Almost in the 70s
By Paul Morrone CFP®, CPA, MSA
I broke the cardinal rule on the golf course during one of my last rounds of the season: don’t think about your score before you reach the clubhouse. I know, it sounds counterintuitive seeing as you have to pencil in your score each hole, but it is one of the worst mistakes an amateur golfer can make, and it is entirely mental. It’s not simply the thought of acknowledging that you’re having a good round, because as a golfer you know when you’re playing well and when you’re not. It’s not a secret. You know generally where you stand. It’s when you tell yourself you ‘need’ to get a par on the next hole that things begin to unravel. Why? I have no idea, but I bet every golfer can relate.
I was on the 15th hole, and that’s when things got ugly. This was before I started thinking about my score, I just had a bad hole. It happens, usually more frequently during a normal round, and I let it get the best of me. A crummy lie in the greenside bunker left me with a tough shot that I executed poorly. Fast forward through a second shot in the sand and a couple of putts and I had my first double bogey of the day. Thinking what could have been my best round was now ruined, I added up my scores and realized I could still break 80 for the first time in my life. I remember what it was like to break 90 the first time, and could only imagine turning in a scorecard with a 7 as the first number. To me, it sounded better than a hole-in-one.
I told myself that all I ‘needed’ to do was play 16, 17 and 18 two over par and I could still pull it off. Mathematically It sounds so simple, yet it is so hard to do. I was playing really well, uncharacteristically well some might say, and had just put together a string of pars and birdies like I’ve never had before. Prior to the 15th, I was 1 under through the previous 7 holes. Given how things had been going, bogey golf didn’t seem terribly overwhelming, especially with two short par fours and a par 3 to end it. After a great drive on 16 I pulled a short iron into the woods, great, a lost ball. Not looking good. Triple bogey. Next hole, 17, triple bogey, again. Eighteen, bogey. What could have (and arguably should have) been a 79 quickly turned into an 85. I’m not an emotional golfer and normally laugh off a bad shot or hole, but this one stung even after a beer at the 19th hole.
I don’t quite have a takeaway after this whole rant, other than the fact that it reinforces how important consistency is in the game of golf. Rounds like this make me realize how hard it is to play at the professional level and how incredibly difficult consistent execution is. It’s even more mind blowing to try to comprehend the success of some of the game’s greatest players such as Jack Nicholas or Tiger Woods. But that is why we play golf, because you can never ‘beat the game.’ The course always wins.