The Ungrateful game of Golf

Four holes to play. Four shots lead. Adam Scott had played beautifully all four days. He was ready to become the 2012 British Open Champion. Then, suddenly, the collapse. Adam Scott bogeyed the last four holes and gave the trophy away to Ernie Els.

“That’s golf” Adam said afterwards.

Golf’s harshness 

What is it about golf that makes it so difficult and creates so much variability in the performance of a player. Well, it is actually pretty obvious to anyone who realizes that 1) It requires extreme precision on every shot and 2) every shot can cause a debacle. Especially at the PGA tour level.

Plus quite frankly there is a component of luck involved in sinking in 10+ ft putts, or chip shots, etc and at the end, 1 or 2 shots can make the difference in golf.


Now, and maybe more importantly, you have to add the exponential component of focus+confidence. Adam Scott missed a very short putt on the 16th hole which caused the second bogey. Which then put Ernie Els only 2 shots behind. Which probably caused Adam’s mind to think, “I could screw this up”. Made him loose focus and confidence. Then bogeyed 17 after a bad approach shot. Less confidence, less focus. Done deal. Extremely difficult to recover from that.

From Glory to Shame

Now this is also true for most amateur players. How many times have you birdied a hole to then shank a ball on the very next hole and triple bogey it? How many times have you played a great round but threw it away with 3 bad tee shots that went out of bounds. Think about, 3 shots out of ~80+ shots could make the difference between a great round or a bad round.

In soccer for example, players make mistakes all the time. Some of those mistakes are expensive, but most are not. In baseball, same thing, except maybe the pitcher. Football, you have 3 chances every time. Bowling is one of the few I can think could make that much difference.

If you look at the shot distribution of amateurs, you typically find that the most shots are lost on a few bad holes. Is not like they double bogeyed most holes to shot 98. Most likely the par a few holes, and bogeyed some others. But the bulk always goes on the 8′s and 9′s that show up a couple of times per round. And screws everything up.

So what? Is there anything I can do?

Well yes. There are many things you can do, if you have the discipline to do so. As an amateur you need to admit that 1) you are going to miss shots and 2) you are not going to hit miracle shots with a high successful rate.


Once you accept those 2 facts you will make better decisions after a bad shot. Settle for the bogey or d-bogey with a fair state of mind. That will give you a better chance of a good bounce back for a par on the next hole. But if you triple or worse, it will be a lot harder to do good on the next hole.  Maybe that could be the difference of you kissing the trophy.

By the way, study shown that out of all stats tracked at the PGA Tour, the “bounce back” showed one of the highest correlation with success at the PGA Tour. “Bounce back” is measured by the percentage of times that a player shots a Birdie after a Bogey or worse. For the typical amateur player this can mean hitting a Par after a D-bogey or worse.

Enjoy your Golf!



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