Archive for Rub of the Green

How often do you hear your playing partners and other people at the golf course complaining about things beyond their control? Maybe you do it a bit yourself. I know I have from time to time, especially in the past. You know the sort of thing I mean. More importantly, have you ever thought about the golf psychology impact that this has on their game?

Now I’m talking here about a whole range of complaints. You’ll hear some people whingeing about the conditions. Maybe it’s too hot or too cold for them to play well. Perhaps the wind’s too strong, in the wrong direction or, as Tiger Woods seems too struggle with these days, the wind is swirling unpredictably. Some may be saying that the greens are too fast or too slow for them to putt well on or too hard or receptive for their style of play. Yet more may be complaining about the length of the course, the thickness of the rough, the width of the fairways or the size of the greens. And it doesn’t matter that it’s the same for everyone, most of them can find something to complain or worry about.

The complaining doesn’t stop with the conditions …
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What impact does luck have on your game of golf? By that I mean do you treat good luck and bad luck as two sides of the same coin? Statistically, our golfing luck is going to even out over the long term. If you keep tossing a coin, you may get long runs of heads or tails, but I’m sure that deep down we all know that every time there’s an equal chance of one or the other. Luck’s been a part of golf for a long time and the earliest golfer’s defined good luck and bad luck as "Rub of the Green."

So how do you feel if you hit a really good drive down the middle of the fairway only to see it bounce off unexpectedly into a bunker or end up in a divot? Does it make you angry and affect your next shot or even the rest of the round? Did you see Lee Westwood’s tee shot on the 72nd hole when he was in contention to win the Open Championship at Turnberry? He hit it perfectly only to see it roll on and on before veering off into a bunker and leaving him with a seemingly impossible shot to the green. Would your shoulder’s "drop"? Would you feel the world was against you? Or would you just treat it as just one of those things and, like Lee Westwood, just accept the new challenge and hit the best possible shot from where the ball lay under the face of the bunker? …
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In parts one and two, I talked about the golf psychology lessons from the performance of veteran Tom Watson and young Ross Fisher at this year’s Open Championship at Turnberry. As a 59 year old myself, I was overwhelmed by Tom’s amazing performance and mental strength around one of the toughest links courses. It almost seems unnecessary to mention his age and recent hip replacement operation. As a golf psychologist helping clients to play the best golf they possibly can, whatever happens, I couldn’t fail to be impressed with Ross’s calm ability to shrug off the disappointment of that quadruple bogey and play on like the consummate professional he has become.

So what’s left to comment on and learn from this year’s Open Championship at Turnberry? Well, I started to talk about Tiger Woods in part 2, but put that on hold so that I wouldn’t detract from the praise I wanted to lavish on Ross Fisher. I also feel that there’s a lot to learn from Lee Westwood’s sad failure over the last few holes, as he was playing as well as we all know he can and probably better than the other leading contender …
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In part one, I talked about the golf psychology lessons from Tom Watson’s amazing performance both on and off the course at this year’s Open Championship at Turnberry. So what other golf psychology lessons can we learn from some of the other contenders?

Now I know the valiant and expectant Ross Fisher’s challenge effectively died in the thick rough at the 5th hole on Sunday. But he went on to succeed magnificently in a way that world number one, Tiger Woods, miserably failed to do two day’s earlier, despite a signature charge that so nearly got him into the weekend. Ross kept his cool and Tiger lost his rag!

I think that Ross Fisher is such a wonderful young golfer, so polite, considerate and British, so I was in seventh heaven when he left the 4th green on Sunday leading the Open by two shots. It was even better that one of my all time favourites Tom Watson was only 2 behind and Lee Westwood, another favourite of mine was in the mix and playing at the top of his game as well. This was going to be a real treat. I was also aware that one of my old clubmates, Luke Donald, was posting a clubhouse leading score with a final round 67 …
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So what golf psychology lessons can we learn from this year’s Open Championship at Turnberry? I’m sure that many of you watching the last day unfold on the course shared my excitement at the ever changing scoreboard, the phenomenal shot making from all the players and the breathtaking and emotional finish to the 72 holes. Let’s not spoil things by thinking about the play-off!

We also saw what makes golf in general and links golf in particular so special. I’m talking here about the basic unfairness of the game – the “rub of the green.” As an example, think about Tom Watson’s perfectly hit 8-iron into the 72nd hole that somehow managed to trickle off the back of the green and nestle against the edge of the rough. Contrast that with Stewart Cink’s frankly ropey shot into the same hole that against all odds managed to stop in the ideal spot and gave him the opportunity to hole a fantastic putt to set the winning target.

This is what links golf is all about and one of the reasons that Tom Watson has always been such a good links player is that he accepts both bad luck and good fortune with the same “happy go lucky” attitude. Just listen to what he said afterwards about that shot into the 72nd hole …
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Have you noticed how good some of the leading professionals are at grinding out a good score, even if they are swinging the club below their best or downright badly. It’s interesting to note that the real greats like Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus always seem to be able to do this, however they’re playing, and whatever the "rub of the green throws" at them when they get to the last nine holes of a championship.

If I look back to my early years in golf, before I had any thoughts about golf hypnosis or golf psychology in general, I was lucky to have a fair amount of natural ability. At the same time, I was rather too inconsistent for my liking. It seemed that if I started out a round playing really well, but not scoring that brilliantly, then my golf would gradually go from good to bad to worse and I’d have a frustratingly high score. On the other hand, if I started off playing relatively badly, but scoring ok, then my golf would often improve as the round went on and I’d have a bewilderingly good score. What was really odd was that my score after 6 to 9 holes in these two types of round was often similar …
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I’ve already talked about how much I enjoyed last weekends 2009 Masters at Augusta. Now, as each day goes by, more detail is coming into my conscious mind. I hadn’t realised how much I had learned about golf psychology from watching just one event on television.

I don’t know if you saw much of Sergio Garcia during the weekend and saw just how unhappy he seemed to be with himself and the course. It was no surprise to hear his negative comments about the course after his final round. One quote really stuck in my mind, "I don’t think it’s fair," he said. "It’s too tricky. Even when it’s dry you still get mud balls in the middle of the fairway. It’s too much of a guessing game. They can do whatever they want. It’s not my problem. I just come here and play and then go home."

Now, he clearly wasn’t the only one exhibiting similar feelings through their body language and in one particular player through his obvious anger …
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Two stories have got me thinking about the power of positive framing for better golf performance and the increased enjoyment of this wonderful game. In NLP terms this is called Reframing.

I was talking to an old golfing friend of mine about his round of golf. I’d like to stress that he’s not a client and just isn’t interested in talking to me about golf psychology – he’s still a good friend, though. Anyway, he was moaning about the condition of the course that day and how on every shot he just seemed to have a worse lie than he expected. If he was on the edge of the fairway, the ball was nestling against the edge of the rough. If he was in the bunker, it hadn’t been raked properly. If he was on the green, there was always a pitch mark just in front of his ball. He just went on and on about his bad luck and how bad he felt about it. And he wished he hadn’t played at all that day. I wasn’t surprised to hear that he’d had a bad round and hadn’t enjoyed himself and the company of his golfing friends

Earlier that day, I’d heard a story about Justin Rose that put my friend’s experience into sharp contrast. Now I don’t know if you are aware that one of the US golf networks is experimenting with equipping caddies in PGA tournaments with microphones. The idea is that we can better hear the exchanges between caddie and player. This certainly sounds interesting …
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