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Thursday, 29 December 2016

How to Prepare for Every Round

I wrote an article in November about how to begin your round. It focussed on Bobby Jones' advice about finding your rhythm for the day. I thought, since I've noticed it was apparently of some interest, I would share Bobby Jones' advice about how to prepare for your round mentally. After all, much of your success in this game is determined by how well you use that five and a half inches of grey matter between your ears.

As usual, I can't think of a better source for the mental approach than Bobby Jones. Bobby was a perfectionist, and often became furious at anything short of perfection in his shotmaking. He also "played every shot for its ultimate possibilities." Eventually, however, he learned the virtue of the advice he had once been given by Bill Fownes, who told him, "Bob, you've got to learn that the best shot possible is not always the best shot to play."  Bobby wrote:

    "It took some doing, I'll admit, but it is a fact that I never did any real amount of winning until I learned to adjust my ambitions to more reasonable prospects shot by shot, and to strive for a rate of performance that was consistently good and reliable, rather than placing my hopes upon the accomplishment of a series of brilliant sallies."

Bobby analyzed his play and came to realize that he was scoring well but often could only find one or two shots in most rounds that had not been mishit to some degree. He wrote:

    "I finally arrived at a sort of measure of expectancy that in a season's play I could perform at my best rate for not over half-a-dozen rounds, and that in any one of these best rounds I would not strike more than six shots, other than putts, exactly as intended.
     If one should have confidence in such an appraisal, which I had, the following conclusions were inescapable:
    1. I must be prepared for the making of mistakes.
    2. I must try always to select the shot to be played and the manner of playing it so as to provide the widest possible margin for error.
    3. I must expect to have to do some scrambling and not be discouraged if the amount happens to be more than normal.
    
     The main point of all this for the play-for-fun golfer is to emphasize the importance even for him of adjusting his attitude towards the game before he goes out on the course. Let him first divest himself of any thought that it may be unsportsmanlike or unworthy to prepare himself for the play as best he can. There is no point in going out to play unless one has the desire to play well, and golf was not meant to be played impetuously; nor is one likely to exercise the needed restraint and self-discipline unless one has prepared oneself in advance."

Considering this was the way the greatest player of his generation learned to approach every round, how much more so shouldn't we prepare ourselves in advance for the making of mistakes and the inevitability that we will have to be scrambling out there. Also we should be just as, or more, prepared to play the kind of shots that give us the widest margin of error. This is the way to prepare mentally for every round. Hope for the best, but expect that no round of golf will be without some trouble.