I’m due for another Mental Game article, so here we go.

“Bad shots are coming!” “The bad shots are coming!” “So are the good shots.” “So are the average shots!”

A good friend of mine just gave me an audio recording by Bobby Cole, contemporary of Jack Nicklaus, in which he spoke of Jack’s iron clad mental game.

Bobby said, and I paraphrase, “Jack knew that one of three shots was coming, bad, good, or average, and that he almost welcomed the bad shot because he “got it out of the way.” Jack knew the nature of the game: In a normal round, you will likely hit 50% of your shots average. 25% better than average. And 25% worse than average. That’s the game. That fits in perfectly with a very normal round. If we are going to go onto the course with expectations, that’s what should be expected. We shouldn’t expect every shot to be good. I’m sorry. It’s a hard game!

When I played competitive golf, I thought I could work hard enough to eliminate bad shots from existence. I didn’t understand the nature of the game. Actually, I fought hard against the nature of the game. I lost big time. I have since learned that we can only improve the nature of our average shots—as in proximity to the fairway, or yards off the fairway—but you can’t change the nature of the game. One of those three shots is coming and you can’t know which. If I only knew then what I know now…I would have been a much happier golfer. And realistic. And more relaxed. And less susceptible to fear and loathing on the golf course. I would have been able to let a bad shot go and realize that the next shot might be great. But I’m a slow learner. Youth is wasted on the young…

My mentor, famous sports psychologist, Rick Jensen told a great story about Tom Watson. Watson was asked by a reporter, “how do you handle it when you go out in the first round of a major tournament and shoot a 73 (or some other high number for a golfer of his caliber). Watson responded, “I know that’s an unusual round for me and that I’m due to play much better tomorrow.” I like it. Then the reporter asked, “what about when you shoot a really low score in the first round,” Tom said, “well then, I’m on a roll.” I like that too! Tom understands the nature of the game, but chooses to look at the game toward his advantage all the time. Let’s call it a Positive Outlook on the Possibilities of the Game. Try that on for size and see how it fits!

Yesterday, my daughter had her best 9 holes ever. Dear old Dad had explained the same scenario to her regarding the nature of theScorecard game. Here’s what she learned, in her own words. ”You won’t always hit good shots. Forget about your bad shots. You don’t get redo’s in a tournament J (smiley face hers). Just deal with bad shots, and go to the next hole. Stay happy.” Sound advice from a savvy nine year old!

Hit ‘em great!