How to break par imperfectly
In this guide, you’ll learn how I shot a 71 even though I hit some terrible shots. Shooting good scores doesn’t come from perfect rounds of golf – they come from managing the score by eliminating big errors by playing wise shots when things don’t go your way.
I’ve already written this guide to breaking 80 by using my 6-6-6 Sub Eighty System.
The Trlple 6 philosophy of realizing that you’re not perfect and can make mistakes is essential to better golf. We’re never perfect and to strive for perfection, with an expectation of actually achieving it will result in extreme disillusionment and eventually you’ll give up on golf.
I know, because I quite three times over the last 20 years.
The Mind is most important when breaking par
But to really go low, we need a much more measured approach mentally. We need to be stronger in our decisions, we need to remove stress, tension and uncertainty.
We also need to be so focused on what we want to do... in little spurts...while at the same time, letting go of all that focus.
I’ll explain more below, don’t worry.
You can break par with the game you have
The most important aspect of breaking par is easily this mental side of the game. You actually don’t need ALL the shots. You don’t need to boom it 320 off the tee like Rory. You just need to jam with what you got and realize what you don’t got and avoid that!
In this guide, I will focus on the following processes and concepts:
- THINK and PLAY boxes for a better pre-shot routine to take you to the next level
- Strategizing off the tee
- Dealing with disappointment and bum shots
- Playing shots you know in a more effective manner through planning the hole
- 100% commitment to shots
- Control the things you CAN control and forget the rest
- Post-shot routine
- Other instant game simplifying tactics and gadgets
At this stage, I have to advise you to buy this book: Every Shot Must Have a Purpose. Without a doubt, this is the single best investment in my golf game I’ve ever made. This book is the inspiration behind this guide.
It contains so much mental game insight and after I read it, the next day I shot this round of 71 at Dynasty Golf Course in Bangkok. That’s just how powerful the concepts are.
KEY CONCEPT 1: STRATEGIZING OFF THE TEE
I played some poor shots off the tee in this round but it showed me that I need to play stress-free golf rather. If I am uncomfortable on the tee, I need to change my tactic or club.
It's always better to hit a shot you feel 100% confident on than to just pick up the driver or whatever it is you bash into the trees every shot.
What I could have done better in this round, is select the clubs off the tee that felt comfortable and would also set me up with an easier NEXT shot.
Set yourself up an approach shot into the green from your best distance and club. We want to hit greens in regulation to break par so it's easiest to do it from a place where you have maximum confidence.
KEY CONCEPT 2: DEALING WITH BUM SHOTS AND DISAPPOINTMENT
There was a time when I tied golf to my self-esteem and self-worth. There are a lot of guys who do that and we get upset because we hit an imperfect shot.
We know we can do better and so we get so frustrated with ourselves that we can’t let it go. That spoils a few holes in a row and then the round goes out the window.
The best thing you can do is let go of the idea of perfection and come to the realization that you don’t practice enough and you’ll never be on the PGA Tour.
That was a big one for me. I lived in a delusional world where I could hit Tour quality shots and in my fantasy, I could keep up with the top 10 golfers in the world.
Learn from your bad shot and then endeavor to do it differently in the future. Then go hit your next shot by focusing only on that next shot.
You can’t control the shot you’ve just hit, but you can control your reaction and your focus on the next shot. Hit the shots you can hit and jam with what you got. It’s perfectly fine you can’t do certain things, just have the strength of character to accept it and move on.
TOP TIP TO MOVE ON FROM THE PREVIOUS HOLE: Start planning the next hole and respect each hole individually, that they need to be planned as one individual hole apart from any others. Stay in the moment and set up your next shot with the current one.
KEY CONCEPT 3: THE NEXT SHOT IS A MOMENT IN HISTORY, MAKE IT COUNT
By focusing purely on the execution of the next shot, you’ll automatically forget the previous, whether it was good or bad. The most important is that you make sure that this shot you’re standing over is one you are comfortable with and are confident you can do it.
You must plan it in your mind, imagine it, envision the details of the shot and become engrossed In the shot. Any doubt or distraction will mean a poor shot and more frustration.
