I don't accept my own golf like I should.
A listener of the show, and someone who I have had some great email conversations with over the months of doing The Mental Golf Show so far, pointed out to me recently that they noticed how I hold myself to an outdated standard.
What do I, and they, mean by an outdated standard? I expect myself to play like I did 3 years ago when I was at my best, yet now my life is as busy as everyone else's, filled with working other jobs, I have a wife now, I own a house now, not to mention working with golfers on preparing their own games to be the best they can be. I truly don't have the time I once did to play and practice like I used to.
How does this manifest? How does this actually look in real life? It shows when I go into a round of golf, even if it's just a casual round with friends, I expect my shots to all be predictable, yet I often have a two-way miss. I try to pick good conservative targets, but I still somehow manage to miss greens on the short-side and leave myself with nasty up-and-downs. I feel mostly good over those nasty chips, and I remember the days when, as my friends and regular group of sparring partners would say, "Every time you're over a chip you look like you're going to make it." Yet now I often struggle to get it within 15 feet, and sometimes not even on the green. I hit my driver so far right sometimes that I don't even recognize myself. My putter, once my best friend in the whole world who I could depend on to come through for me when I most needed her, now abandons me and leaves me alone and afraid.
I hit my driver so far right sometimes that I don't even recognize myself.
My own bad play and my still-high expectations of myself are things that I think I've known, but they've only been hovering in the background of my mind. I certainly have not attempted to work on my expectations the way I should.
But I'm not totally negligent of working on my own mental game when I'm out playing. I work really hard on my commitment to my target. Since commitment has been a regular topic of conversation with my players and on the podcast, it has been front-of-mind for myself when I'm out playing, and it has shown real benefits. Being totally in love with my yardage/club choice/line on the greens has allowed me to just let go and hit it. Which helps me have better trust in my own ability, which is hard with as little practice as I'm getting. I could easily get in my head about where the ball might go, but I'm able to set that aside better when I can fully commit on the shot.
But as good as my commitment has been, and how my trust in my own ability has improved, my biggest struggle is still acceptance. I still get mad at myself for not hitting it where I want to. So as the listener of the show suggested, I should do the math of comparing my practice and preparation now to when I was at my peak, and then ramp my expectations down proportionately.
So my best golf was in mid-2017. At that time during the summer when the sun would rise around 6am and set around 9pm, my schedule would usually look like this:
5am - wake up
5:30 - drive to the gym
6-7 - workout
7:30 - breakfast
8 - head to the course
8:30-10:30 - driving range
10:30 - short game
11 - putting
Noon - lunch
2 - pre-round warm-up (putting, chipping, range)
3-7 - walk 18
7-9 - chill time
9 - sleep
And now on days when I practice it looks something like this:
9-10am - hit range balls
10-10:30 - putt
And that's really it.
The schedule from 3 years ago was a total of 3.5 hours of highly focused practice and 5 hours of highly competitive playing. That schedule was designed to help me improve as much as possible and simulate the feeling of a tournament. And I would do this 6 days a week!
And my golf schedule is probably 1.5 hours of semi-focused practice roughly once every two weeks, and playing one round of 18 every week or two.
So at my peak, over the course of a week I would have spent about 20 hours practicing and would have played probably 4 or 5 times, whether it was 9 or 18. So that makes my current practice and playing time roughly 10% of my former time.
So to take the challenge of the listener of the podcast, I need to proportionally ramp down my expectations. That means expecting 10% of what I used to expect. And therefore will make it much easier to accept the lackluster results.
As I write this, I'm playing golf today later with a friend. We set this round up to just finally get out and play. We are both married and have jobs and houses, and we just wanted to set aside time to get on the golf course. The Josh of recent months would go into this casual round wanting to track stats, have an acute focus on my shot dispersion, and attempt to shoot a round in the 60s. But Josh of today will experiment with full acceptance. My goal today is to have zero judgement of myself and where the ball goes and what the results tell me about my skill level. I am simply going to be outside, doing something I love, with a friend.
I commend you to try this exercise as well!