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Mentally recover form a bad start in golf
Kathy Hart Wood

Kathy Hart Wood

How to Mentally Recover From a Bad Start

You get off to a bad start in golf…

That could be a double bogey, could be a triple bogey.  It depends on your score or where your handicap is on what is a bad start for you.

It could happen in the first couple holes or could happen on hole number one.

And this is what I want to remind you, a number is always NEUTRAL.

It is neither good nor bad.

So if you make a double bogey on the first hole, it’s a par four and it’s a six.

It’s just a six until you have a story about it, until you create thoughts about it.

The thing that you wanna ask yourself is what are you making it mean? 

What is the story that you’re creating? 

What are the things that you’re saying to yourself? 

Are you saying…

  • “I can’t have a good round now?” 
  • “It’s going to be too hard for me to make that up.” 
  • “I don’t have enough birdies in me or pars, depending on what your handicap is, to wash out the double bogey”
  • Or is it that feeling that “the game is over for today”?

And what I want to make sure you know that that is not a feeling, that is a sentence in your head. 

When we think the game is over for today, that feels pretty hopeless maybe some despair…a little bit of why bother.

I wanna offer you some truths for the sake of your brain.

A double bogey is the same as two bogeys. That’s just math. 

And I want you to ask yourself, do you think differently if you bogeyed one and two versus if you double bogeyed one and parred two, or you parred one and double bogeyed two.  

Does your brain perceive it differently?

Is the story you create change in any way?

Because at the end of the round, they add up the same.

Another truth is that you could cut up every little box that you put a score in 18 little boxes, cut ’em up. 

Put ’em in a paper bag, shook ’em all up and you could go and paste them into a new scorecard in a random order and it will add up to the same score. 

And at some point that double bogey is gonna land on one and some point that double bogey is gonna land on 18, it’s gonna land on 10, it’s gonna land on nine.

It has an opportunity to land on any hole. If you play golf enough times, you are going to double bogie or have two bogies equal, in the beginning of a round, it’s bound to happen and we are not immune to where they happen. 

Just because you got off and double bogeyed the first hole does not mean you got off to a bad start.

Just because you double bogeyed the last hole does not mean you’re a bad finisher. 

Just because you double bogeyed something in the middle of the round doesn’t mean you always have a blow.

It could be that it just happened.

So those are the truths about having and starting with a double.

They’re useful to remind your brain, and it’s useful to listen to the sentences that you create in your head when you have that double bogey, because that feeling is going to set you up for the rest of the round.

The challenge then becomes, “how do I get back and stay motivated when I have more holes to play?” 

Now the sentences in your head that you create, which if they sound anything, like 

“I don’t have enough birdies in me” 

“I’m not playing well enough to make up for this score.”

“I’m not hitting it well enough.” 

“I don’t hit it close enough” 

“Now I really have to push and try to make up for this double bogey or this quote unquote, bad start.” 

Those are scarcity thoughts. 

Those are thoughts that there’s just not enough to go around really gonna be useful for you to start working on those.

Which sounds more like:

  • “It’s possible I could make some more birdies today.” 
  • “I have plenty of birdies in me.”
  • “I have plenty of putts in me.” 
  • “I can definitely put a series of good holes together.”

When you think there’s a limited supply over the course of 18 holes,

that feeling of not enough, it’s definitely gonna be uneasy, right? 

That’s when we start pressing and pushing. 

That’s pressure. Usually it doesn’t lead to great golf after that.

Why would we say “I screwed up and I blew my whole round”? 

It’s because you’re more focused on the score than you are about what you’re gonna learn and who you’re gonna become, and overcoming the challenge of getting off to a bad start.

We have two options at that moment, we can decide to throw in the towel, which feels crappy. Or we can grind it out and shoot a number and post a number that we might not be so happy about. They both kind of can feel crappy. That’s a possibility. 

But if you keep grinding, you have the opportunity to be really proud of yourself. And to change and to evolve into a stronger golfer. 

At least it’s an option with plan B. 

Throwing in the towel has only one outcome.

This is episode 106 of Above Par and you can watch the episode below or listen HERE.


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