Whenever a PGA Tour golfer wins four tournaments in 57 days – including The Masters – it seems that everyone who writes or commentates on golf in any way has a theory about the reason for such explosive success.
We start to hear things like:
“That guy is so solid through the hitting area.”
“His secret is that he keeps his feet so quiet during the shot.”
“The key is his footwork… he gets so much leverage from the ground.”
“He gets amazing extension… and it lets him set the club in the slot.”
…and so on.
And that’s fine. People who are looking at his mechanics to find the solution – or the secret – to why he is playing so well. Totally get that. We are all searching for the secret, aren’t we?
But I have learned this about great mechanics: while incredibly important (non-negotiables, in fact) – they will only take you so far.
Hear me out.
To be sure: in order to play the game at a high level, you must have a strong outside game. The game of swing mechanics. The game of technique and movement and minding what is happening in the physical realm.
But there is more to excelling at golf than just having a swing dialed-in. You need to have something more.
So, it seems to me that there is another game you must play that is arguably even more important than the outside game of swing mechanics: the game that is played between your ears: the inside game. What I refer to as The Most Important Game.
It’s the game of processing and interpreting what is happening moment to moment. It’s the game of inner dialogue and story that supports solid swing mechanics. (…or doesn’t) It’s the game that determines whether – or how quickly – you can make sense of your world and what is going on in it. It’s the game that challenges your capacity to quiet the chatter in your head, and to contextualize and put into perspective the reality that is occurring in front of you right now. No matter the stakes. No matter the circumstances.
The Most Important Game – the inside game – is the game of anchoring to productive thought patterns, so that staying connected to your full potential moment-to-moment (and accessing all your outside game talents) is possible.
When we play The Most Important Game well, we:
- Anchor to productive thought patterns.
- See challenges in new ways.
- Accept setbacks more readily.
- Quiet the chatter, reset and get back to playing the game in line with our skill potential…and sometimes even higher.
What that looks like in a performance realm like golf is:
- Anchoring to positive thinking about the course we are playing, as well as the humans we are playing with.
- Seeing challenges on the course as the gateway to new experiences, improved skills, and growth as a golfer – and as a human being.
- Accepting the bounces that don’t go our way – as readily as the ones that do – as part of the game that we don’t always have control over.
- Bringing intentionality and focus to the shot in front of us right now – and shutting out all the other noise and chatter.
- Rebounding from poor shots or outcomes – and reconnecting to ideas and thoughts that inspire your best shot-making.
- Being your best coach on the course – even when you don’t have your best today.
It turns out that the key (the secret?) to Scottie Scheffler’s amazing run the past eight weeks just might be in the changes in how he played The Most Important Game… his own inside game.
How can we know that?
In a February 15, 2022 article in Golf Week, columnist Adam Schupak wrote about Scheffler’s reflections since teaming up with caddy Ted Scott.
“I always viewed it as I had to play kind of this perfect version of golf,” said Scheffler, who made four bogeys on Sunday, including three in a four-hole stretch on
the front nine at TPC Scottsdale. “If you would have told me a year ago that I would be making those kinds of mistakes and been able to still win the golf tournament, I would have been pretty surprised, but I guess I proved a little bit to myself that it doesn’t take perfect golf and it’s more about coming back from the mistakes than it is just kind of cruising the entire time.”
Scheffler also said:
“I didn’t really let those bogeys bother me as much as I would have in the past,”
So, as much as Scheffler has honed his swing mechanics over the years, it seems that the secret to his recent success might be rooted in how he THINKS about his game. It might be rooted in how he is playing The Most Important Game – the one between his ears. The inside game.
He has grown in his capacity to see challenges in new ways, and to accept imperfection – and not have it derail a round. And likely because of that, he is able to bounce back quickly from the setbacks he is experiencing on the course.
How are you thinking about the game right now? (Your practice, your play, your development along the Single Plane Swing journey…etc.)
How well are you playing The Most Important Game?
Are you able to:
- Anchor to positive thinking about the course you are playing, as well as the humans you are playing with.
- See the challenges on the course as the gateway to new experiences, improved play, and growth as a golfer – and as a human being.
- Accept the bounces that don’t go your way – as readily as the ones that do.
- Bring intentionality and focus to the shot in front of you right now – and shut out all the other noise and chatter.
Questions that might be worth revisiting!