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0 10 mins 2 yrs

You have a great round, score really well, and maybe win the chocolates. A few days later you come out full of confidence on the back of your recent fine display and play like a busted arse. Golf: Why does my performance vary so much? If I was a superhero I would call myself Captain Erratic, because my superhero abilities on the golf course only show up every now and then. What is going on with these failures to fire when pumped up with form? Old hands will tell you that 24 hours is a long time in golf. The fine motor skills required by the game of golf demand a lot of things going right in the moment and on the day. Professional tournament golfers practice their skills like a full time job – 8 hours a day when not playing in a tournament. How often do you hone your shot making abilities and touch around the greens?

“Don’t play too much golf. Two rounds a day are plenty.”

Harry Vardon
Golf: Why does my performance vary so much? man in gray polo shirt golfing
Photo by Martin Magnemyr on

24 Hours Is A Long Time In Golf

I know that I do not do enough useful practice in terms of realistic short game stuff. It is all about getting up and down, again and again and again. The conditions of a golf course do not stay static, even if you play the same course week in week out. The grass gets mowed. The greens change seasonally and via things like their regular renovations. All of these things substantially affect how the course plays. Chipping around the greens gets harder when surfaces are mowed tight and the grain is growing against the action of your wedge. As golfers we need to recognise these things and adapt our play accordingly. Somedays we can do this and seemingly on other days we fluff our lines. Duffing chips on sloping lies close to the green makes you feel like a complete idiot. You are within arm’s length of the short stuff and you stab your leading edge into the unyielding thatch. Frustration rises within like a tidal wave of rage, as you are forced to play another shot and pay the price on the scorecard.

“Golf is so popular simply because it is the best game in the world at which to be bad.”

AA Milne
Golf: Why does my performance vary so much? Elgin Golf Club
Elgin Golf Club by Anne Burgess is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0

Fluctuating Golfing Abilities

We need to get out on the course regularly and practice getting up and down from all sorts of lies and situations. The short game is not a skill that flourishes without frequent practice. Feel demands experience and touch requires recent hands on knowledge of course conditions. This is where golf challenges modern life because we rarely get our hands dirty anymore. So much stuff is done for us by devices and machines. Yes, golf is impacted by what happens between our ears but you cannot think your way around a course by pushing buttons. Our hands and body must correctly sequence and synchronise the swinging of those golf clubs. You get one go at it at the cost of a stroke. Every shot costs during your round. Unless you are a profligate high handicapper every mistake and mishit hurts on the scorecard. Golf: Why does my performance vary so much?

“Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an even smaller hole, with weapons singularly ill-designed for the purpose.”

Winston Churchill

Following Winning Performances With Merde

The better you perform in competitive golf the lower your handicap. You have less strokes to play with on your journey around the links. You come out to play after a winning performance and your handicap likely has been pruned back. The noose has already tightened around your aspirational neck.  Mentally you are aglow with the fresh memory of your last triumph and you survey the view from the first tee with hope in your heart. You swing with more vigour than usual and see your golf ball reach the rough. You recover and make bogey on the first. A few holes later and you are already a few over par. You are waiting for that sublime golfer to kick in and take charge of your round. It is a stroke round and you compound a mistake on the very next hole to record a triple bogey. Things are rapidly heading south and this was not how the script was supposed to read.

“To find a man’s true character, play golf with him.”

PG Wodehouse
activity bunker club course Golf: Why does my performance vary so much?
Photo by Pixabay on

Mentally it is very easy to slip into a fug out on course when your golf and the results are dire. Everything seems to turn against you, the wind, the bad lies, and the putts that roll on by. Inside your head it is a pressure cooker of negative thoughts and consequent emotions. “Why do I play this stupid game,” you mutter under your breath. Little things begin to annoy you like the behaviour of playing partners on the green. We are looking for someone or something to take the blame for our poor performance. Nobody wants to own this sudden crash from chocolates to boiled lollies. Our high hopes were burnished by our good form but reality has crashed the party. Bad golf can be like a whirlpool or maelstrom of negativity sucking the good feeling out of everything. The good news is that if you persevere it can be turned around via one good shot. We can rebuild our fortunes on the back of solid play. Sure, the high hopes are dashed but a respectable showing can replace these lofty goals with a grinding effort.

“You swing best when you have the fewest things to think about.”

Bobby Jones

Golf: Why does my performance vary so much? The moral of the story, I suppose, is don’t go into a round with inflated expectations on the basis of a previous good showing. Golf is a complex game with a myriad of opportunities for things to go wrong. I have written before about its Snakes and Ladders like characteristic. The arena is massive and the ground uneven beneath your feet. There are hazards everywhere just waiting to snaffle your golf ball. Water and wild bush. Sand and tall trees. They say timing is everything in life, well, it is in golf. If you fail to sequence the right move and fail to square your club face at impact – the resulting ball flight and direction can be less than fortunate. Hit it and go look for it – is not a game you want to play.

“One of the most fascinating things about golf is how it reflects the cycle of life. No matter what you shoot – the next day you have to go back to the first tee and begin all over again and make yourself into something.”

Peter Jacobsen

Arabs of the desert had a saying, “remember to tether your camel.” In the current Saudi backed LIV Golf and DP World Tour love affair with Middle Eastern money I thought that this would be a topical reference. What it means is ensure that your are physically and mentally prepared prior to heading out on your journey. The golf course is a big track and you want to be on top of every aspect of your game and equipment. Four plus hours under the heat of competition will see you come undone if you are lacking in any area. Going into a round in a dreamy state of ‘how good am I after my fantastic last round?’ will not end well on 99% of occasions. If you don’t tether your camel it will wander off. If you haven’t grounded your game in fresh, hands-on short game practice these skills will desert you when you need them most. If you go into a round of golf thinking it will just happen for you like last time you will be sorely disappointed. If your camel wanders off in the desert you are dead!

Things To Remember

  1. You are not as good as you think.
  2. You cannot rely on Captain Erratic.
  3. 24 hours is a very long time in golf.
  4. Every round demands a fresh appraisal.
  5. Practice your short game constantly.
  6. Backing Up is harder than you think.
  7. Deflate your expectations & get real.
  8. Tether your camel.

Each time that you tee it up remember to feel damned lucky to do so and that you are on the right side of those daisies. It is easy to be begrudging about stuff when in reality we are fortunate to be able to play the great game of golf.