I watched a large amount of the US PGA Championship from Bethpage Black recently. Brooks Koepka, successfully defending his major title. I found particularly interesting the way Brooks dealt with a seven shot lead at, what every media source was telling us, was a tremendously difficult course.
The defending Champion had four successive bogeys on the back nine and Dustin Johnson whittled the lead down to just one, on the 15th, before he too conjured up a couple of bogeys. Koepka went on to claim his fourth major by two shots.
What was the mindset of Brooks when he teed up on the first on his final round? To sit back and defend (dangerous) or to attack (equally dangerous)! Well he just went out and played golf. He stuck to his game plan, didn’t get ‘too’ embroiled in different thoughts, even when he started the bogey run, and stuck to his process. His goal was to play the next shot.
How many of us, when playing golf, set goals? Yes, we want to win tournaments, competitions, swindles, and they are great to strive for, but hit one bad shot (especially on the first) and all of that goal setting may have to change? Instead, try this; set yourself the goal of hitting the next shot, the best you possibly can. If it gets you on the fairway or the green, then great… now think about the next shot.
I believe too many of us, when playing, have these goals that effectively put us under more pressure to pull off amazing shots. That pressure is not useful to good golf.
Let me give you an example. Playing recently, I’d hit the green, reasonably close in two on a par four. Straight away one of my four ball said, ‘Oh great, a birdie opportunity’. Straight away there is pressure to hole the putt. But I’d guarantee, in that situation, many of us start forecasting, aligned to our goals, and working out how many points we’ll get, ‘if’ it went in? With that ‘pressure’ it’s easy to become tentative and leave the putt short, or indeed, become aggressive and roll the putt 5 foot past. Why not go through your process, line up the ball, hit it at the correct speed and worry about the points afterwards? Forecasting can play havoc with your goal setting, so why do it? (I made the putt incidentally, for birdie).
Should you have goals? Yes, absolutely, but follow your process, draw on all of that GOOD experience to set up ‘smaller goals’, i.e. the next shot. By doing so, there is a much greater possibility of achieving your long term goal.
Society and life would have us believe that we must always have goals. How many parents and guardians indoctrinated us with ‘You go to school, you study hard so that you can get good marks, which enables you to take further education. If you do well at that, you will get A levels or a degree, which will give you a great chance of a good job. Do well at that and your career path will take off and you’ll get a great pension’. You then retire and look forward to living your dream, utopia lifestyle! The reality is, we are often dead by then!
Enjoy your golf, and think of that Ben Hogan quote…
‘As you walk down the fairway of life, you must smell the roses, for you only get to play one round’