By Mark Aumann
Series: Golf Buzz
Published: Monday, December 15, 2014 | 5:28 p.m.
One of the things we hear from beginning or inexperienced golfers is that they sometimes feel “intimidated” when playing with really good golfers, and it keeps them from enjoying themselves on the course.
But you know what? Unless your name is Rory McIlroy, there’s always going to be someone out there better than you. And even then, Rory was a beginner golfer himself, at one point. So instead of treating that situation as a negative, our PGA Professional believes you can not only enjoy the experience when paired with a better player, but grow your own game in the process.
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Ted Eleftheriou is Director of Golf Program Development for the PGA of America, based in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
“Throughout my golfing career, I have had the privilege of playing with some amazing golfers, golfers who could beat me any day of the week,’ Eleftheriou said. “However, rather than being discouraged or intimidated by these individuals, I looked forward to each encounter as an opportunity to learn from them.”
Here are four things you can learn from being paired with better golfers, in Eleftheriou’s words:
1. Observe what it is that great players do on the course.
“The first thing I learned from playing with better golfers is that they all have a specific pre-shot routine that they perform prior to every shot … regardless if it’s a three-foot putt or a tee shot with the driver. Their routine typically consists of club selection, followed by getting behind the ball for alignment. Then they’ll make a purposeful practice swing (or stroke) or two in effort of trying to ‘feel’ the swing needed for the shot they plan on performing. Next, they step up to the ball and look at the target at least once or twice to confirm alignment and visualize the target. Finally, without further delay, they’ll perform the actual shot.
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“Most amateurs, on the other hand, have no consistent pre-shot routine and end up either rushing through their shot or go to the opposite extreme of hanging over the ball forever. Neither is effective for increasing the chances of hitting a good shot.”
2. Better players have fun, but focus on their own games
“The best players have fun playing golf and like to socialize like most golfers do. However, when it’s time to make their shot, they enter into their own private world. They absorb themselves in their pre-shot ritual and do their best to lock out distractions.
“You should also focus on your own game, not what others may be thinking of you. You do this by staying in the present with every shot. As the saying goes, ‘The past has already happened and the future hasn’t happened yet, so all you can control is the now.’ Keep your mental imagery and self-talk positive and stay ‘in the now.’ ”
3. Don’t change your swing on the golf course
“Observe what better players do on the golf course and take mental or written notes. But don’t try to change your swing, stroke or game while on the course. That’s a sure recipe for disaster. Work on what you observed on the practice facility and only when you experience moderate success should you try to incorporate it into your game on the golf course.
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“Occasionally, better players may offer you advice, and you should thank them for it. But let them know that you’ll practice their suggestions next time you visit the practice facility, as opposed to during your round of golf.”
4. To handle intimidation, commit to only one swing thought.
“Intimidation: We’ve all experienced it. Playing with a better player intimidates us, which often leads to poor performance. To ease the intimidation, incorporate a pre-shot routine, stay ‘in the now,’ don’t change your swing on the course and allow yourself only one swing thought. And I’m not talking about, ‘Oh God, please let me make contact without looking like a fool in front of everyone!’
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“You may want to consider something more like a personal pep talk: Like ‘Complete the finish’ or ‘Good tempo’ or ‘Light grip pressure.’ Something that’s produced positive results for you in the past.”
Eleftheriou finished with this piece of encouragement: “Learn from better players and one day soon, you’ll be the player leading others to better golf.”