Golf is a great game to show how people have many different patterns that all point towards the same goal, and how easily people become entrenched in those patterns. Our swings, pitches, chips, and putts are all done in certain way that we attempt to perform with perfect consistency. The things we do to set our mindsets before a shot, what we eat on the course, our warmup before a round are all patterns as well. And in order to get better at the game, we can take the patterns that we currently use and spend time and effort to improve them more, or we could research and decide to use a patterns that others are using different from our current and improve those. When making these decisions, we always want to be looking for patterns with the highest ceilings.
One way to think about patterns and improvement is to view the game of golf as an infinitely high mountain, where our ability can stagnate at a plateaus or a basecamp. In order to improve, we need to take certain paths from that plateau, walk along and practice to reach hopefully higher plateaus, but the case here is you’re unable to see which path leads to the highest peak.
That putting as an example. To improve, should you spend more time working on speed control, hitting longer putts to have closer second putts? Or spend the time working on those 5 footers to improve those? Or should you take the path of getting a different putter, like a broomstick style (that I think should be illegal) where the paths from that will make you better than you ever could be even if you had infinite time to practice all putts with your current short putter.
Status of my game
By mid of the 2022 season, I acknowledged that all patterns of my game were very entrenched. I’d been using the same processes for all parts of my game that I’d been doing since my competitve return in 2016, and some from college and junior days. I was campled the same plateau on the golf mountain for a long time, not looking to see if there were paths any higher.
My game was at the level where I could play courses in Wisconsin well, where if I slept well the night before and had a few on course reps in before an event, I’d finish decently, or maybe qualify a USGA. But when I’d go to those USGAs and play at the higher level courses (Pebble, Riviera), I’d fall way short. I had zero chance of competing at those places. I realized that even if I did practice with more dicipline, better work ethic, my game didn’t have a chance.
By the end of the 2022 summer, I was finally able to make some changes to my game that proved to work at these higher level courses, and the result of that made me want to improve even more, and learn how to improve. I found time to observe the patterns I was using and to see if there were different patterns that others in the golf world used that could be better.
The biggest golf pattern I’m changing with mindset is with my swing. I’ve talked about it some before, and longer post coming, about how I’ve been finding that in order to achieve the most consistent, powerful golf swing with a counter clockwise body rotation, you need your dominant arm to be your front arm. That means for a “right handed” counter clockwise rotating body swing, we need it to be left arm dominant. Even more specifically, I found we should follow the motions of a backhand disc throw. People don’t know this, and pretty much all the swing teachings think that the back arm should dominant, where the golf motion might be like throwing a sidearm pitch in baseball, or a forehand disc throw. My forehand swing before lead to inconsistency, and timning issues. I could practice all I wanted but I hit the ceiling with how good it was going to be using that technique. It took very little time to make the switch to frontarm dominant swing early summer 2023, and I can still tell that my ceiling with that is even higher.
Another change I made for the 2023 season was using different clubs when chipping. For my entire career I would only use a 60 for any shot within 80 yards. The reason I told myself was that the time I spent practicing to get better with my 60 would allow me to hit any type of shot because I’d know the club perfectly. If I decided to use different wedges, I tought it’d take a long time for my skill at that to be acceptable, I’d regress on chipping with my 60, and having to decide what club to use for a shot is an extra cause of failure. The change was to test this on basic chip shots with plenty of green between my ball and the hole, I’d use my 54 instead. It took about 10 shots before I was consistently better with those than I’d be with my 60. Forehead slapping stupid that it took me this long to realize. This year, I’m planning to spread out my path searching but testing out all different clubs for different shot types, feeling confident that I’ll be able to quickly get better results of getting up and down much more frequently than I have.
Golf is a lifelong activity where it’s a good time to take an active look at all the patterns you have in your golf game and evaluate how they are. It’s not the easiest to make changes to our habits, but trying to improve by taking a new path is likely worth it.