Staying in the Game

Frustration, fear and lack of focus are three things we try to avoid on the golf course but they seem to creep in when we least need them. In what other sport do we get thinking about the smallest things? I know that when I'm playing golf I try not to think about what happens if the ball goes out of bounds, I think about where I'm trying to get the ball to land. For some reason when we play golf we let these unwanted thoughts find their way into our heads and quite often let them consume us. So, here are some tips to stay in the game even when things aren’t going your way.

Create your own routine and stick to it. Just like a basketball player shooting free throws, a routine can help to keep you thinking about what you are trying to do. It can be as simple as closing your eyes for a moment or standing directly behind the ball to visualise your shot. Whatever it is make sure you do it for every shot. Remember, play ready golf - this routine should be kept to five seconds at the most. In a round with 90 shots that’s 450 seconds (7.5 minutes), we don’t want to slow the game down.

Leave the outcome for later. There’s no point in thinking about what is going to happen before it has. Keep your mind thinking of the things you can control like your pre shot decision making. What effect will the wind, elevation change or lie do to your club choice? Pick the club you think will get the job done and swing it with full confidence that the ball will end up on target.

Know how far your clubs go. Spend some time at the range hitting more than just your driver. Pay attention to where the ball lands when you hit each club. This is called your carry distance and should be used when you are picking a club on the course. Keep a notepad and write down the carry distance for each club. You should have 5-10 yards between each iron or hybrid. When you know how far each club will go you can be more confident that you picked the right one.

In between shots keep it light. Talk to your playing partners, sing a song or have a look at your surroundings. Try to take your mind off of the game when it’s not your turn. A round of golf can take up to four hours and keeping your brain concentrated for the entire time can tire the best of us. Do whatever you can to avoid thinking too far ahead. 

In conclusion, try your best to think about the things that matter. Wind, elevation change, club selection, shot shape or landing zone. Stay away from things like if I hit it in the water I’ll make a triple bogey because I’ll hit it over the green then duff my chip and three putt. Thoughts like this are easy to come by and difficult to forget. When you step up to make your shot, know that you've made the right decision and execute. More often than not it will turn out, even if the club you chose wasn’t perfect.

Kenny Maki is a PGA of Canada Assistant Professional at the Fernie Golf Club. For more information, to book a tee time or perhaps some lessons, visit

Photo by Vince Mo