Don't Be Greedy
By Erika Larkin on 10/2/13
The goal I hear from almost every student is that they want to be more consistent. However we have to be realistic that this is not a game of perfect and we are going to miss some shots. The key is to not let that destroy a given hole or round. So this is my advice:
  • If you have a bad shot on a hole -- don't make it two! One is enough so don't be greedy and try to "make-up" a shot. It usually doesn't work out very well. You could end up wasting more shots by playing too aggressively. So, take your medicine and play it safe. If you end up in trouble or in a bad lie, get the ball back in play on the next shot (the fairway) and continue on from there.

  • Delay your inner reaction. In general it is a good idea to wait until the ball comes to rest to react to the shot. If it looks like it's going into the trees or water, don't get all upset the second the ball flies off the clubface; you never know, it could kick out to the fairway, bounce off a rock and onto the green or in the hole. If you keep a positive vibe you might be surprised that the "rub of the green" will work in your favor. Getting mad or upset doesn't really help anything -- it just creates tension and anxiety that kills your golf swing and rhythm. You may get your ball and find the lie is not so bad or you have a clear shot out when you didn't think it would be playable. Then you just got upset for no good reason!

  • I personally have had rounds where I hit the ball poorly and scored well on days where my short game has been on or I just get lots of good "bad shots". Grind well around the greens and any day can be a good day. Putting valuable time into practicing your short game will prove worth-it on holes where you end up in some trouble.

  • Most golfers aren't good enough to warrant a temper, so accept the miss-hits, EXPECT them, and move on. Play for bogey. There is nothing wrong with that, after-all it's better than taking double-par!

  • Don't start searching for new swing thoughts the minute you miss a shot. Stick to your game plan and the thoughts that usually help you on the range and go back to your pre-shot routine and trust your process. You might not get your swing back on the next shot if you're stressed but it's not gone for good. When all else fails, default to a punch shot or half swing or short iron that you can hit well (even off the tee box) and bunt the ball around the course to keep it in play. Most people can score almost as well playing with only a 7-iron and a putter as they can with a full set of 14 clubs, so simplify your game for the day like this if you are having trouble.

  • If you have a bad hole or shot early in the round, remember, golf is a long game. There are many more holes to make up shots if you just keep a positive outlook. And every hole is a fresh start. You never know what will happen on the next hole or the back nine. Maybe this is your lucky day for a hole-in-one! If you defeat yourself early, you will not have a good chance of any comeback or turning your golf mojo around!
One disclaimer -- if every shot or every-other shot is a mishit, this article is not for you. Please call your local PGA Professional and take some lessons to improve your mechanics. Then, come back and re-read this article and heed my advice if you're struggling with a moderate level of inconsistency.

Erika Larkin is the Director of Instruction at Larkin Golf Learning Community, at Stonewall Golf Club in Gainesville, Virginia. She was named the 2012 Middle Atlantic PGA "Teacher of the Year" and the 2011 "Top Golf Pro" by Washingtonian Magazine — and she's oobgolf's newest columnist! She writes on a variety of topics including instruction, so if you have a question for her or an idea for a column, e-mail her at Enjoy!

[ comments ]
legitimatebeef says:
It's a delicate balance I think. As a golfer it's good to practice the buddhist ideal of non-attachment. But on the other hand there is also a time for self-flagellation. You need to hold yourself accountable for your own suckage, if getting better is a goal you possess. Delicate balance.
jasonfish11 says:
I'm not sure what buddha would say about golf and the need to beat yourself up.

The only buddhist quote I've heard about bad shots in golf is what the Dalai Lama says after hitting a big slice into a 10,000 foot crevasse. "Gunga galunga... gunga, gunga-lagunga"
GolfSmith7 says:
Erika is on the november issue of golf digest giving a tip on how to cure a slice. Its a brief article and a short video. She was named one of the top teachers. Good for her.
GBogey says:
One thought to add is that once you have a relatively solid short game, in my case 110 yds and in, it becomes much easier to take your medicine and occasionally offset mistakes. Before when my wedges were less solid, I had more of a "what the hell" attitude because I didn't have confidence that a layup would lead to bogey any more than a glory shot. This of course lead to lots of doubles and triples.
My issue is not letting early bad holes get to me, especially since on my "home" course the first 7 holes are much harder than the last 11.
frankteo714 says:
Great article. I try to implement those thing in every round already and I think it's payed off this year big time. It's just hard when I get those rare rounds where I can only shank the ball. It's like I am helpless.
douglugg says:
first day back in a month after injury. Par'd first hole and was in a great mood until my short shots failed on a hole and i scored a 9 on a par 4, just after an 8 on a par 5. A few bogeys later I found myself on shot 6 chipping to the green on a par 5, hit the pin and dropped it. Stoked on that shot, still feeling lousy about the rest, I checked my score, which wasnt so great for my handicap, but it was a personal best at this particular course. Even on my best days i usually have at least one hole that seems like a meltdown, I just let it go, there's always time for kicking a$$ :).
Matt McGee says:
I'm getting there. Sometimes it's as much fun to look back at how well I recovered from a bad hole as it is to score well all through a round. Not always, but sometimes.
slimpks1850 says:
It gets tough to turn the page on a bad hole. Something that has helped me a few times as a higher handicap is looking at 3 holes at a time. For whatever reason it seems a little easier to let go when I look at a nine as three threes.
douglugg says:
I just played 9 holes for 12 bucks, somehow got thru it with ONE tee, hit almost every FIR, and still double and triple bogeyed almost everything. If it wasnt teed up, it may as well have been buried. I had good shots here and there, but tons of bad. coupled with really sticky greens for some 3 and 4 putts. Anyway when the smoke cleared, i realized i was teeing off pretty awesome, and I played a good course for 12 bucks, and got to smack the crap out of some balls :). How can you complain about that? :)
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