It’s ultra-important to always pick a shot you KNOW you can hit. Often in stressful situations, especially after a bad shot, we “chase losses” like a gambler trying to win back his last stake he lost. We get emotional and make bad decisions.
Plan where you’ll hit the next shot and how you’ll do it. Think about the layout of the hole. Where is the best miss? Where’s the best part of the green to putt from? Where’s the place you don’t want to be? What’s the least stressful shot you could possibly hit here? Sometimes that’s a lay up. Sometimes it’s a shot to just short of the green. Sometimes it’s just not the Tour shot but the simplest stress-free shot.
KEY CONCEPT 4: COMMIT 100% NOTHING LESS
If you aren’t 100% committed to a shot, you’re done. This is so huge, it’s sad that it’s not discussed more.
To be committed to your shots, you need to know your shots. Once you’ve identified the shots you can hit, you must strive to eliminate the ones you can’t hit. You can work on those at the range every day before introducing them. Playing shots that you are NOT 100% SURE about on the course is guaranteed failure of execution.
For now, it’s all about what you CAN do. It’s not going to be perfect the first time out, but eventually you’ll be able to say to yourself, okay, I can’t hit this draw shot with the 3 iron, let me rather hit the 5 iron just short and because I CAN chip and putt, I am sure I can get up and down.
Maybe it’s the driver. If it’s giving you issues, just leave it out the bag and use your trusty hybrid or fairway wood off the tee.
KEY CONCEPT 5: PUT YOURSELF IN POSITION TO HIT YOUR SHOTS
So you’ve got your shots you can hit, but now you need to hit your shots in a way that sets up good situations to actually hit them!
I can hit a hybrid with a draw
I can hit a driver with a fade
I can hit my irons high
I can hit my mid to low irons with a draw
I can hit my longer irons with a fade
I can chip and putt like a boss
I can pitch the ball to within 7 feet or so very often from inside 70 yards
I love green side bunkers
I do not hit a good flop shot
I was having problems with chunking my full wedge shots
110-115 yards, I didn’t have a shot for
I can’t draw the driver
I don’t hit a good hybrid off the fairway but good off the tee
3 iron is not great off the fairway
What does this mean?
I want to avoid situations around the green where I’ll be short sided so I never have to flop it. I want to leave myself anything but full SW, GW or LW into the greens. I don’t want 110-115 yard shots into greens. I just don’t have a club or shot that I’m confident in. On holes where a fade with the driver is not possible, I should hit a draw with the hybrid or 4 wood. Off the fairways I may need to hit a shorter club from long distance and pitch and putt. 3 iron and hybrid can end up anywhere, left or right which causes more pain than necessary.
I want to maximize my CAN DO shots and get myself into those positions more often to make birdies and save pars.
MOST IMPORTANT CONCEPT & KEY CONCEPT 6: THINK & PLAY BOXES
The single best thing I picked up from the book was this concept.
There are two imaginary boxes. One behind the ball called the THINK box. The other box is next to the ball where you play from which is called the PLAY box. The two boxes are separated by the imaginary DECISION LINE.
We walk up to the ball and on the way, we need to be assessing everything. Wind strength & direction, stance, hazard location, pin location, distance to the hole, distance to clear hazards etc.
Once we have our club selection, we need to visualize the hell out of the shot. You must rehearse the shot in your mind from the THINK box. In this rehearsal of picking your aiming point, focusing on the landing area and feeling the shot, we MUST commit to this plan 100%.
There is no compromise here playas, ONE HUNDRED PERCENT COMMITMENT.
Once set, we walk across the DECISION LINE into the PLAY BOX. The DECISION LINE represents a boundary for our mind. Once we commit to a plan, we walk across that line and forget everything else. No more thinking at all, no doubt, no fear nothing!
Then we execute the shot in the PLAY BOX. We just hit the shot we planned! Any fear or doubt that comes into your mind means you MUST back away and reset. If you hit that shot with even a hint of fear or doubt, you’ll not execute the shot well. Now if the plan was good, you’ll be okay most of the time, but you’ll notice your most bum shots come from lack of commitment and allowing fear or doubt to creep in.
