I need to get on the golf course more, I need hit the range more, I need to hit the practice and chipping green more, I need to work on my mental game, I need to play more tournaments! I am sure many of you have felt like this before, and for those of you who are diligent with your practice and put a lot of pressure on yourself, is it possible that taking a break could be the best thing for your game?
Here is my recent personal anecdote. In September of last year I moved to a new city where, unfortunately, there is no opportunity to play in an amatuer golf tour. This means little to no tournaments for me until I get my index below 5 so I can try and qualify for provincial and national amateur championships, or professional opens. Interestingly, without the pressure and expectations (that I place on myself not because of the actual tourneys) to practice and perform well when playing in tournaments, I had 5 straight rounds below my cap to end last year and brought my index to 6.8. Fast forward to the start of this year where that trend continued. Then recently, my wife and I moved into a new home and, as most of you know, moving takes up a huge amount of time with all the planning and preparation, etc. During this time, I was forced to dial back my practice and play time significantly yet the rounds I was able to play were some of my best ever, and I was able to get my index down to a 5.4 from 6.8 in about 6 weeks. I was shocked! However, I have not picked up a club in the last 2 weeks since our move in date and yesterday I shot my worst 9 hole score in a very long time…so, there are clearly some pros, cons, and considerations about taking a break from golf and what taking a break actually means.
While I may not be a Golf pro or sport psychologist, here are my thoughts on why taking a break during the season can be beneficial for some of us.
Why Taking a Break Can Improve Your Game
There are other things in life
Regardless of what some of you may think, golf isn’t the most important thing in life…OMG, did he just say that? I sure did, because of one simple truth, if you believe golf is the most important thing in life, your life becomes terribly depressing when you don’t play to your expectations!!
But how does taking a break help.
- It allows you to pursue other hobbies and interests that can play a big part of your life.
- Spend time with family, friends, and other important people in your life (and maybe talk about something other than golf 🙂
- Socializing and reconnecting with your other interests will help you realize that golf isn’t everything and playing bad doesn’t reflect what your life is all about…unless maybe you lost out on a life changing paycheck…but that doesn’t apply to most of us.
Basically, the less you play and practice, the lower the expectations you have, which can help in at least 2 ways.
- Help you learn to mentally accept and get over results that are below your “normal” expectations.
- Less expectations = less pressure which can sometimes lead to better golf.
You will be forced to be more efficient in practice
Ever leave the range and feel like you accomplished nothing? You hit ball after ball and just couldn’t figure anything out or couldn’t hit your normal shots. You see, when your practice time becomes short, you have to make the absolute most of each shot you hit. You need to hit each shot the way you would if you were on the course, pre-shot routine and all!! This isn’t a tip specific to limited practice time, but limited time forces you to do it. Quality over quantity is the way to go when practice time is limited.
Requires you to put a bit more mental rehearsal into your game
The less physical practice you get, the more mental practice you have to put in. This will allow you to focus on an area of your game that can be forgotten, feel. And guess what…mental rehearsal can create and strengthen neurological pathways and muscle activation order just like physical movement can, and in our mind, unlike real life, your swing is always perfect 🙂
You forget the bad habits
You know those times when you have a multi-round stretch of terrible play and you just can’t figure out why, or you start hitting slices, hooks, shanks, thin shots, and fat shots for no known reason. Surprisingly, taking a small break can help you forget any bad habits you may have recently developed and give your game a reset, just like when your computer goes wonky and a restart magically fixes it.
When Taking a Break May be Needed
If you need to take a break you probably know you need it. Excessive anger over little mistakes, feeling depressed for a long time after a bad round, swing just isn’t working right and practice/instruction isn’t helping, you haven’t seen your family all season because you need to get better (but it isn’t happening), etc….Be honest with yourself and you will know when it’s time.
How to Implement “Taking a Break” During the Season
Now here is the tricky part. A break doesn’t mean not playing or practicing at all, a break can mean something different for every golfer and there is a balance between playing less to improve your game and not playing enough where your game will suffer. Everyone will have to experiment on there own to find the sweet spot but here are some suggestions. But remember, taking a break is temporary:
- Reduce the frequency or time of your practice sessions
- Reduce the frequency of your rounds or only play 9 instead of 18 holes
- Stop playing in tournaments for a period of time
- Stop keeping your score for a few rounds
- Replace one of your weekly rounds or practice session with another hobby or quality time with friends and family
- Reconnect with why you fell in love with the game in the first place and forget about your results or always trying to get better.
- Go on a vacation/trip and leave the clubs behind!
- One of my favourites…go fishing
The Barefoot Golfer….Gone Fishin’