It’s easy to say this, but keep it to yourself

“You’re making it look so easy!”

Ever have someone say that to you on the golf course? What’s your reaction? Do you chuckle and confidently agree? Or do you respond with, “Please don’t say that!”

More importantly, how does it affect your game?

Your reaction probably says a lot about your mental approach.

We play mental games with ourselves all the time out there. We put negative thoughts in our head (“Don’t go left!”) and then promptly do exactly what we didn’t want to do. We start hitting bad shots and then overthink ourselves into more bad shots.

How many times have you hit a layup shot dead solid perfect and wondered why you can’t do that all the time? It’s probably because you were relaxed, knowing that all you had to do was put that mid-iron somewhere in the wide fairway rather than over the water and close to the flagstick.

So when someone notices that we’re playing well, it’s easy to slip back into the negative: “Oh my gosh! I AM playing well! How can I keep this going? Am I good enough to keep doing this?”

And that’s where our great game separates itself from others. That is what makes golf so gloriously stupefying, so insanely alluring – it can be so hard to stay in that zone for more than a few holes. One bad shot can change everything.

Some people can walk out on a basketball court and drain 3-pointers like pros. They can roll a bowling ball at the same arrow every time. They can hit a tennis ball over the net consistently.

But golf is so much more nuanced. Golf is this:

You’re off to a great start on your round – a couple of birdies and a string of pars. Nothing is going to stop you today. Now you’re facing a 30-foot putt for another birdie. It’s makeable. You make sure you get it to the hole, and it barely misses – but slides 4 feet past.

OK, no problem, you think. I’ve already had several one-putts today. Just knock this in. And you hit a good putt – but it hits a bump and lips out. Bogey.

You’re shaken but undeterred. You hit a good drive on the next hole, but it barely leaks into the rough and you have a little tree trouble. You manage to knock an iron next to the green and hit a good chip, but it has a little more backspin than you intended and stops 12 feet short. The putt misses. Another bogey.

All of a sudden, your dreams of a great round are fading. Now you just want to right the ship with a solid par. But it’s a tough hole – another nuance that other sports don’t have – and this time you succumb to the pressure. Your drive is terrible, you have to chip sideways out of trouble and you waste a shot around the green. Double bogey.

So much for making it look so easy.

You can do one of three things:

You can put those three holes out of your mind, dial up the feelings you had before that, and start hitting solid shots again.

Or you can keep playing bozo golf and quietly watch your wonderful round turn into a nightmare.

… Or you can turn to the person who congratulated you for your good start and bellow, “WHY DID YOU HAVE TO SAY THAT???”

I don’t recommend blaming someone else. The operator needs to take responsibility for the operator’s errors.

But I do recommend this: If you’re paired with someone you don’t know and they start making it look easy, get to know them a little better before you start praising their game.

They might fall into the mentally challenged group of golfers. In other words, they might be most of us.

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