At some point during your golf experience, you have probably heard that you need to ‘play within yourself’. That sounds like it might be good advice, but what does it mean exactly?
How do you know when you are playing within yourself, and how do you make sure you stay on that path?
In this article, we are going to discuss this important topic and what it can mean for the consistency of your golf game.
In golf, as in life, we all have our strengths and weaknesses. The point behind the idea of ‘playing within yourself’ is that you should be playing to your strengths while avoiding your weaknesses. It sounds so simple, but it is something that many players actually have trouble doing when out on the course.
Golf is a game that presents you with countless challenges between the first tee and the last green, and it is your job as a golfer to swing those challenges in your favor as often as possible. By choosing the right shots in the right situations, you can ‘play within yourself’ and set yourself up for a great score at the end of the day.
So with that in mind let us highlight some of the key ways in which you can learn to play within yourself out on the golf course. Put these tips into action and it is almost certain that your scores will begin to fall.
It’s Your Game
Golf is a social game, and you probably play with other people during most of your rounds. There is nothing wrong with that at all – one of the best things about golf is being able to share your time on the course with others. However, you need to make sure that those other players have absolutely no impact on your game.
The decisions you make, and the shots you hit, should be based solely on the skills you have at your disposal. If you allow other people to influence the way you play, it will be impossible to live up to your potential.
The influence of others can often be seen in terms of club selection, especially on the tee. When the other players in your group have all reached for their drivers on a short par four, you might be tempted to follow suit – even if you think laying up is the better play for your game. Don’t give in to the peer pressure aspect of this situation. Make the best choice based on your strengths and weaknesses and let the other players worry about their own games. Even if they have success with their own strategy, you are going to be best served by sticking to your own.
Don’t Live Near the Distance Limit
It’s hard to play within yourself when you are constantly trying to hit the ball as far as you can with each and every swing. Sadly, this is how many amateurs play the game, which is part of the reason why most amateur players never manage to improve. Instead of always swinging flat out, you should be trying to hit the majority of your shots with around 80-90% of your maximum effort.
Why? Two reasons – control, and margin for error.
When you swing well within your limits, you will have an easier time staying under control and on balance. Also, since you will have picked a club that can easily reach the target, you will have a greater margin for error should you slightly miss-hit the shot. Overall, the game is just easier when you don’t force yourself to hit the ball as hard as possible with every swing.
Set Realistic Goals
Another way to get pulled out of your game is through the setting of unrealistic goals. For instance, if you are a 10 handicap golfer who usually shoots in the mid 80’s, you shouldn’t head out to the course thinking that your goal for the day is a 75.
Would it be great to shoot a 75? Sure – and you might be able to if everything goes right. However, if you make that your goal, you will be tempted to get away from your natural game in an effort to keep your score near that mark. You might find yourself going for aggressive shots rather than laying up, and your score could soon approach 90 rather than staying in the 70’s.
There Are Always Options
No matter what position you find your ball in on the golf course, you always have options for how you are going to play your next shot. That is not to say that you are going to be happy with your options – but there are options available nonetheless. When you walk up to your ball, take a moment to think about every possible option before picking the best one to use based on your skills, the situation at hand, etc.
A great example of this concept is when you are faced with the prospect of hitting a flop shot. The flop shot is a specialized short game shot that calls for the ball to be hit way up into the air using a big swing and an open club face. It is a spectacular shot when it works – but it is extremely difficult, and it can go wrong quickly.
Many golfers will attempt a flop shot, even if they have never practiced it before, because they feel like it is their ‘only option.’ That is never the case. If you are in a tough spot and you don’t have confidence in your flop shot, play away from the hole – even backwards, if you have to – to find a better place for your next shot.
Playing within yourself is extremely simple in concept, yet in practice it can be quite hard to execute on the course. During your next round, pause for a moment before each shot that you hit to confirm you have picked an option that plays to your strengths and away from your weaknesses. When this line of thinking is always at the front of your mind, you should gain consistency and your average score will begin to trend in the right direction.