Two Games or One?

First of all, thanks to all of you for the lively feedback on last Friday’s column. We appreciate you sounding off about what golf means to you and why you play, what you expect out of the game, and all that stuff. It was enlightening to many of us here that people can play the game for so many “different” reasons, but which all boil down to pretty much the same – the challenge of doing better in a very difficult endeavor.

As we all strive to be better, we can stand in awe of the heights of performance those elite players achieve. To think of shooting 20+ under par for 72 holes is a concept that most of us cannot even begin to imagine for ourselves. The same should be for trying to emulate even the individual shots these top-level tour professionals hit.

One thing I firmly believe has caused most recreational golfers to play far below their full potential is the publicizing of the prodigious distances the professional golfers hit the ball. We are constantly bombarded by television accounts of 325-yard drives and 240-yard 5-iron shots, 160-yard 9-irons, etc. And too many of us process that to mean that’s how far those clubs are supposed to go. But it’s not. No more than your morning jog is supposed to crack the 4-minute mile, or that every fishing trip should produce trophy fish. Or that your business decisions should have the same impact as those made by a counterpart at a multi-billion company.

Very simply, we exist in different worlds than the elite performers, and we should set our expectations in line with our skills and preparation.

Remember, the tour player does this for a living. His entire world revolves around his ability to make the golf ball do what he wants. He employs a personal coach, a personal physical trainer, nutritionist, mental coach, caddie and a team of agents to take care of life’s little distractions like paying bills, going to the cleaners, etc. His focus is only on his golf.

You and I don’t have that luxury. If we are fortunate, we can escape our business and family pressures for a weekly practice session of an hour or so, and one, maybe two rounds of golf. We did not spend an hour a day stretching, or another 2-3 working out. We take a lesson only occasionally – if at all. And we certainly do not have our own shrink.

So why would we think we could even remotely approach the performance benchmarks of these guys? We can’t, and we shouldn’t.

Think about that for a bit, and give yourself a break. If Adam Scott can hit a 5-iron 215-225, your optimum distance is probably more like 175-190. If Phil Mickelson says a routine 9-iron shot is 155, yours is probably more like 130-135.

I would offer a bet to any of you that if you throttled back your “normal” distances by 15-25 yards, and worked on your mechanics at that more controlled pace, you would see 2014 deliver the lowest rounds of your life.

Anyone for a bet?