bogie's and a bogie - bugger! I can only say that your fist bullet point: keep your focus, but don't burn out - applies here. As soon as I started thinking while walking up to the ball, my game was all over. It wasn't until just now (reading about the smallest course :-) that I put it all together. Cheers and many great rounds to ya all...
Trav says:
Good post and comments. Another thing that helps - never add up your score during the round. Write down the score for each hole as you go of course, but don't ever add it up and my wife knows never to tell me what's doing after 9. Just think about the hole you are playing.

@KTK - for some reason my wife always over-estimates her putt lengths, yet blames it on me.
KVSmith59 says:
Good post. I almost always play with the same two guys (Joe & Mike) and have been for over 10 years. Our 4th usually alternates between my stepson and another friend. 4 rounds ago while playing with the son, he pointed something out to the rest of us on the tee box of the 17th hole. Our usual "golf banter" had turned into more "bickering" and "mean comments" than anything remotely resembling friendly golf chatter. Joe & I looked at each other, and being the sarcastic bunch that we are, decided he might be right and took it to the opposite side and for the 17th and 18th holes, we became over-the-top complimentary to each other, Mike and my stepson. Mike continued on with the "old" way giving us crap for the next two holes. The next round Joe & I decided to continue our kindness, but not with all the over-the-top comments. Mike, who is 3 to 4 handicap strokes less than us, continued being the smart ass and actually got upset that Joe and I were being so nice to each other.
KVSmith59 says:
Joe and I must have shaved 4 or 5 strokes off our normal round just from not getting upset at the comments and our own bad shots. We ended up beating Mike. We've played a couple more rounds this way since and we both have beaten Mike both times. Basically, Joe & I took a look at our previous behavior and discovered that yes, with all the bickering an negative comments being thrown around, it was truly affecting our games, causing the bad holes to carry over to the next, and generally just being irritated about golf in general by the time we got home. My son's statement about this forced us to change our mental outlook and subsequently improved both our scores and how we felt about golfing. It's now much more relaxing and we are once again having fun with the game. Poor Mike hasn't gotten it yet.
BAKE_DAWG40 says:
Great article! I have not played well at all recently and I can attest to the importance of sticking with a preshot routine. I definitely need to stop getting discouraged after a bad hole.
legitimatebeef says:
Doing the lord's work Chris. I like what you say about holing out. It is important to playing good golf. I've never met a really good putter who gives himself putts. I think holing out each and every time is has a way of conditioning yourself to seek the hole with more focus and determination, which ultimately leads to more made putts.
rmetz676 says:
An additional note on the "anti" swing. The subconscious part of your brain that takes over when you swing a golf club doesn't understand "anti" or "don't" or "can't" commands. So if your last conscious thought before taking the club back is "Don't hit it in the water", the part of your brain controlling your swing processes "Hit it in the water". That's why being target focused is so important. The more precise the better, but be realistic. You'll be suprised how well your brain can make a swing that moves the ball to your target. Think about it... have you ever said, "I hit it so well at the range, why can't I do it on the course?" Probably because at the range you though "hit the blue flag", whereas on the course your thought is "don't go in the greenside bunker"; which again, translates to your subconscious as "go in the greenside bunker". Give it a try, you'll notice the difference, and catch when you have an "anti" moment.
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