For the average golfer, the task of putting together a round that culminates in a good 18-hole score can seem like a serious challenge. Sure, the typical golfer is capable of producing some quality play for a few holes, but keeping it up for all 18? That can seem extremely difficult, if not impossible.
Often, it is as simple as having one good nine, and one ‘not-so-good’ nine. For some players, it will be a good front nine that is followed by an ugly back nine, while the opposite is true for others. Either way, a golfer who wants to take his or her game to new heights is going to have to overcome this issue as quickly as possible.
Of course, in almost every case, the problem here is mental rather than physical.
Most players don’t get tired during the course of a round of golf, so it shouldn’t be fatigue that is at the heart of the issue. Golf is a game that is famous for its ability to cause trouble between the ears, and the matter of stringing together two good nine-hole scores is all about getting your mind to cooperate with what your body needs to do.
That said, let’s dive into a few tips that should be able to help you conquer this common problem.
The Range is Your Friend
If you are someone who has trouble getting started successfully, you likely need to pay a little more attention to the time you spend on the driving range prior to your round.
You shouldn’t feel like you are heading to the first tee needing to find your rhythm – you should feel that you are already in rhythm and ready to go.
Remember, you don’t want to be treating your pre-round driving range session like a practice session – the balls you hit before a round are simply to warm-up and get into a rhythm. Leave the actual practice for a day when you aren’t going out on the course.
Speaking of preparation, you also should be spending plenty of time on the practice green before your round starts. You need to know just how fast the greens are rolling before you ever start your round, as you can’t afford to waste a couple of strokes on three putting while you figure out the pace of the greens.
It only takes a couple of mistakes to throw your front nine score off track, so prepare yourself to get off to a good start on the very first hole.
Overcome Your Jitters
Another issue for players who don’t tend to get off to a good start is early-round jitters (something we covered extensively here). Many players – especially those who are focused on playing their best each and every time they hit the links – struggle to relax early in a round.
Wanting badly to get off to a good start, these players try too hard and they wind up making mistakes as a result. Does this sound familiar? If you tend to fall into this kind of pattern, you are going to need to find a way to overcome the early-round jitters to avoid doing damage to your scorecard.
So what can you do to get over this issue? One option is to play conservatively early in the round until you work out your jitters. If you start off on the first hole by taking a rip at your driver on an aggressive line, you might make a big mistake before the round even gets going. Instead, try hitting a long iron or hybrid from the tee to put the ball in play safely.
Get through the first couple of holes by playing safe and then start to open up your game as the jitters fade and your confidence grows.
Staying in the Moment
While some golfers do have trouble getting off to a good start, it is likely that the opposite is more common – players who post a good front nine score only to fall apart on the back. This is something that every experienced golfer has done at least once, and for some amateurs, it is a regular occurrence.
For most players, the problem of ‘blowing up’ on the back nine is directly related to looking ahead to the end of the round. For example, say you are a player who is usually happy to break 80, and your personal best round is a 76. On the front nine, you manage to shoot an even-par 36, and you start to do the math – another 36 would be a 72, and you would beat your record by 4! Even a 39 would still allow you to shoot your best-ever round.
That math might seem harmless enough, but it can do serious damage to your game as you continue on to the 10th tee. While you are thinking about scores and possibilities, you know what you aren’t thinking about? Hitting a smart, accurate tee shot on the 10th hole. Before you know it, a big mistake will come up to bite you, and all of those numbers you just added up in your head will no longer be possible.
To keep yourself on track – and to avoid blowing up on the back nine – you really do have to keep yourself focused on one shot at a time. Yes, that is a cliché, but it is a cliché because it is so true. If you are able to truly focus your efforts on hitting each shot to the best of your ability, without stopping to do any math about the possibilities for your score, you should be able to quickly kick the habit of ruining your round with a bad back nine.
The problem of pairing a bad nine with a good nine is all in your head. There is nothing magical about the front or back nine of your favorite course – you just have to learn how to focus in the same way for all 18 holes.
Keep your mind centered on the task at hand and save all of the math for after the final putt has been holed.