Don't let a tough hole mess with your mind

Rory McIlroy
USA Today Images
Rory McIlory four-putted the same hole on two consecutive days at the BMW Championship.
By Mark Aumann

Problem Area: Fundamentals
Series: Lesson Learned

Published: Tuesday, September 09, 2014 | 10:24 a.m.

If the most important rule of golf is "play it where it lies," then the most important unofficial rule of golf is "stuff happens." A bad lie, a bad break, a bad swing, a bad putt.

The best thing to do? Forget about it and move on. But how do you not let it mess with your mind, especially if it's a hole that seems to have your number every time you play that course?

Chris Czaja, PGA Teaching Professional at Boca West Country Club and 2010 South Florida PGA Section Teacher of the Year, said it's good to have "golfer's amnesia" at times, especially when bad things happen to good players. Walter Hagen was quoted as saying he expected to make six mistakes a round, so even the best aren't fallible.

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Consider what happened to Billy Horschel at the Deutsche Bank. As he put it, he hit a "bad shot at the wrong time." He put that behind him, and faced with a similar situation Sunday at Cherry Hills, hit a perfect wedge shot over the water on No. 17 to cement a two-shot victory.

Then there was the case of Rory McIlroy, the No. 1-ranked player in the world. He four-putted from five feet Saturday on No. 12 and, just to prove that he's as human as the rest of us, four-putted the same green a day later.

So how do you get over that mental hump? Czaja suggests three possible options.

"Play the hole differently," Czaja said. "For example, tee off from a different side of the tee box and change your aim line. Start from the far left side of the tee and aim more down the right side of the fairway or green, or vice versa."

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Another possibility is to use a different club off the tee, Czaja said.

"For example, let's say you are playing a par-5 hole that has a narrow fairway with numerous hazards," he said. "Play a fairway wood or hybrid off the tee instead of your driver and get the golf ball in play. Just make it a three-shot hole. Play for par and reduce the chance of making a big number.

"If it's a par-3 that has your number, you can adjust the course strategy as well. If it's a long hole, you can play to the front yardage and just try and two-putt from the front. This allows you to take an easier club off the tee and have more accuracy."

If you know there's a specific hole that's been giving you fits, Czaja said use your pre-round practice session and "play" the hole until you feel confident that you can successfully tackle it later.

"Warm up on the range and practice the particular shots you may need on the golf hole that has your number," Czaja said. "Get some positive swing thoughts going.

"The positive attitude is key and work on the idea of having 'golf amnesia.' Try and remember your great golf shots and forget the bad ones as fast as possible."  



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