One of the players I meet as I was preparing for the Tour was a fellow from Tennessee, Bobby G. I won’t use his name because I don’t have his permission. He is one of a few golfers who ever beat Jack Nicklaus in an 18 hole match. Jack actually wrote about it in one of his books.
I was talking with Bobby following a round in a Florida tournament his first year on the Tour. He had not played particularly well that day and was bemoaning his putting. During our conversation, it was apparent that Bobby was not playing to his ability on the Tour so far. He felt his putting was to blame. His solution was to count his three putts and keep track of all his three putts all the time.
Bobby lost his card after that first year or shortly thereafter. At the time I didn’t understand how Bobby could have lost his card. He was a very good player and had beat Jack in a head to head match.
But as I now realize, Bobby was making the same mistake I had made many times and many of the players made almost daily.
What is a golfer’s normal reaction after a round of golf, be the round good bad or indifferent? Normal self-conversation is about the shortcomings, the problem areas, the areas for improvement. It includes a glancing appreciation for the good and a focus on the problems areas in order to improve them.
The truth is, that what we focus on grows. That is one of life’s principles. If we focus on the garbage in our lives, we get more garbage. When we focus on the good in our lives, we get more good. It seems to be that “count your blessings” thing.
If the player focuses on the three putts he made during a round, he will have more three putts the next time he plays golf. If the player focuses on the water, he has plenty of water penalties; bunkers, he has plenty of sand shots; short tee shots, shorter tee shots.
I hated it when I hit a bad shot, a quick hook with my driver, a bad score on a hole or had a bad round. After one of those experiences, I would practice like mad with that experience in mind so that I would never let that happen again. All I was doing was making that same experience more possible by focusing on it during what I thought was the correction process.
It is only at this time in my life that I realize what Jack Nicklaus and his caddie, Angelo, were doing after a round of golf. The first and most important question was always, “What went right? What did I do well today? What did you do well today? What did we do well today?” Much time was spent on what went right. That was the focus.
The next question was almost in the positive, “What would I do differently? What would you do differently? What would we do differently?” Notice that the word ‘wrong’ is never a part of the question. There is no negative here. There is no focus on the negative, only recognition of the things that could be done differently.
If a golfer reviews his mistakes, he will repeat those mistakes. By focusing on the mistakes he is simply telling his “system” that that is the goal and he would like more of the same. The converse is also true. As the golfer reviews his successes, he will repeat his successes. What we focus on grows.
Jack will always stand as one of the best that ever played the game of golf. He was good over a long period of time and rarely had a bad round or bad event.
Perhaps these ideas could help your golf game. Instead of saying something in golf words about the less than perfect part of your just finished golf game; a long, total recall of the good parts of your game and shots should be in order. Enjoy the good shots and the good holes again and again. Realize the few areas that could be done differently for a few seconds, then dismiss it entirely.
The crummy seems to demand our attention, all of it. You can do that or you can focus on what you did well. There have only been about ten great golfers in the last 60-70 years. The rest have been good with their flash of goodness. I have played with three of them; Nicklaus, Player and Watson. I have talked at length with Byron Nelson, watched Ben Hogan practice once in FL and spent some time with Sam Snead. I never met Bobby Jones. What do you think they focused on? I just can’t imagine that they ever focused on their shortcomings or their mistakes for any length of time.
I want you to succeed at golf and in all ways. Do us both a favor – focus on what you did well, on your successes. Just notice what to do differently.
John Toepel is a Veteran PGA Tour Player, instructor, author, and professional speaker. He is also the discoverer of Concept Golf, the quickest way to immediate, life-long lasting improvements to anyone's golf game. To learn more about Concept Golf, including the most comprehensive golf instruction system ever, “The Concept Golf Perfect Shot Making System", please visit http://www.conceptgolf.com/PSMS.htm and Discover the Par Golfer in You!