Mickey Walker on having the right golfing outlook
Having spent a large part of my professional career for the last 40 years either trying to improve my own golf, or other people’s golf, I have come to the realisation that a sure-fire way of being permanently frustrated with our games is to project expectations onto the outcomes of our games.
Our expectations are often created or affected by other people, our fellow golfers, marketing people trying to sell us something, or maybe our upbringing. Also, golf seems to lend itself to self-doubt or crises of confidence because of its very nature.
The difference between a good and a poor shot technically is a fraction, but psychologically it is enormous!
Following a mishit we often start to question what we did wrong and start to doubt that we’ll ever hit another good shot again! The opposite can also happen when we’ve been playing really well so we enter the next medal believing that we’re going to nail it. Neither of these approaches is a good mental frame of mind to be in.
We can’t control the outcome of our golfing results, but we can control our reaction to our performances and our expectations.
We often try harder or hardly at all depending on the perceived importance of the shot in hand. The top golfers pay as much attention to their opening tee shot as they do to their final putt.
we might have to start making adjustments for starting to lose distance It can be just as hard to break a mental habit as a technical fault. In fact getting into a mental rut often leads to a poor shot, which is something that a lot of us don’t realise or acknowledge. I can promise you that whatever your handicap, if you can go out to play with an open mind and genuinely do your best you will enjoy your golf more and probably play better.
As we get to a certain age, somewhere around our late 50s, we might have to start making adjustments for starting to lose distance and generally get smarter about managing our games to get the best out of them.
As each new generation arrives, someone pushes the boundaries. Laura Davies told me about playing with Lexi Thompson and that, having hit one of her Sunday best drives off the 1st tee, Laura found herself trailing in Lexi’s wake by 30 yards or more! The way of handling this is to play within yourself.
Just look at Lydia Ko who proved exactly that in the recent Tour Championship where, for the four sudden-death holes, she was repeatedly hitting a long utility wood into the green whilst Carlota Ciganda was hitting a medium to short iron in. Lydia was unfazed by the difference and went on to win the biggest ever prize in the history of women’s golf!
One of the best ways to continue to play to your handicap and score as low as possible well into old age is to have a dynamite short game. One of the best recent examples of this that springs to mind is Mo Martin’s spectacular win at last year’s Women’s British Open at Royal Birkdale. As one of the shortest hitters Mo shouldn’t have stood a chance of winning a Major on a long course in windy conditions, but her accuracy and putting combined to secure her biggest win!
As you get older, there is no doubt that we’re more susceptible to pulled muscles, especially when the weather gets cold and damp as it is now.
Whereas once we might have been able to turn up, have a few practice swings and then launch a driver into the distance, unless you have the luxury of playing in a warm climate year round, it’s really important to do some stretching exercises before you head out and, if it’s cold, make sure that you are suitably dressed as well.
So what if you feel you’ve got too many layers on to swing freely – better that, than with your first swing you pull a muscle.
Regardless of your age or ability, if you set realistic expectations and prepare well, you have every chance of enjoying your golf rather than it being a permanent source of frustration.
Do be aware of not allowing other people’s expectations to influence yours and, above all else, remember that golf is a hobby which should give you pleasure, not frustration. Happy golfing!