Getting Worse Before You Get Better…(Opinions please)

DrGolfer

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So I’ve been playing golf as a “serious” hobby since the end of 22 starting out as a beginner.

Long story short was that during the summer of 23 I went from shooting in 110-120 to regular low 90s.

I stopped putting cards in since September and just decided to keep playing focusing on technique. I entered two club comps over the past week and had an absolutely awful set of rounds, 100+ scores.

I feel like I’m striking the ball better than ever (distance and flight) but completely fell apart going around the course. I was very gutted, breaking 90 feels far away.

What do I do? - treat these as blips on the radar and keep working on technique, wait for spring/summer until I next put cards in or do I now shift gears and start focusing more on course management?

Golf pro told me the old cliche of you get worse before you get better…
 

hairball_89

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First caveat. I’m not very good at golf, so take with a bucket of salt. For me, there’s 2 things.

1. It depends on how much worse. I know that when improving *for me* I can be going along happily and then hit a wild one that wrecks my head more than my scorecard. 1 shot out of 70/95/120 isn’t the problem. The reaction to it, both mentally and on the course, is.
2. Where is it better/worse. It’s bloody easy to be a scratch golfer on the range. Translating things to the course is a whole different thing.

Keep going. You’ll do it. And then you’ll be stretching for the next milestone that never comes. Stupid game!
 

SwingsitlikeHogan

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One very frustrating thing about golf is that when things have been going well but then start going wrong, I can think that I know what I was doing when it was going well and I try and do that…and often times it doesn’t work.

Why? Because as much as I might have thought I knew what I was doing…actually I didn’t. And so when I try and do what I think I should do I get it wrong, and often very wrong.

And in my experience that’s most especially the case if I haven’t had lessons to set me on the right path in the first instance. I might have been doing ok, but I had no real idea of what I was doing.
 
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Chris-Gr

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Golf can be a cruel mistress and its not unusual to feel that you're hitting the ball well but still score badly. I therefore wouldn't feel too disheartened by 2 poor rounds in competitions.

You seem to be viewing technique and course management as mutually exclusive, in that you can only focus on one at a time. I suggest you do both, focusing on technique at the range and then using your playing rounds to improve your course management whilst playing your swing (rather than tinkering with it). At its core course management is common sense, so there's not a lot of time required on technical aspects but it does require discipline and practice to embed it. I recommend Jon Sherman's Four Foundations of Golf as a good read on the subject.

I'd also give some more attention to the mental aspects of the game. I found that in my first few competitions I was trying too hard and playing badly as a result. It really is best to focus on each shot and to play your normal game rather than focus on the occasion. I've found Bob Rotella's books helpful in this area.

Finally, I find that the more I think about scores / driving my handicap down then the worse I play. So just play and enjoy your game and hopefully the handicap will take care of itself. Don't expect the path to a lower handicap to be smooth. If your experience is anything like mine you'll see periods where it drops quite quickly, long periods of relative plateau and some times when it goes up.

That's the nature of the game.
 

garyinderry

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It's January. The courses are soaked and playing very different to the summer time.

Being a new player you won't have banked too much winter golf experience. Likely fatting chips, mis-clubbing yourself in the cold, not judging lack of roll on pitches, you name it. These are just a few examples off the top of my head that may be causing worse scores.

Forgot about your gross score till at least April. The courses will be coming back to life by then and it becomes what I call "real golf" again.

I know people on here obsess with breaking 100, 90, 80, etc on here.
I never really paid attention to that when I first started breaking those numbers. It was never really an aim.
Aiming to break a certain number any time you tee it up is a near sure fire way to not achieve it.
Start with a par on the first and build from there. Par the next and go from there again. Repeat this as much as you can and add them up at the end.
 

