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Friday, January 12, 2018

Patrick Cohn on Breaking 100

Sometimes the hardest thing about improving your game is just getting out of your own way. That's especially true when you're trying to get past a scoring barrier.

Dr. Patrick CohnYou can find Dr. Patrick Cohn over at Peak Performance Sports, where he helps athletes in a number of sports. But he's become pretty well known in the world of golf, in no small part because Bob Rotella was one of his mentors. He's also written a couple of books on golf. Today I pulling some stuff from Going Low.

Cohn devotes fairly large sections of the book to breaking 100 (or 90) and breaking 80. Here's some of what he had to say about trying to break one of those first barriers and you're facing that first tee shot of the round:
A tee shot is tough enough, but it is even more difficult when this is your first shot of the day and you think everyone in the clubhouse is watching. The first tee shot can often make or break a round, because it sets up your performance on the the first hole. First-tee jitters can turn a straightforward shot into the most difficult shot you'll hit all day.

You may have experienced two different types of first-tee jitters. The first is the friendly kind of butterflies characterized by excitement and anticipation. This is a good feeling of anticipation of the start of the round. You feel excited to play and ready to get going. These butterflies can help you play better by getting you focused. You are excited, your heart is pounding faster, and your focus becomes more acute. The pros often experience this type of butterflies and interpret them as necessary for playing well.

The second kind of first-tee jitters is the type that makes you have a sinking feeling in the pit of your gut. Your mind races, your heart rate accelerates, your palms sweat, your muscles tighten, your blood pressure increases, and you get an uncomfortable feeling in your stomach. If you feel anxious or afraid, your performance suffers, because it makes you physically tense and cripples your ability to focus. A golfer feels this when he or she is afraid to hit a bad shot or embarrass him- or herself, or is afraid of losing the match on the first hole. Once you experience "bad" jitters, you become obsessed with the uncomfortable feelings, which distract you from what you need to focus on.

The first kind of jitters is helpful to your performance, but the second can be detrimental to your game. If you experience "bad" jitters, the first step is to address your fears. [p138-139]
No, that's not the entire section but it's enough to get us started.

The key here is to identify which kind of jitters you're feeling... and the difference is easier to see than you may at first believe. The first is focused on the game, the second is focused on YOU. The first is focused on the joy of playing, the second on what other people will think of you -- or rather, your worst imaginings of what they might think of you.

I am reminded of this quote from the late humorist Ethel Barrett:
We would worry less about what others think of us if we realized how seldom they do.
She was right on the money. We all think we are the center of the universe, but most people don't give a damn about what we do... unless it affects them in some substantial way. A botched shot doesn't diminish you as a person. And if you hang with folks who think it does... well, why are you hanging with them? You need to find some friends who have a life!

If you want to break through a scoring barrier, the first step is to get a life of your own. Your value as a person isn't dependent on a golf score. Think about what Pat Perez said, that he's playing better simply because he doesn't care as much. It's not that he isn't trying to play well. Rather, he is free to try to play better because, if he fails, he knows it's just one day's score. It's not about HIM.

Once you wrap your mind around that simple truth, you've taken the first step toward breaking your personal scoring barrier.

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