Last week I got one of the best lessons I’ve ever had on a golf course. But not for the reasons you might think. Here is that story:
I stood on the tee at the 17th hole at Eagle Creek in Lake Nona, Fl last Monday with all the confidence I thought I needed. The shot was 188 yards over water to a large, undulating green bunkered in the front and in back.
My decision was easy. I would go with 6-iron. Why? Well, I guess because once a couple years ago I flushed a 6-iron pin-high to a hole 186 yards away. And that sort of became my 6-iron yardage forever. (Isn’t that the way it works? ) What’s another two yards?
My playing companions that day were Chris Anderson, (a terrific Single Plane Swing golfer from Detroit, MI), along with GGA Master Instructors and superb ball-strikers Chandler Rusk and Trent White.
I had watched Chandler and Trent hit one solid shot after another over the course of our round, all while I had spent the first seven holes of our back nine thinning one shot after the next. Chris wasn’t having his best round – but had also hit plenty of quality shots.
Importantly, as Trent would later observe, I had not reached a single green up to that point. In the words of Mike Tyson, I must have been in “bolivion.”
At #17, we all discussed the shot we were about to hit. I quickly realized that Trent and Chris were planning to hit way more club than me. And Trent looked at me half-incredulous as if to say “You’re kidding, right?””
“But, …but, …but.” said my inner narrative. “I did hit that great 6-iron at Coffee Creek in Edmond, OK in September of 2016 after all.”
Sheepishly, I walked back to the cart and grabbed a 5-iron. Then proceed to slap at that one, hit it thin (again) and land it about ten yards short. (see map on right)
Trent and Chandler, ever the gentlemen chuckled a little and did a little #SMH. We all laughed at the irony. And we went on to finish the round.
Later, over dinner Trent gently broke the news to me that I had played an exceptionally clueless round of golf…and he wanted to know when I was going to learn to set the ego aside and play more club. (OK…my words, not his.)
For a brief moment, it hit me pretty hard. I’m the mental game coach – right? How could I be so unaware? (Isn’t awareness my thing?) But once I was able to settle in to Trent’s feedback more objectively, I was able to listen to him and actually hear what he had to say. I was able to tune in to the objective truth…and not my story.
The facts were this: I had shorted myself time and time again and never made the proper adjustments that I could have. The corrective action was simple, play with more awareness and most important: club up.
Sometimes the EGO gets in the way of our decision-making…and we are completely unaware of it. This ultimately impacts how we play the game. For me last week it looked like this: my ego would not settle for attempting that shot on #17 with anything less than a 6-iron because my self-worth was on the line!
In fact, every time I stood over the ball – I was convinced that I could pull off the shot I was hoping for, even though there was very little evidence that would be possible that day.
Trent and Chandler reminded me that I don’t have to be trapped in the idea that I’m “supposed to” hit a 6-iron 188 yards. That is not what makes me a better golfer…and it certainly does not prove I’m a better human being.
They helped me to see that our clubs are nothing but a set of tools or implements. And that golf is played well when you get good at choosing the right tool for the right job in that moment. The number on the bottom of the club doesn’t matter.
And they taught me (again) that staying tuned-in to the results I am producing on the course ( I call this “Objective Reality”) can help me make better decisions going forward. (Duh…right!?)
It was not my best round of golf ever…but it turned into an amazing lesson for me. (Thanks Trent and Chandler!)
So, get out there and have fun. But for heaven’s sake: Stay alert and CLUB UP!!
Paul Monahan, is a Peak-Performance coach, member of the International Coach Federation and a certified COR.E Performance Dynamics (TM) Specialist. He resides in Cleveland, Ohio with his wife Paula and is the proud dad to three young men.