We may not be able to go as low as the PGA Tour Professionals (or shoot 59 like Stuart Appleby in 2010) in this week’s Greenbrier Classic, but we can all work towards going low, or as low as we can. The most important aspect when faced with the possibility of putting together a memorable round is mental toughness. All too often we tend to get in our own way when faced with a little pressure, whether it is for a career low or a friendly wager. The best way to overcome the nerves that build with uncomfortable situations is to draw on past positive experiences and to remember when you have been there before. This can be difficult for the average player who tees it up a couple of times a month, but there are a few drills you can do during your practice sessions to become more comfortable when you’re trying to bring home a great round, or just control the butterflies this game seems to give us from time to time.
1. Play Your Worst Ball
This is a spin on Captains Choice but is done on your own. Take two golf balls and tee off. Pick the worst tee ball and play your next shot from there. Hit two shots from that position, and you guessed it, play the worst one. Continue to do this until the ball is holed. This drill will get you accustomed to being under pressure when attempting to follow up a well-played shot, or trying to refrain from putting yourself in an awkward position. You’ll find that you’ll grind a little harder after a good shot, and remember that you have to make that putt twice for it to count.
2. 3-6-9 Drill
The single club that can make or break a round is the putter, especially when there is something on the line. This drill can be done on the practice green with a flat, straight putt. Place markers (tees, coins, etc.) at 3, 6, and 9 feet from the hole. Now, take three golf balls and start putting from three feet. Make three in a row, move to six feet and make three more, and finally make three putts from nine feet. The catch is that if you miss one, you have to start over at three feet. So in order to complete this drill, you will have to make nine consecutive putts in a row. This drill can take anywhere from ten minutes to two hours! You’ll find that you pay more attention to your routine and get comfortable with the “knee knockers”.
3. Alternate Up & Downs
This is a great drill to help ingrain the habit of getting the ball up and down strategically. You can do this independently or with a partner. Grab ten golf balls and find a straight forward chip shot in the 20-30 foot range. Independently: hit a chip and then proceed to make the putt, making ten in a row. If you miss the putt, you will need to start over at one. With a partner: one player will chip and one player will putt. Hit a chip shot and your partner will make the putt, and if he misses, start over at one. After you get ten in a row up, switch places and do ten more. This drill will give you the ability to survey and plan out how to get the ball in the hole instead of letting your mind wander. Also, you will be surprised how you start to handle the pressure when you don’t want to let your partner down. Note: Depending on skill level, you may want to start with 3-5 golf balls and work your way up to 10.
4. Practice 3 Footers
After each practice session, whether full swing, short game, or on course, it is important to finish on a positive note. The best way to accomplish this is to finish the session by making 50 3-foot putts in a row. Find a straight flat putt about three feet away from the hole and start making putts. If you miss a putt, start over at one. This drill will keep you focused on the shot at hand and will make the three footer a no brainer on the course. You’ll start to associate the hole as the “target” instead of the putt as an “obstacle”. You’ll also be surprised how this will train you to grind over putts and to start thinking about your score in a whole different way. Note: depending on skill level, you may want to start at making 10-25 and work your way up to 50.
These drills will help train you on how to “play” the game, instead of playing defense to avoid a high number/round. You’ll be able to put yourself in a frame of mind to strategically score rather than hit and hope. And once you’re able to rely on the mental side, you’ll be able to get off to a quick start, turn around a poor stretch of holes, or bring home that low round.
Remember, these drills are designed to apply hypothetical pressure, which you should then be able to draw from as a positive experience when faced with “real” on course pressure. Now, GO LOW!
Follow these tips and you will be sure to find more success on the greens! Looking for one-on-one help? Email our PGA Professionals.
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