The more time I spend on the golf course the more I am fascinated by the decision-making process and the variety of decisions that golfers have to make. Players have to assess a hole in terms of distance, lie, and obstacles. They have to then work out what club to use out of their bag, determine how the conditions will influence the shot, and narrow down the possible options before deciding on what shot to take…
Then you add pressure to the mix and even the best struggle, either with overthinking (e.g., usually too many technical thoughts or focusing on the outcome potentially leading to the ‘yips’) or suffering from a ‘mind blank’ or panic, leading to a rushed shot. In 2012 Adam Scott infamously made several poor decisions on the last four holes of the British Open, blowing a four shot lead and shooting four straight bogeys, ultimately costing him the championship.
The antidote to substandard decision making is to be intentional with your decisions and to follow a specific process each shot. One of the shortcomings of being human is that we have a limited attention capacity, so it’s important to be strategic and selective with your attention, going from a broad (i.e., focusing on multiple cues or clues that provide valuable data for shot choice) to narrow focus (i.e., focusing on the decision made & chosen target). The first step is to gather information, going through a mental checklist that remains consistent for each shot, considering what information is needed (e.g., distance, lie, obstacles, conditions, etc), and what the information is telling you. The next step is to weigh up your options and see which is most likely to take you towards your goals. If there is no clear way forward, choose the shot option and specific target that you are most comfortable with and play the percentage game, taking calculated risks.
Once you have made a decision, you need to commit to it. Indecision kills! While this statement may be overly dramatic for the golf course, it has merit and relevance for golfers who suffer from indecisiveness. If a golfer starts to doubt his or her shot or target selection whilst standing over the ball, commitment is compromised, often leading to a mistimed swing and a compromised target. This is where the principle of selective attention applies and narrow focus is required. I like to think of selective attention as ‘going into a bubble’ where focus is on the shot and the target and no other thoughts or distractions can enter the bubble. An important part of this phase is preparing for the shot both physically and mentally by completing the pre-shot routine, an important part of any golfer’s repertoire.
The final phase is execution and requires 100% commitment and confidence from the time over the ball to the time the ball lands. If any of the previous phases creep into the execution phase, indecision and overthinking takes over, leading to poor shots. To maximise the benefit of each shot, a performance review phase of the decision reviewing what went well, what could have been better, and how it can be better in the future is also important, focusing on judging the process not the outcome.
Decision-making is a great part of the game of golf if you keep it simple: gather info, commit, execute! We have a superb tool to remind you of this 3-step routine – our Golf Bag Tag acts as a visual cue on your golf bag. We all need reminding every now and then!