Can you adjust and adapt on the course?
Golf is an inherently unpredictable game – how do you cope with variables from an uneven stance to a bad bounce?
Imagine this for a scenario. The temperature is warm every day. The wind never blows. The only thing visible in the blue sky above is bright, golden sunshine. Every blade of emerald-green grass on every golf course is perfectly manicured. Every lie you find in the fairway is perfectly flat. Every time your ball finishes in a bunker, it sits up perfectly. Every lie you find in the rough is exactly the same, perfect. You always have a perfect yardage from the middle of every fairway to a hole cut in the middle of the green. Every green is the same pace and all your putts are flat and straight. Positively utopian.
Sounds pretty awesome but at the same time ridiculous, right?
If this were the case, it would make total sense for you to go to work on your golf swing, hitting 20 balls on the range with each club in a bid to perfect your backswing and numerous other positions to allow you to hit the ball dead straight, exactly the same distance and direction time after time.
You could then head to the short game area to practise the same pitch shot from the same distance and the same perfect lie with the same club for half an hour before repeating the same process for chip shots.
Once you have mastered them, you could place a few balls in perfect lies in the practice bunker and repeat, repeat, repeat.
Bunker play perfected, now it would be time to head to the putting green to work on your perfectly flat, perfectly straight putts from your favourite distance of two feet.
In all probability, you are practising shots that you will rarely face on the golf course. You may feel you have put in some time and effort and to the casual observer, you probably look like you are working really hard and deserve to reap some rewards for your efforts.
The fact of the matter is, in reality, your practice session bears virtually no resemblance to what you will encounter on any given day on any given golf course.
Yes the temperature may be to your liking on certain beautiful days but everything else – including wind, uneven lies, sloping greens, breaking putts and awkward distances – will almost always be a factor. So what do you do then? Do you react or respond? How do you deal with them? Do you in fact deal with them or do you bemoan your bad luck and ill-fortune that the ball is sitting down in the rough?
You can’t believe how unfair it is that you can only get one foot in the bunker and your first putt of the day looks faster than Usain Bolt! Do you complain or do you adjust and or adapt?
Take a minute or two to think about this. Are you practising for utopia or are you training for the reality and inevitability of the diverse conditions you will face and the shots you will have to create when you play golf?
Golf is the ultimate game of adjustment and adaptability. The golf course and Mother Nature demand that we have to adjust and adapt constantly, yet the majority of golfers fail to prepare or train for this inevitability.
In order to improve, you must be prepared to adjust and adapt.
Think about the last three rounds of golf you played and the shots you had to create. What percentage of those shots have you previously practised? How many of those shots required a skill you have neither trained nor even thought about working on? Probably quite a few.
Would you approach any other game, pursuit or business situation in the same manner? Unlikely.
So why is it that we practise one thing then act all surprised when we have to adjust and adapt on the golf course?
Excerpt from The Lost Art of Playing Golf, which is available now at www.thelostartofgolf.com in hardback and Kindle formats.