Tuesday, January 26, 2010

He Shoots. He Scores, He is . . Even Par Every Day.

Isn't it funny, perhaps even curious, how some things just happen? A while back,  on board a westbound 757 out of Chicago heading for Albuquerque, I had the most memorable encounter, even for me.

Soon after takeoff I reached for my copy of Ben Hogan's "Five Lessons" with plans to re-read it for the 5th time. Yes, the 5th time. You see, the first lesson, "The Grip" is 18 pages long and must be mastered before moving to the second lesson.

No sooner do I open the book when the passenger next to me says, "That sure is a great book." I nod and continue reading without commenting. "What do you shoot?" he asked next. "Low to mid 80's" was my reply. I am not anti-social, but I make it a practice of not engaging in small talk with strangers while flying. His next comment really caught my attention when he mentioned he "shoots par every day."  The way he said it intrigued me. "You mean you have shot par or occasionally shoot par.", I replied. "No, I shoot par every time I play."

I soon discovered my fellow passenger, a professor from Cornell, played his campus course every day after his classes and did indeed shoot par every single time he teed it up. The imaginative and beautiful way he achieved this was pure and simple: he stopped playing, quit his round, and walked off after completing 72 strokes!!!. He shared his goal each time out was to go as far as possible in 72 strokes. Instead of concentrating on swing tips and other mind sapping golf instructions, he  only thought about getting as far as possible around the course in 72 strokes. His game improved dramatically with this approach. He repurposed his goals. Why couldn't I do that myself?

Well, I have never forgotten this tale and utilize it today with a slight modification: I do finish my round and post my actual score. I make a mental note, and also one on my scorecard, of exactly where I finished my 72nd stroke. My goal is keep it moving closer and closer to the 18th green. Nothing in my head except going as far and deep into the course as possible. I know if I make it past the 15th hole  I have a chance for a good score; past the 16th, a very good score; past the 17th and I am at the gates of a very low round, and even par maybe. Broke 80 three times last year with this approach.

Kind of gives a new meaning to "going deep" doesn't it?


Heather said...

Do I have to start talking to folks on airplanes now? ;o)

That is very interesting approach. One I have never tried, or thought of before. I like your variation. I'd try it today, but the white stuff is covering the ground again.

Anonymous said...

Ha! Great post! Though I may only get 9 holes in most days...

Actually, why not set varying goals based on your skill level? If you struggle to break 90, why not mentally play till 90? Do the same for 80 if your consistently in the mid-to-high 80's.

That's a Good drill Coach!

Vince Spence said...

The professor wouldn't do well in our group, because by hole #15 or 16, we have 5-6 nassaus, presses and presses on presses going hot. Your system seems fine. You would probably take me broke.

I thought he was going to tell you about 'personal par'. I'll give you an example how my PP works on my course.

We have five par-threes. From the back tees, #3 & #4 are pretty difficult and I rarely par them back-to-back. So, par for those two holes is seven (+1). And ten for the three remaining par threes (+1). We have four tough par fours and I figure them as par fives for me (+4). We have three relatively easy par fours and I almost always birdie one of them (-1). We have a pretty short simple five-par and two 550 yard plus par fives. For those three, I figure one over (+1). I hate assigning half numbers, but the remaining par fours are given 13 strokes (+1).

So, my personal par is 77, or seven over par. My index is 9.0, so I rarely shoot my PP, but, if I shoot 83, I am only 6 over that day, NOT 13. Suicide can be put off for another day.

I know a lot of people expect to go out and match their career round every round. They must be pretty disappointed people.

Gary said...

Great Post! I've looked at my scorecard many times and seen what hole I was on when 72 rolled around. This approach is an interesting way to change my goals for a round. Thanks!

James Ross said...

Just goes to show you how powerful the mind is.

McRedmond said...

Coach - what a fascinating piece on how a mind can control all of you actions. Truly a powerful piece and a good way to approach the game. Thanks for sharing so many enlightening stories with your readers!

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