Neilds

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Improvement in most things, but especially golf is not linear. You can expect many ups and downs as you play, often in the one round as things work, then they suddenly don't. Just look at Rory in the Desert Classic last week - 63 in the 3rd round which was sandwiched by 70 in R2 and 4. If he can drop 7 shots between rounds, what hope is there for us hackers?
Don't get downhearted and just accept it is one of the reasons we keep coming back and torturing ourselves.
 

ntommo

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I decided to take golf seriously about 8 or 9 years ago and decided to do regular lessons. I went through peaks and troughs with performance but knew that what I was learning at my lessons was the right thing to do. I've had awful times sometimes for months on end but kept at it thinking that as long as I put some practice in it will get better. That happened and i feel like I'm playing the best golf I ever have even though this doesn't really reflect with my handicap currently slightly up to 8.2 from 6 last year. Keep going and practice what you are told in your lessons, if you're not sure that you are well go back and get a check up. Also have a read of the Four Foundations book by John Shearman, its not a technique book more of a mental / course management book to keep your expectations in check
 

HomerJSimpson

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Golf is difficult. That is the first thing to bear in mind.

I've actually done minimal work on technique bar one main change my teaching pro and I have been working on over the winter which is paying dividends when I do what he wants me to. What I have been working hard on is my mindeset and the Karl Morris and Adam Young/Jon Sherman podcasts have really helped so I can get it round playing badly and score better. Where the bad day scores would have been 25-28 these are now 28-32 and a degree of respectability.

Also bear in mind it is winter golf and so very easy to fritter shots away around the greens with duffed chips and bobbly greens

If you are having lessons and working on changes it is normal to go backwards as you get to a point where you trust the new changes and they feed into what you are trying to do

Whether you continue to put cards in is a personal decision although WHS advise it. If you are still struggling on the course and it shows no sign of improving why not look at a playing lesson and let your pro see what you do and how you think when you play
 

Orikoru

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When people say you get worse before you get better, I've usually only seen that in reference to getting a lesson and/or making a swing change. If you've not done that then the truth is simpler, golf just has it's ups and downs. Like anyone I'll often go through a phase of good scoring - end of summer last year I was shooting low 80s and thinking a great round or two was just around the corner. Then out of nowhere lost form and back to struggling around 90 for a few weeks. As others mentioned, the onset of winter and changeable weather in general doesn't help. Even a strong breeze or the greens being slightly slower can completely mess up a score. Unfortunately striking the ball better doesn't always result in a better score. There are more elements to golf than that.
 

pendodave

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or do I now shift gears and start focusing more on course management?
Firstly, winter golf. It's golf Jim, but not as we know it.

Secondly, the highlighted part of your post above. Golf isn't binary, working on hitting better shots isn't at the exclusion of 'course management'.

Even if you're not hitting the ball well, thinking about how to get around the golf course is going to lower your scores. How many of your 100+ shots were the result of poor technique? How many were just putting yourself in bad places and making our choices about what to do next?
 

Canary_Yellow

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Your sample size is far too small to draw any conclusions. Keep the faith, you’re hitting it well, scores will follow.

Progress should be measured over a long period, not round by round scores.
 

DrGolfer

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Firstly, winter golf. It's golf Jim, but not as we know it.

Secondly, the highlighted part of your post above. Golf isn't binary, working on hitting better shots isn't at the exclusion of 'course management'.

Even if you're not hitting the ball well, thinking about how to get around the golf course is going to lower your scores. How many of your 100+ shots were the result of poor technique? How many were just putting yourself in bad places and making our choices about what to do next?
I think this comment is really on point. When I go back over my scorecards there were too many times where I gambled on long approach shots to get that GIR because I’ve become more confident in my ball striking.

Inevitably, I then would end up in awful situations attempting miracle recoveries to avoid a triple when I could’ve taken two wedges and just made bogey instead.
 

DrGolfer

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Golf is difficult. That is the first thing to bear in mind.

I've actually done minimal work on technique bar one main change my teaching pro and I have been working on over the winter which is paying dividends when I do what he wants me to. What I have been working hard on is my mindeset and the Karl Morris and Adam Young/Jon Sherman podcasts have really helped so I can get it round playing badly and score better. Where the bad day scores would have been 25-28 these are now 28-32 and a degree of respectability.

Also bear in mind it is winter golf and so very easy to fritter shots away around the greens with duffed chips and bobbly greens

If you are having lessons and working on changes it is normal to go backwards as you get to a point where you trust the new changes and they feed into what you are trying to do

Whether you continue to put cards in is a personal decision although WHS advise it. If you are still struggling on the course and it shows no sign of improving why not look at a playing lesson and let your pro see what you do and how you think when you play
Thanks for this. I’ve been going through a series of swing changes over winter building towards what I want to achieve for the summer across both my long and short game.

