Why am I a wizard in practice but play like I’m possessed by evil spirits?

Dear Golf Coach Guy:

Just so you know who you’re dealing with here, I’m not one of those golfers who complains that he struggles with a part of his game, but never practices. I PRACTICE!

For years, I’ve been frustrated with my chipping. Beside the green, I’m tighter than a rusty wheel nut on Grandpa’s tractor. I’ve taken oodles of lessons, affixed Velcro devices, read the books, watched the videos… and I still struggle.

But here’s the thing: around the practice chipping green, I’m a plus-handicap chipper. I get up and down from everywhere. Joy, bliss. Some days, I’ll practice for two hours. I PRACTICE!

When I get on the course and I face that first chip of the day, my mouth tastes like metal, my heart tries to jump out of my chest and I’ll either chunk, skull, chilli-dip, or just about miss it.

Honestly, I have no idea what happens. It’s like I’m standing over the chip, and the next thing I know, I’ve hit some deplorable shot. It’s like I black out.

How come I can PRACTICE brilliantly for hours, but chip like I’m possessed on the course? Am I just another yipping basket-case who needs a bottle in front of him and a frontal lobotomy?

Drew the Disenchanted

How about Drew The Diligent and Dedicated? You are an aspirational golfer who gets it—if you want to play well, you gotta practice.

You’re not weird. GCG knows many players who look like wizards around the practice green but feel demonized on the course.

To put it bluntly, unless you are playing some kind of practice game such as Par 18 and keeping score, your chipping practice is close to useless. If there’s no sense of consequence, you can freewheel. Practice games replicate some of the pressure you may feel on the course.

When you’re on the course, I suggest you change what ‘success’ is. Right now, success is obviously hitting a solid chip.

But rather than success being about the result, base your evaluation of success on your awareness. Let success be, for example, that you became aware of what’s actually happening when you chip. Right now, what’s happening is in your blind spot. You’re so in your head that you don’t know what your body is doing.

Make success about becoming aware. Rather than think and try, feel and observe. You may discover that your hands jerk forward. Or your backswing is really long or very shot. Or something else, or a combination. This will allow you to become aware of what’s happening. Unless you’re aware, you cannot change anything.

Here’s something counter-intuitive. When you become aware of something you think is wrong, don’t try to change it. Seriously. Just let it be. Just be aware of what’s happening. Eventually, you’ll stop doing it. Your body doesn’t like discomfort and doing things that don’t feel natural. Thus, your body will figure out how to hit the chip more solid.

This isn’t magic: Awareness is curative. CGC borrowed it, like many things, from Fred Shoemaker.

Keep the faith DTDD. By the way, you can start lowering the temperature on your chipping by typing ‘practice’ in lower case.

Yours, in need of more self-awareness, Golf Coach Guy

To read more from Tim O’Connor, click HERE.

Tim O'Connor
Tim O'Connor is a golf coach, an award-winning writer, and speaker. Tim takes a holistic approach, coaching golfers in the physical and mental aspects of golf. He co-hosts the Swing Thoughts podcast, and is the author of The Feeling of Greatness: The Moe Norman Story. He plays bass in CID — a Guelph punk band!

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