Determining Your Personal Par

Golf is more than just swinging the club well. If the only criterion for success were a good swing, the golfer with the best swing would win every time. And we know that doesn’t happen. Even players with great swings don’t always win, if that’s all they can do, as I’ve often said in my golf lessons and golf tips.

Despite what golf pros teach in their golf instruction sessions, there’s more to playing good golf than having the perfect swing. Good golf includes emotional and mental aspects as well. If you’re going to slash your golf handicap to single digits, you need to conquer all three elements, particularly the mental. Failure to employ these other elements can cost you during a round.

Concentrating on Inner Substance Weekend golfers think so much about the mechanics of their swings they often forget about the other elements of the game. Most weekend golfers also concentrate more on the game’s outer manifestations than the inner substance of shotmaking. Hitting a 300-yard drive is more impressive to them than laying up at the right time. Because the mental element is to a degree intangible, many weekend golfers come to feel it’s inconsequential.

If you watch tour golfers closely, you’ll realize how much the mental aspect of the game counts with them. In fact, they concentrate on the mental aspect of the game more than anything else. How do they do it? Simply put, good players focus themselves by employing what some people call “personal par.” Players who use a personal par concentrate on achieving that target more than making a perfect swing. That’s how they’re able to shoot such great scores week after week after week.

Setting Your Own Personal Par Setting and achieving a personal par is like a runner setting a goal of beating a personal best in a race. If the runner normally runs a mile in 8 minutes, she may set her goal at 7 minutes for a race. Then she focuses everything on achieving that goal. By the same token, pro golfers play at a level that transcends the par they put down on the scorecard. They set their own personal par. They then adjust their game to reaching that personal par. Here’s how personal pars work.

If a good player is playing a par 72 course she sets a goal of 68 as being realistically possible. Keep in mind the word “realistically.” Setting a goal that is unrealistic does no- one any good. Her mind then involves itself in reaching that goal. If she goes out and shoots a 69, she’s shot a good score, even though she’s shot +1 for the round. If she sets her mind on achieving a 72, on the other hand, and shoots -1, she’s shot a good score but not as good as the 69. In other words, if you set a lower personal par than your scorecard, you’ll generate higher expectations and increase your mental involvement, producing better returns than normally.

The idea is to challenge yourself with your personal par every time you go out on the course. Set a personal par that is better than the score you normally shoot but that is realistic. For weekend golfers, that might be an 85 or 95. If you set a realistic personal par every time you play, you my not achieve it every time, but over time your scores will come down-and so will your golf

Focus on the Target Now let’s turn to individual shot making. The three most important things to think about when hitting a golf shot are target, target, and target. Good players focus on their targets when hitting, not their swings. The opposite of target-oriented thinking is swing-oriented thinking, which often leads to poor play. It’s like a pitcher in baseball watching his arm as he throws the ball. He won’t be a good pitcher unless he focuses on his target rather than on how his arm works

The object of golf is to hit the ball into the hole. Thus, the primary target in golf is the hole, not the ball or the swing or the body. By focusing your mind on the hole-not around it-you help your body achieve what it’s capable of. In other words, play target golf rather than swing golf by focusing your mind on the central object of the game.

The mind has two parts-the conscious and the subconscious. The subconscious doesn’t make mistakes, the conscious does. The sub will make a perfect swing every time, the conscious can’t or won’t. The idea is to eliminate the active mind from the swing, and let the subconscious do the work. Put the conscious mind on the target and keep it there, focusing entirely on what you want to accomplish.

Ingrain personal par and target golf in your game. Set your mind to doing both every time you play, whether it’s a practice round or a league match. Expect to reach your personal par by focusing on the right targets, and work toward achieving that personal par when you play. If you do, your golf handicap will come down over time.

Copyright (c) 2007 Jack Moorehouse