This is the opposite of STRESS-FREE GOLF. Doubt and fear is a stress. Hit shots you can hit and COMMIT to them NO LESS than 100%. 99% is just not good enough! Once in that PLAY BOX, your mind is free of any thoughts at all. Just a blank canvas.
KEY CONCEPT 6: POST SHOT ROUTINE
After your shot, it’s very important to react in a way that will let you continue playing well.
Instead of getting angry and overly emotional, we need to aim at reacting neutrally or positively only to shots. If you hit a good shot, enjoy the moment and remember the feeling for the next one.
If you hit a poor shot, it’s vital to understand why you hit a poor one. Was it lack of commitment? Wrong club selection? Did you estimate the wrong distance? Is it even a shot you know how to hit? There are many factors and if you can identify the issue, you’ll be more accepting of the result.
Calling yourself an idiot or telling yourself you suck is recipe for disaster. You’re not as crap as you think. You’re more consistent than you think. But you need to understand what happened.
If you made a wrong decision, just make a better one next time.
If you picked the wrong club, then you actually hit a good shot with a good plan, just a small error. Take more or less club next time.
If you missed a putt because you misread the green, you probably actually hit a good putt. Your putting doesn’t suck, your green reading sucks.
I can guarantee, you do not suck at golf. You don’t suck at certain parts of golf.
KEY CONCEPT 7: CONTROL THE THINGS YOU CAN CONTROL AND FORGET THE REST
Have you played golf with that guy who swears, shouts and curses all the time, working himself up into a frenzy? Have you seen the guys breaking clubs? Have you played with that dude who blames literally everything for his game except himself? The weather, the slow players, the grass, the water, the sand in the bunkers, the political situation?
That guy may be you!
I know I would always look for excuses like a punk. That book I mentioned really does a good job of putting it into perspective.
There is such a fine line between a 75 and a 69. It’s actually easy for us to shave off those 6 shots, and we have all the shots, but we will need to be in control of our thoughts, our decisions and the following things we CAN control:
- Our physical shape: fit or unfit
- Sleep: this is my biggest problem – not sleeping enough and playing poorly
- Club selection
- Shot selection
- Planning of the shot
- Focus on the shot
- The clubs we take to the course
- Our clothing
- Our attitude
- Our reactions
- Our emotions
- Our equipment
- Commitment to a shot
- Your marital status
What we CAN’T control and must totally not allow to affect our purpose and mood:
- The weather
- The layout of the course
- The course characteristics
- The previous shot
- The result of a shot
- The bounce of the ball
- Our playing partners’ mood, attitude, actions
- Slow play in front of you
- Pushy players behind you
- The price of the golf
- Speed of the greens
- Food in the kiosk
- The hotness of the drinks cart girl
- The distance the other guy hits it past you
- Dustin Johnson’s massive drives you can’t hit
- Everything else you can’t control but that you let affect your mental state!
KEY GADGETS AND ‘HACKS’ TO IMPROVE INSTANTLY
Get a rangefinder.
Knowing distances to clear hazards, distances to fairway bunkers and all sorts of info will really help you to make confident swings at the ball. Knowing you can clear certain things while also knowing you can’t reach certain things off the tee helps your game immensely.
Shooting to the front of the green and back of the green can also help you to know how far back you can go or how short you can go on approaches. I don’t know why I didn’t have one of these much sooner.
Know your distances and drop the ego
Know the exact distances you hit your clubs. By this I mean the distance you hit your clubs 80% of the time. Not the one in 50 shot you hit your 6 iron 210 yards, but the distance you hit it 80% of the time which is more like 185 yards.
Ego shots will leave you in the bunkers short, the water hazards short.
Forget the other guy’s club selections
I was affected by the fact the other dude I am playing with might hit one less club than me meaning he is way stronger or longer. It would make me try keep up and I would end up short of the target every time, or trying to force a shot which is not what we want.
Then I realized my clubs were 10 years older than his and the loft on them was 3 degrees more per club. Now when someone hits a 7 and I hit a 6, whatever! Just play your game and be happy to jam with it the way it is!