Critical Moments

“What you do NEXT” has a profound impact on how you perform on the golf course and off.

I was playing last week with Single Plane Academy student Chris Anderson at his course in Detroit. Chris is a very good player and has worked a lot on his swing mechanics over the years. For the past year, Chris has also been focused on his mental game skills …and I’m proud of what he has accomplished in that arena!

What he did after a mid-round disappointment was a great lesson for me on how to handle the critical moments we face when we play.

The fifth hole is a 355 yard, significant dogleg right par four. It’s a bit of a placement hole off the tee. Chris hit a perfect drive (4-wood I think) to put himself into position to shoot at the green. (If you want to see what a very strong tee-ball game looks like, go play with Chris!)

On his second shot, Chris slightly-missed a 5-hybrid and left his ball in the deep rough, short and right of the green. With the pin back and left, Chris had a good angle to the hole and could still get up and down for par.

He stepped up and hit a chip a bit firm, running it through the green and coming to rest on the back fringe (but against the rough…about 25 feet from the hole.) Ouch. Now it was another difficult chip for par.

His next shot made it’s way down towards the hole to about ten feet and he missed the bogey putt. Double bogey. Four shots to get down from the greenside rough. That one stung!

But it’s what Chris did next that really impressed me: It was clearly frustrating for him to shoot 6 on that hole. But he did not dwell on the score. Instead, he went right to… “What can I learn from this?” Chris clearly understands that there is opportunity in our mistakes. He knows that scoring a 6 on a 350 yard par four does not make him less of a person.

After we finished the hole, I heard him express out loud how he could have approached that differently. He said “Well, I guess the lesson here is to first be on the green…and not to get too cute with these kinds of shots when the pin is there.”

Then he dropped a ball in the rough from where he hit his third shot, popped a little chip to the center of the green, and watched as it collected to about 8 feet from the hole. I could see that Chris had made an important, yet calm and measured mental note about that experience.

The way I interpret what I saw on that hole for Chris is this: There are what I call Critical Moments that we all face when we play. I call them that because what happens next (what you think, say and do) is CRITICAL to staying in a productive energetic presence – or performance mindset.

For Chris, he had a CHOICE about how to THINK about what he just experienced on hole #5, and WHAT HE WOULD THINK, SAY and DO about it. In that Critical Moment, Chris chose to tap into that part of him that sought out a LESSON, rather than devolving into struggle or frustration because he had played that hole so badly.

And the result was that Chris was able to:

  • Become more aware of his mental and emotional dynamics (Moe called that Alertness)
  • Loosen his grip on his story about what SHOULD be happening (Moe called that Indifference)
  • Capture the true lesson of the moment that would help him on his path to mastery

You can do the same thing when you play. It just takes awareness that a Critical Moment has just occurred. And it takes intentionality to anchor to productive thinking when critical moments do show up on the course.

What will you do next when faced with a Critical Moment on the course?


Paul Monahan

Paul Monahan

Paul Monahan is an International Coach Federation (ICF) - credentialed coach working in the arena of human potential. Paul’s clients are leaders, executives, athletes and musicians who are serious about transforming how they perform in critical moments. His experiences in leadership and development over a highly-successful 25-year corporate career have created powerful context and understanding for the leaders and executives he coaches. Additionally, his passions and experiences in sports and music have uniquely positioned Paul to profoundly impact his clients in those areas as well.

6 thoughts to “Critical Moments”

    1. Thanks John. Yes, Moe and Me is a must-read for the Moe Norman crowd! The author, Lorne Rubenstein is a friend of Todd and Tim Graves and appears in the upcoming Moe Feeling of Greatness documentary which Todd is producing. You can find a trailer here:

    1. You are welcome, Danny. Yes – there is a lesson in every shot. And the key to staying in a productive mindset on the course is to cultivate objectivity. Pure, objective non-judgment.

  1. Great real life story and example, Paul. These really help me to take Moe’s AAI attitude onto the course and have been of benefit, especially for a relatively new golfer.

    Sorry I missed this weekend AAI school. I have a lot of questions that I am sure you/Tim/Chandler could have addressed, such as: How do you handle the frustrations of your playing partner (grumbling/cursing and slapping the ground with his club) and keep that out our your game, How do you keep the push of “pace of play” or the push from the twosome behind your foursome out of your game, How to keep your head in your game when the group ahead is slow and 1+ holes behind, How to keep the AAI in the game when you are playing in a tournament and not just a fun or practice round……

    Thanks. Hope to see you again soon.

    1. Thanks for your input, Larry. Great questions! I’ll answer it this way: Todd Graves likes to say: “Things happen. The rest is just story.” Said a slightly different way: nothing that ever happens in front of you has any meaning, UNTIL YOU GIVE MEANING TO IT. And if you only rely on your STORY about what life SHOULD be like…then you will struggle. But if you can see things differently, write new stories for yourself about what life MIGHT be like…then it’s easier to reframe situations as they arise – and make them more palatable. Reality just is. It is neither good nor bad. You are in control. Decide that there is a lesson in everything you see or experience…and you may experience less frustration.

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