A recent Golf Digest story detailed, with wonderfully relatable descriptions, the nine worst ways to make bogey.
On every single one, I found myself nodding in agreement. Yep, been there.
I consider myself somewhat of an expert on the subject. Show me any hole in the world – difficult, easy, long, short, straightforward, tricky – and I can find a way to bogey it.
Reading this list reminded me of the fundamental difference between a 10-handicapper and someone who hopes to break par:
First, par shooters rarely do stuff like this.
Second, they usually make a few birdies to compensate for whatever bad holes they do have.
Without further ado, here’s the list. See if you can recall a few of these:
9. The “dreaded” good bogey: Too often, it means making a 20-footer when you don’t care anymore.
8. Bogey on the hardest hole on the course: The one you never, ever par.
7. Three-putt bogey from long distance: It means you hit the green in regulation, but that good work was negated.
6. Bogey after a great short-game shot: The chip was great; the putt wasn’t.
5. Three-putt bogey from inside 15 feet: You were thinking birdie.
4. Bogey with a wedge in your hand: Opportunity knocked, and you didn’t answer.
3. Bogey from just off the green on a short par 4 or par 5: You were thinking eagle.
2. Three-putt bogey from 5 feet or less: Unforgiveable.
1. Four-putt bogey: Absolutely heroic shot turns into your worst moment of the day – maybe the year – because your putting reeks.
Are you still cringing?
But look at it this way: It could be a challenge to change your thinking out there.
We all know that our great game is incredibly mental. We torture ourselves with memories of our mistakes, probably even more than we celebrate our victories.
There’s one common characteristic of people who make a lot of bogeys: They are happy with par unless birdie seemed almost guaranteed.
How many times do you look back at a round and realize that you didn’t convert a single birdie opportunity even though you had a few? What does that tell you?
Simple: You’re playing scared. Sure, you’d love to make that birdie putt, but the main thing is to not make bogey – Nos. 2, 5 or 7 on this list.
After all, golf is the only sport where the lowest score wins. No wonder we’re always in damage control.
I liken it to my least favorite strategy in football: the “prevent” defense.
Every autumn, we regularly watch teams blow a lead because they were playing not to lose rather than playing to win.
They stopped the other offense all day by aggressively rushing the quarterback and jamming the wide receivers but then allowed easy 10-yard pass completions because they thought they were playing the percentages.
In fact, the percentage move in football these days is to do something to make the offense uncomfortable. Offenses have gotten too sophisticated for a soft approach.
We often treat the golf course the same way. In trying to avoid a mistake, we make even more errors.
The good players don’t foolishly attempt shots they know they can’t make, but they’re aggressive on the shots they know they CAN make.
They’re trying to stick that short iron close to the pin.
They’re trying to make that 15-foot putt.
They’re trying to win.
So the next time you count up your bogeys after a round, see how many of them belong on this list. Minimize the bad bogeys and see if you can make some good birdies.
Yes, par is a good score, but birdie is better. And you’re not going to make any birdies with a prevent defense.