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  • Writer's pictureCarol Alford

The Comparison Trap

I was watching the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday evening and was fascinated by the game between Bryson Dechambeau and Lee Westwood. It was such a close game, with just one shot separating going down the back 9. Bryson is a a bit like Marmite, you either love him of hate him, I'm not sure which camp you sit in. Regardless of whether you're a fan or not you have to admit he's certainly shaken the game up with his unique style and method of playing. Personally I'm fascinated by his approach to the game, bucking traditions to find his own unique way to play the game. It raises questions as to why we have taught the same methods for years and if there a better way, but I'm not convinced that hitting the ball as hard as you can is the right tactic. Whichever side of the fence you sit on, there are a lot of people out there comparing their game to his. I see it regularly when working with junior players. They see him hitting these enormous drives and think that's the way to win competitions. They compare their distance and believe the only way to win is to replicate long drives, falling into the trap of comparison. Whilst I can't deny he won on Sunday, it could have easily been won by Lee Westwood who was only one shot behind. When you look closely at their games you may be surprised to find that Bryson didn't get his lead from his long drives. There was so much hype about his driving distance and being able to clear the lake on hole 6, which he did with a huge drive of 377 yards. Pretty impressive you might think, however when you analyse the results from that hole, being able to drive that distance gave him no advantage. He finished up with the same score as Lee who played it the conventional way down the fairway. Looking at his statistics on the final day many of his drives ended up in the rough or bunkers forcing errors and not giving him the perceived advantage we are lead to believe with distance. Whereas Lee consistently hit fairways, playing for position rather than distance. I was also surprised to find how bad his approach shots to greens were landing in bunkers on several occasions. He was heard moaning about the sand and bunker conditions which again forced him to drop unnecessary shots. You might be surprised to find that Bryson actually won his game with his putting skills. His putting statistics are good and he sunk two very long putts, that looked impossible, to keep him in contention and the pressure on Lee. Hole 17 is where Lee missed his opportunity to take the lead, by not sinking his putt, had that one dropped he could have taken the title. So this got me thinking how often do you find yourself comparing your game with your golfing partners? Do you find yourself thinking, "I can't drive the ball as far as xxxxx," "xxxx has such a much better short game than I do." "I can't putt on fast greens as good as xxxxx." Comparing yourself to others is a common trap that golfers find themselves falling into. When you compare yourself to others, you're looking for all the reasons why you're not good enough. You're focus is honed in to searching out all the poor aspects of your game, where you're not performing well, which impacts your confidence in a negative way. As we all know golf is a game of confidence, so when it takes a hit, your performance suffers, and when your performance dips it lowers your confidence further. Before you know it, you've become trapped in a cycle focusing on the performance of others to the detriment of your game. So how do I break this cycle? The solution is to switch your focus on your game. You can achieve this by:

  • Finding ways to improve the weak parts of your game. If your short game game needs improvement, create a training plan to work on key aspects that are losing you shots. E.G. if you find you 3 putt regularly, work on your putting routines to improve technique and consistency.

  • Identify your strengths - Every golfer will have strengths in their game, identify yours to build your confidence. It might be you're consistent with your driver, hitting fairways in regulation, or your good at chipping near to the pin.

  • Celebrate your successes - Capture your successes, physically writing them down helps to remind and reinforce what we have achieved. Turn you're focus on these wins, it will help motivate you and highlight your capabilities.

  • Review your last games - Reviewing how you played previously will identify trends for you to focus your attention on where to drive in improvement. E.G you may find that you regularly leave putts short, or approach shots land to the left of the green

  • Review your game strategy - Reflect on the strategies you've used to identify areas of improvement. E.G rather than trying to hit your drive as far as possible on par fours, play the hole in reverse think about the distance you would like to have to play into the green and play the hole to give you that distance.

When you turn your attention on your game, your confidence grows along with your motivation and desire to practice. Avoid the Comparison Trap: Instead of dissecting your game and pointing out every little mistake you made in your round, recognise your strengths and successes. Treat yourself to a little notebook and write them down after each round of golf. Remember no success is too small. Use this little tip from Colin Morikawa. After playing he asks himself these 3 questions

  1. What did I do well today?

  2. What didn't go as well as it could have?

  3. Where do I need to focus my attention to improve?

This will record your good aspects and identify what you need to improve for the next week or practice.

Hope you found this blog interesting, if you would like to learn more about mental toughness please visit our website and get in touch. Drop me an email and let me know what you think, I would love to hear from you.


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