“I hate this game! I hate it! Why do I play this stupid game? I quit – I’m never playing again!” Henry blasted himself.
I heard Henry as he was walking to his car and wondered why he was so down on himself. Henry is a hard worker, I can see him on the other side of the range at least once a week hitting golf balls. I’ll be going to the first tee with a GMS class to do our daily On-course Instruction and there will be Henry banging golf balls on the practice range – one after another – “looking for the magic”.
I approached Henry and asked –
“What is wrong? Why do you hate golf? The last time I saw you practicing on the range, you had a smile on your face.” Henry says, “Marc, I’m so frustrated with this game. I put everything I got into trying to play better. And just when I think I got it, I go out on the course, like I did today.
I go out and embarrass myself. I get so mad by the 7th or 8th hole that I can’t even bring myself to play the back 9 holes.”
“Henry those are the words of a frustrated golfer – or should I say – The words of a frustrated golfer that knows he could do better than he is doing. Do you really hate golf?”
Henry usually scores between 92 and 102 (except for the occasional ‘blow-up round’ where he scores around 107, but he also has rounds where his one mulligan each nine holes allows him to stay in the high 90’s). Henry has a deep desire to break 90 for the first time. And on top of that, he has the desire to score in the low 80’s every time he plays. These are very admirable goals.
So I said –
“Henry, these are fantastic goals. And I know you’ll achieve them. First, we need to outline what aspects of your game you need to improve to reach these goals. Too many times Golfers feel as though if they go to the driving range once a week to hit golf balls, they should expect to get better.”
“But Marc,” Henry said, “Isn’t hitting the golf ball better, the key to lower scores?” If I go to the range once a week, I should be able to hit one or two buckets and learn to hit the ball straight. This way I will soon be in the low 80’s.”
“Henry, how long have you been trying to score in the low 80’s?”
“For about 5 years”, Henry answered.
“Henry, how long have you had the routine of going to the range and trying to hit the golf ball straight?” I could tell Henry could see where I was going by the bashful smile on his face. “Well Marc, I’ve been doing this on and off for 5 years. Is a couple of buckets once a week not enough? Do I need to go to the range more often?”
“Henry, before we say you need to go to the range more often, tell me what you do when you go to the range? What’s your routine? What’s your PLAN?” Henry looks at me with a confused look in his eyes and says, “What do you mean by PLAN? I go out and hit golf balls and try to make them go straight down the middle. If I want to hit the ball better, I need to learn to hit the ball straight! If I can’t do that, I’ll never score in the low 80’s.”
“What I mean by PLAN is – what are you doing to learn to hit the golf ball straight? The key to playing better golf has many factors involved. And consistency is a factor.”
“Yes, that’s what I want – consistency! That’s what I’m practicing – hitting the golf ball consistently straight. That’s why I go to the range!” Henry interrupted.
“OK Henry, I understand. But let’s look at a way we can put some consistency into your practice time. Many Golfers feel that if they pound golf ball after golf ball after golf ball, they will eventually get it. I wish it were that easy. I’ve been around many great Players in my life and if there’s one thing they all have in common, it’s that they come to the practice range with a PLAN in their head on what they want to accomplish.
“Most Golfers expect to discover the secret to hitting the golf ball straight each time they go to the driving range. The better Players know that isn’t going to happen. They go to work on one thing at a time. They go to the range with the thought of working on only one small aspect of their swing – and it isn’t trying to hit the golf ball straight.”
I continued –
“And the most important part of this routine is they do not venture away from their PLAN for that day. On the other hand, most regular Golfers will go out to work just on hitting the golf ball straight. They might magically find something that works for a few swings and softly say to themselves ‘I got it, I got it’, and then just as fast as it appeared, it disappears. Henry, what does this Golfer do next? He starts to tinker with other things to try and recapture those straight shots. Then after a half-hour of tinkering with diminishing results, he leaves the range in frustration hating the game.”
“That’s me! That’s me! Have you seen me at the range practicing and getting frustrated?” Henry asked. “Each time I go out to practice, I get ‘it’ – for a few swings. Then it disappears. I hate that!”
“Well Henry, this happens to everybody – even the best Players. Though, you know why it doesn’t happen to them as much? Because they come to the practice range with a PLAN and they don’t venture from that PLAN. They stick with it and they don’t expect miracles. They know if they get just a little better every time they practice, that after a few times to the practice range, they will be that much better. But the average Golfer goes to the practice range thinking and expecting to solve all their swing flaws within hitting a few buckets of golf balls. So they always leave frustrated.
“How do the best Players leave each practice session? They leave like they accomplished something and can’t wait to practice again. They feel so much more satisfied with themselves than the regular Golfer. And that satisfaction turns into confidence on the golf course!”
“I want to practice like that! I want to feel like I am getting better every time I’m on the practice range! I want to become more consistent!” Henry said with so much hope and energy.
“Well Henry, first you’ll need to create a PLAN based on the specific areas of your golf swing that need to be worked on.”
The Monkey’s #1 goal on the practice range is to learn how to hit the golf ball straight
The Player’s #1 goal is to strive for small improvements in the weak parts of their golf swing
Go ahead, be a Player!