Amateur golfers have a canny skill that most professional players do not possess. We have an inbuilt, subconscious mechanism that keeps us at our designated level and prevents us improving.
It’s a mental trait but it manifests itself physically. Even if we truly believe we can score better and reduce our handicap dramatically, the subconscious mind kicks in to ensure our body does not allow it.
For me, the normal trigger for this uncontrollable synapse is when I find myself on the brink of a good score. Having gone out three under handicap, I may feel confident and positive but subconsciously I’ll be uncomfortable with the unfamiliar position.
My brain will then organise an involuntary twitch at impact on the next tee to generate a block slice out of bounds. The two-shot penalty will take me much closer to my designated performance level so my subconscious can go back to a dormant state.
The other method the brain/body has for maintaining an equilibrium is to never allow every element of the game to fire on all cylinders. Yes, I know, we’ve all had those momentous rounds when something has clicked and every shot has found its target and every putt dropped. But these games are the exceptions that prove the rule and must only occur when the subconscious takes an unexpected holiday.
If I consider my recent Medal rounds, there’s always been a part of my game that’s misfired sufficiently to prevent success. Normally this has been putting – my brain finds this the easiest part of my game to affect. If I’m playing too well tee to green, my subconscious simply ensures that no putts drop.
As I was suffering on the greens I decided to really work on my putting and, with a bit of practice, I managed to improve it. That gave my subconscious a bit of a headache as it now had to target something else – if I continued to play as I had been from tee to green then holed a few putts, I’d get way too far out of my comfort zone.
My brain is pretty resourceful though and it quickly latched on to my driving, generating an occasional, totally destructive, snap-hook. A couple of those each round kept my scoring consistently mediocre.
I went to the range and fixed my driving so my subconscious decided I should have a little spell of the chipping yips – Very effective at adding a few crucial shots each round. I spent hours chapping balls around the back garden to rid myself of that affliction and, by the time I had, my putting had gone west again…. God help me.
The conclusion is – For me, and I guess many other amateurs, to improve, we must learn to block our comfort-zone seeking subconscious. I need to go round to my subconscious’s house and beat it within an inch of its life, forcing it to agree to allow me to reach my true golfing potential. The only problem is – I don’t know where it lives.