By Roger Knick, The Golf Performance Center

“I am not what I ought to be, not what I want to be, not what I am going to be, but I’m thankful that I am better than I used to be.”  John Wooden

Learning From Playing

The quote above from the legendary coach John Wooden I believe sums up a winning mindset.  If you can go out and compete or do your best in your daily life, there is only one way to look at your accomplishments.  You have learned to get better from your most recent experiences, and you are where you are, as Mr. Wooden says, be thankful that you are better than you used to be.  Too often we berate ourselves or have negative self-talk after a bad shot or round of golf.  But if we took the approach that from each experience you learned something about your game, you could give yourself a better message. For example something like “ Wow, that was a hard shot under tournament conditions. I have never had that one before! It was good to experience even though I didn’t pull the shot off the way I would have liked too, but I know now that I can.”

Justin Thomas (JT) said recently after another “poor” scoring day on the course in an interview, “Well, I guess, I have to say I did some things well and some poorly, but I feel like I am better from the experiences. Golf is a hard game, I have to realize there will be good days and bad days, and I am having a few bad days recently, but I feel like I am close.”  How awesome is that message for the mere mortals who play the game? A player who was Top 5 in the world now dropped to #17 in world rankings, can put his struggles in a learning context.

Here is another interview from a local paper of a junior golfer who just played in his first “major” event, an AJGA tournament: “Chris, how’d you feel you did today?”  “I played terribly, I didn’t hit too many fairways, my putting was terrible. I wanted to play great today. My practice has been really good but today was awful.”  “Well, you had a score of 76, it was your first big tournament, you have one more round to make the cut, what do you have to do to play better?” “ Uh, well, I think I’m going to get a new driver because my current one stinks. I should be leading this tournament, not sucking in 25th place out of 80th.  I can’t believe I am playing this poorly. My coach isn’t here, and now I am thinking about how I have wasted my time coming to play, but I guess I will figure it out.”

As the reader of this article, which golfer are you? The best players understand that golf is a hard game, having good and bad days is going to happen, but the important thing is learning from each of them.  If you give yourself the “Chris” message above, maybe it’s time for you to rethink how you can learn from every playing experience and practice.  If you are not growing and learning from your experiences, only thinking that you suck or your game isn’t getting better, you may need to work on your mindset and your mental skills, or maybe it’s the people around you, time to check in on that.

I think JT has taken a page right out of the Rick Fowler textbook on how a struggling player learns from his poor play.  Kudos to Rick Fowler, who recently played great at this year’s US Open after struggling for the last few years to stay inside that Top 100 in the world rankings, now having a bounce back year.  Ricky’s message to himself, keep learning, keep working at getting better, learn to deal with the distractions. Golf is hard and there will be good and bad days on the course.  Keep it up Ricky!

Enjoy Your Journey!