Master the Course

Bouncing Back from Golf Disaster

By Kevin Hamluk, PGA
Published on
Kevin Na

Kevin Na leaves the scoring trailer after reviewing the video and determining his ninth hole took 16 shots.Getty Images

Imagine shooting an 80 in a round of the Valero Texas Open after shooting a 16— yes, a 16— on the par four ninth hole. That’s exactly what happened to Kevin Na in 2011. When everything suddenly went disastrously wrong, how did he recover, and what can the average player take away from this that is positive?

How do you recover from that? Following his 12-over-par hole, Na played the final nine holes two under par. Hard to imagine that he didn’t lose it a little or just pack it in – it would have been understandable and very easy to have done. But that’s not what happened. Far from it. One of the most impressive things was how he went right back to his routine on the 10th hole. There was no variation; simply right back to the same thing that had worked for him for many years.

The one thing you need on your side A lot of coaches emphasize how important a pre-shot routine is – go through your check list before you hit the ball and make sure that you do it every single swing. This is no more important than when you hit a bad shot or have a bad hole – get right back to doing what you know works! If you can get back into your routine the good scores will come back. This also holds true when you are playing well: don’t change anything…keep doing the same thing that has been working and do it over and over and over again. Each player’s pre-shot routine will be different and depend on their key swing thoughts or swing “triggers.” Do you look up two times before you hit? Do you waggle once? You and your PGA professional can work out a good pre-shot routine that will work for you and make you more comfortable – whether you are hitting the ball poorly or having the best round of your life. Your routine should be short, easy, and quick to run through. There’s no need to make your routine 10 items long; most good routines contain 2-3 items.

It’s a mental thing The true key to the pre-shot routine is simply in its name – PRE-shot. This is a mental checklist that players should go through before try to hit the ball – not during the swing. If you are thinking about a variety of different things during your actual swing then the results of your swing are sure to be poor. I’d like to see your swing be as instinctual as possible – remind yourself of what you want to do before you swing – and then let it happen.

Trust the process Remember, when you are out on the course you need to trust all of the work that you have done while practicing. Have a pre-shot routine (2-3 items at the most), trust your pre-shot routine, and repeat it on every single shot when possible. Kevin Na went right back to his – and he went from a 16 on hole number 9 to a 34 for the entire back nine at the Valero Texas Open. He even beat a few players on the day. Again, after scoring a 16 on one hole! That’s a lesson that could serve you well for a long time to come.

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