"Kick start your golf by changing your attitude"
How well do you react to poor shots on the course? Do you see these shots as something you shouldn’t do? Can one shot tip you over the metaphorical edge? It may well be that one of the keys to getting the most out of the rest of your golfing life is going to be your relationship to failure.
Your relationship with and towards failure, and your attitude to perceived failure will determine if the next few golfing years are going to be a glorious adventure or a long dark tunnel.
I will say it now to get better at the game you have to fail more often. If you are scared of failing you will not make progress.
I am very grateful to my friend and legendary instructor Michael Hebron for his contribution to this article. His wisdom helped me look personally at the whole concept of failing. His genius and the way he looks at the world of golf is almost completely at 180 degrees from the rest of the golfing instructional community.
What if I said to you that failing was the essential ingredient to your golfing improvement? How would that concept rest with you?
So many golfing environments sell the idea of consistency and getting it right. The golfing press has for many years sold the idea of a consistent swing.
Unfortunately the brain doesn’t learn that way. We didn’t learn to walk by getting it right. We learned to walk by getting up off the floor, then wobbling to the right and falling over. We got up again, wobbled to the left and fell over and, as we did that more and more, we allowed ourselves to be able to learn how to walk purely as a result of the ‘failures’.
When you take a golf lesson and you are trying to get it right you block off the incredible innate learning capability of the brain. There is a great video of Rory McIlroy deliberately topping a full-blooded driver.
He takes a full swing and just manages to catch the very top of the ball with the very bottom of the driver. The ball literally just topples off the end of the tee. It is an amazing piece of control.
Most people would look at the video and say ‘why on earth would he want to deliberately hit a bad shot?’
Wouldn’t that create the possibility that he would do it again? The answer of course is that if Rory can deliberately hit the top of the ball with the bottom of the club then he can certainly hit the middle of the ball with the middle of the club.
He has embraced so-called failure, looked it in the eye and learnt from it. I have heard it said that when he wants to fade the ball he simply aims to hit the ball slightly out of the heel of the driver and when he wants to draw the ball he will deliberately hit the ball towards toe of the club.
Now I know that is advanced but you can see where I am going here. If when you practise you can deliberately hit the ball off the toe and deliberately hit it off the heel then you can sure begin to find the middle. This way you are able to trap the feeling by embracing, looking at and sensing mistakes. You will also develop the capability to self-correct out on the course.
If you are just trying to get it right all the time, when you inevitably go wrong then panic can set in. You can use this simple principle in so many ways. If you can deliberately have an open face at impact and you can deliberately have a closed face then your brain can also sense what is square.
Swing it too fast, swing it too slow and then you can also find what is your ideal tempo. There is a wonderful book called ‘Fail Fast, Fail Often’ where the authors talk about inactivity and the fear of failure as being one of the most destructive elements to a happy life. When we are scared to try we hold back and life becomes an ever-decreasing opportunity to see what is possible.
They talk about the idea of needing to fail as a progression to success. Instead of trying to get things right, take the first steps and get on with your failures as quickly as possible because they are essential to your future success.