Those Damn Mental Roadblocks

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I’ve recently found out, over the last several rounds I’ve played, a few things about my game that I’m quite happy with. The first being I can play golf and pretty well too. Now, I’m far from a single digit HDCP, currently sitting at a 14.3, but I can honestly say my last five rounds have been a world apart from the previous five I played.

Ten rounds of golf is not a great measure for success, I understand that, but where I’ve noticed the change, I feel is a good measure and is why I’m writing this today. The one major contributing factor to why I’ve been playing better is simply a relaxed state of mind during my rounds. It hasn’t been an easy road to get to this point and I wanted to talked about a few of the things that I believe have been holding me back.

For years I’ve been struggling with stress and anxiety on the course. The paranoia of hitting a bad tee shot, the embarrassing feeling that overcomes you when you top a fairway wood and let’s not even begin to talk about the horrors of 3-putting.

Even with some great coaching along the way I’ve never been able to get a hold of my angst while playing and because of that I often find myself in situations that lead to an even more stressful setting. Like playing a second shots from the rocks where you’re just trying to get back in the fairway or attempting shots that are clearly unplayable but you give it go anyways. Situations like those were very common and over the round they would compound exponentially and my attitude would just flat out suck.

Since I’ve been practicing and playing more those bad scenarios have gone down quite a bit but unfortunately my stress levels have remained rather high. I used to look at the others in my foursome and wish I could be sitting pretty at 140 yards out as I stood there analyzing a horrible, below my feet lie in some nasty thick rough. How much easier this game would be if I was hitting fairways and not getting in these shitty situations I would think to myself.

The much easier 140 yard approach shots I’ve been more frequent to have lately now have taken on the appearance of hitting the island green at Sawgrass ,on Sunday, during The Players or the 60 yard wide fairway with virtually no trouble tee shot takes on the presence of the 18th at Doral. While there is proof that my game has improved, my mental game has still been holding me back.

Now that I’m where I wanted to be more regularly and by that I mean fairways and decent approachable second shots, my stress has evolved into this realm of disbelief where it wants’ me to believe I can’t execute the shots.

“You don’t belong out here.”

“You’re just going to mess it up.”

“Nothing like ruining a perfect tee shot.

It’s in these moments where I wish I would have paid more attention to my Psychology professor in college. It’s clear I’ve have some nasty mental roadblocks that have been put in place over the last several years. If there is any chance for me to be happy with my play as a golfer the roadblocks need to start coming down and get the hell out of my way!

The first roadblock I’ve taken on reverts back to the first paragraph of this post. I can play golf. I never understood the complexity of how hard it has been for me to fully understand this about myself but after looking at how I’ve approached the game from the first time I started playing many, many years ago, it makes more sense.

No true golfer likes admitting this and me personally I hate this about my past. The truth is, I was a hack for many years. My days spent on the golf course were anything but golf. I never cared about my score, my appearance or the rules for the game, I carried myself around the course with the sole purpose of having fun and getting drunk. Hell, I used to wear batting gloves on both hands when I played. Yeah, it was that bad. Even worse is how those actions back in my 20’s have effected me more than I ever thought possible.

Since picking golf back up in 2010 though, I’ve been on a mission to improve as a player and I made a vow to myself to respect the game the way it deserves to be respected. My return to golf didn’t start out too well because many of the rounds I played back in 2010 were just terrible. This time around though I wasn’t wasting my time spent out on the course. I was trying to educate myself, I was trying to be better as a golfer and take something away from every round I played.

Thankfully those days as a hacker are long behind me and even though my progression to become a better player is coming along nicely, it has still been a mental struggle for me to believe that I can actually play this game and play it well.

Becoming better educated about the game has played a large part in my development. I read about golf like crazy be it magazines, books, blogs or TV shows on The Golf Channel but it wasn’t until Adam from Three Guys Golf introduced me to Wade (also from Three Guys) that my golf and swing knowledge really took off. Wade had been my “Swing Coach” since December of 2012 and the knowledge I’ve picked up about the golf swing under his teachings has been mind boggling to say the least. Understanding what is happening and why, with the swing, had been such a tremendous benefit. It’s helped me dramatically close the gap on some of my mental instability, but even with the boosts to my confidence Wade has successfully incorporated into my regiment, I’ve still been a train wreck, mentally, on the course. Lately though, I’ve started to see a big change in my on course play. Here’s why.

If you recall a few post ago (Relax you dummy, it’s just golf) I talked about how getting fitted for the right shaft and irons really helped me understand my swing distances better and because of that I stopped trying to force shots. Not forcing shots or basically hitting what the hell I should have been hitting has done wonders for not only scorecards by my psyche as well.

Having that relaxed approach, all though still not 100% of the time, has made me realize that I can play this game and when I focus properly and execute my shots like I practice I can play pretty good.

Being the stat nerd I am, I’ve looked over my last ten rounds and the numbers I‘m finding are surprising as hell. In the chart below I listed two different set of five rounds of golf. The top section is my last five rounds played and the lower section is the five rounds prior to them. I did the split there because the round on 6/18 was the first round I played after my fitting where I learned my perceived distances were just a little off, like 15 yards! Take a look:


06/18 – 08/31 • Score: 88 • Fairways: 61.6% • GIR: 30% • Scrambling: 18.5% • Penalties: 1.6 • Par’s: 5.6 • Triple Bogey+: 0.6

04/28 – 06/16 • Score: 98 • Fairways: 45.7% • GIR: 10% • Scrambling: 13.6% • Penalties: 4.2 • Par’s: 3.2 • Triple Bogey+: 4.0


You can see why I’m jazzed about the numbers. Better overall score, more fairways, more greens, better at getting up and down, fewer penalties, more pars and a huge improvement in the dreaded “Blow Up Hole”.

There are some other contributing factors. I had a pretty bad flaw that was pretty devastating to my driver. Getting that fixed was a big help but overall I firmly believe not being stressed about a golf shot has been the best remedy for my angst. Having the correct club in my hand and not trying to unnecessarily pummel the hell out of the ball has a funny way of allowing proper technique and a clear mind to take over.

It’s been a challenge, learning the right way to play, getting educated on the swing and overcoming the desire to smash everything, but I think I’m on my way. Now that I’ve been able to tackle one of my major roadblock I’m looking forward to getting out and playing some much better golf.

Believing in myself that I have the skill set to go out and execute a decent round of golf hopefully in the years to come will become the norm. I’m no longer going to accept the idea that I’m not good enough anymore. I can play this came and I will get better.

It’s time to get out there and play some golf  the way I know I can.


Follow Mathew Wangrycht:

Writer and founder of the golf blog The Breakfast Ball. My wife will tell you I'm obsessed with the game, she's right! It's that obsession which drives me to become a better player and make this site enjoyable for everyone.

One Response

  1. Wade Baynham
    | Reply

    I’m thrilled at your work on this, Mathew! Thanks for the hard work, and the kind words. I would also encourage your readers to look at Tim Gallway’s book ‘The Inner Game of Golf’ for more great help with being a better mental friend to ourselves, and enjoying the game a lot more.

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