More importantly though I think the mental side is something I need to work on to be more resilient when things aren’t going well for a spell. A playing partner has lent me a Karl Morris book so I’ll try to be a bit more zen for my next comp on Saturday!
 

HomerJSimpson

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Thanks for this. I’ve been going through a series of swing changes over winter building towards what I want to achieve for the summer across both my long and short game.

More importantly though I think the mental side is something I need to work on to be more resilient when things aren’t going well for a spell. A playing partner has lent me a Karl Morris book so I’ll try to be a bit more zen for my next comp on Saturday!
Check out the podcasts
 

MadAdey

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Best advice I can give is look at where and why you are dropping shots. When players improve quickly their confidence goes up and they start trying shots they wouldn't have tried before. Rather than worrying about what you scored, look at where you dropped the stupid shots and think about why. I have always thought the difference between breaking 100 and 90 is more about not doing the stupid things.
 

BiMGuy

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What does ‘falling apart’ look like? Can you talk us through the series of events? Which shot caused it, what were you thinking before the shot, had you picked a good target? Then how did you respond, did you take your time over the next one and so on.

If you can unpack that, and writing it down helps, you can start to see where you could improve.

I’d be interested in what you think the mental game is?!

You also mentioned resilience. This is absolutely the key to improving. After a bad hole or a series of bad holes if you can keep trying your best eventually this will form a good habit. I see so many people start well, have a meltdown for 2 holes then throw in the towel when they still have half a round to play.

If you don’t already, I would suggest developing a routine for yourself. So once you have selected your shot and club you do the same thing every time regardless of the situation. Even on the range.
That way, when things start to go south you have something that will slow you down and help to stop the spiral.
 

Doon frae Troon

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Is it the old

'card in your hand'

Syndrome.

Most of us tend to collapse somewhat when playing a comp when every single shot counts and tension is up.
Very true , plus the fact you are generally playing off the medal tees.
There is learning to play properly and after that comes choosing the correct shots and clubs so you can score better.
 

BiMGuy

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Is it the old

'card in your hand'

Syndrome.

Most of us tend to collapse somewhat when playing a comp when every single shot counts and tension is up.
This is because a lot of people put an unnecessary amount of importance/significance on playing in a comp, and more so if they see it a a major (board comp). But the way they play in practice/casual rounds isn’t preparing them for having to count every shot. In fact it’s probably training their brain in the opposite way.

There is no difference in playing a casual round to a comp round. There is no difference other than in a players head and the pressure they put themselves under. So we need to either treat every shot like it doesn’t matter, or every shot like it does. But not mix them.
 

DrGolfer

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What does ‘falling apart’ look like? Can you talk us through the series of events? Which shot caused it, what were you thinking before the shot, had you picked a good target? Then how did you respond, did you take your time over the next one and so on.

If you can unpack that, and writing it down helps, you can start to see where you could improve.

I’d be interested in what you think the mental game is?!

You also mentioned resilience. This is absolutely the key to improving. After a bad hole or a series of bad holes if you can keep trying your best eventually this will form a good habit. I see so many people start well, have a meltdown for 2 holes then throw in the towel when they still have half a round to play.

If you don’t already, I would suggest developing a routine for yourself. So once you have selected your shot and club you do the same thing every time regardless of the situation. Even on the range.
That way, when things start to go south you have something that will slow you down and help to stop the spiral.
So using my shot tracker + scorecard I’m not playing horrifically throughoutbut right now but I can’t seem to shake making 3-4 triples per round which are absolutely soul destroying.

Where I make a triple I tend to make two mistakes (e.g. bad tee shot + poor chip) and where I make double it’s one mistake (e.g. 3 putt).

The triple bogey mistakes on those holes are variable but predominantly seem to involve getting in trouble off the tee (75%) followed by duffed shots into penalty areas/hazards (25%).

There’s only one hole where I seem to struggle consistently and everything else is variable.

During the summer I had whittled down the doubles and triples so my scores were 5-10 strokes lower than they are right now.
 
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