By: Adam Atkins
This was the exact conversation between my wife and I last week before a round with my dad:
“Okay Honey, I am leaving – be back in a few hours! Wish me luck!”
“Enjoy, have fun! And don’t let him get to you!”
Every time I get ready to go play golf with my dad, I know that I am in for a battle. My dad is just over 60 and hits the ball like he is in his mid-forties. He has that old-man golf game, where it goes straight and he doesn’t get into too much trouble from tee-to-green. He also still has plenty of strength to hit the ball far, which makes him a very good golfer in his circle of friends. However, I am a young 32-year old that is in the early stages of playing golf. I just started playing the game less than six years ago. I have the power to blast the ball miles, but I also don’t have the mind for golf. Every time I get ready to go play golf with my dad, I know that I am in for a battle… mentally.
- You have to be athletic to play golf
- You can compete at any level in the game of golf
- Golf requires mental awareness and strategy… if you want to win
Golf is a funny sport in which you try to hit a small ball across the yard and make it stop in a hole. I can only imagine what the first few rounds of golf must have been like; they had to take forever! Think back to when you first began the game of golf, undoubtedly there were times when you contemplated giving up. When you thought, this is impossible. When you wondered if you would ever be able to reach the green or even just hit the ball straight. Now think about trying the game of golf with wooden clubs, awful golf balls, shaggy grass, and obstacles everywhere. This is the beginning of golf…. how we decided that this is going to be one of the greatest sports is beyond me – but I sure am glad it survived!
As bad as the beginning of golf must have been, the progression and where we are now as a sport is just as advanced. PGA TOUR players and amateurs alike are spinning back golf balls to exact distances on the greens. When a player asks his caddie for a distance, they are not asking for 115ish yards they are asking for 116 or 114 yards – because it matters. Players are so good these days that they even miss in the correct spots so that way they still have a great chance at making par. The next event you watch, count how many times a player is on the green in regulation and still gets the same score as their playing partner who isn’t. Players have become so good, that there is almost as likely a chance to make a short chip as there is to make a long putt.
However, as impressive as the short game abilities have become – nothing is more impressive than a player that steps up and absolutely mashes a ball 300+ yards. Length is something that is needed in today’s game, and it is becoming more and more of a requirement than an advantage. Everybody wants to step-up to the tee box and obliterate a drive that makes everybody watching pick their jaw up from the ground. The saying goes, “Drive for show, putt for dough.” Who doesn’t love putting on a show?!?
Most people who begin the game of golf just want to step up and hit the ball as hard as they can. Who doesn’t? There may not be a better feeling in golf than when you smash a drive and your ball drops a care package to your playing partner’s ball as it sails past. It is also absolutely an advantage to know that most holes you are going to be 30-40 yards closer to hole. Which leads everyone to wonder – what is the secret to hitting the long ball?
If only it was as simple as stepping up and swinging as hard as you can. However, most accomplished golfers will tell you – swinging harder usually results in a hook or slice. If the shortest distance from point A to point B is a straight line, then a hook or slice – no matter how far – is not ideal. In the game of golf, you need a smooth swing with perfect impact and perfect club face and perfect swing path and perfect body movement – seems easy right? Riiiiigggghhhhtttt.
This is what makes golf a mental minefield. If you can’t hit the ball straight, you are going to find trouble all over the course. You have to use strategy to work your way around the course and put yourself in good spots. It does you no good to be 90 yards away from the hole if you have to go over trees and carry a greenside bunker with a tucked pin. Instead, just hit a smooth shot that places you 125 yards away in the middle of the fairway and leave yourself a good look at the green. Far too many times, golfers take the strategy out of the game and just hit the ball as hard as they can every time. In order to be successful, you need to utilize all the golf clubs in the bag and leave yourself a perfect distance and shot location into the green. I have seen far too many golfers smash their drive when in reality they could have easily just hit their 7-iron to 150 yards and been perfectly fine.
Golf is a terrific sport because not only does it require length, it also requires the mental awareness to know when to use your length. It isn’t always about hitting the ball far – it is also about controlling the ability. The next time you are out on the course, I encourage you to play a few holes with two balls. Hit one ball with your driver and hit one ball with the club that you feel has the best chance to get you to 150 yards out and land in the fairway; play both balls out and see which one scores better. I think you will be surprised how many times the second ball either wins or ties with the first ball. Golf is progressing, but there is no progressing past the mental side of things!
2 hours later…
“Why are you so upset?”
“He did it again! He started playing mental games and I started swinging out of my shoes!”
“Honey, I love you – but you are an idiot.”