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Consistency – or lack of it

Why do we perform well on some days and not so well the next? Or in my case, why is my first 9 of a round consistently mediocre but the back nine is usually very good?  I put it down to warming up and getting into a rhythm. What’s consistent about your golf?

Practice makes perfect?

One of the constant pursuits of many golfers is to achieve consistency in all aspects of the game, developing repeatable habits from pre-shot routine to swing, driving, approach shots, chipping and putting. In theory, if you can keep all the variables of the mechanics the same, the results should be similar with the variances explained by playing conditions and other factors beyond our control. That’s why we practice so much, believing that repetition will help ingrain consistency and drive improvement. And then we go out on the course.

It started so well

A few weeks ago I played with Neil and my Dad in a mini 3 ball stableford competition. I started well, which was the first sign that something wasn’t right. I had 20 points after the first 9 holes, had a cushion to my Dad and brother, and I was looking forward to my usual excellent back nine. And then it all went wrong – inconsistently wrong.

My excellent shaped drive on 11 suddenly bounced 10 yards straight left into the deep burn. Unlucky. I thinned the next chip a bit and ended up making double bogey. Never mind, I thought, just a blip. Plenty more golf to come. It was at this point that Neil started to hit amazing approach irons to within 8 feet of the flag – consistently. This was not the usual script. Something weird was occurring.

Unlucky numbers

On the 13th my usual 4 iron, over the trees on the dog-leg left, appeared to lick the top leaves but no alarming sounds of wood on ball. We all thought it had sailed onwards to the fairway. However, we couldn’t find it. Unlucky. I took the penalty, clipped a tree with the recovery and took a triple bogey. Neil’s second majestic 130 yard shot landed 4 feet from the hole.  Are you starting to see the contrast in fortunes that may have influenced my cheery mood?

With a recovery par on the 14th, I missed a sitter of a three foot putt on the 15th green which, bobbled, ran around the hole and spun out backwards. Never mind. Neil’s nemesis, the Amen Corner of Cheshire, was approaching.

The curse of Amen Corner

The last three pond strewn stretch of holes on our course can be a card wrecker for my brother. But today it was my turn to be on the receiving of sympathy and encouragement. Another tree jumped out at me, a stream suddenly diverted course and freak wind gusts caused my Amen Corner score to rise to 7 over par, no points and another lost ball. Even my Dad was beating me! Whatever happened to consistency?

A game of two halves

Looking back at that round, my usual ‘bad 9 – good 9’ had flipped. Neil’s irons were amazing and I was just average. The only all-round consistent aspect of the day was my Dad’s uncanny short game skills. For an octogenarian he doesn’t drive it far, but when he can consistently bank on a close chip and one putt for two points, who needs to?

So what happened? My usual pattern of back nine scoring I put down to warming up. It takes me a few holes to get back into a rhythm, to calibrate my swing, feel the greens and rebuild confidence in swing and effect.

Harder than it looks

When we watch golf on TV we see the pros spending time going through a routine on the range, approach greens, bunkers and the putting green with their coach in tow. They hit dozens of balls before they step onto the first tee. They don’t just put their shoes on in the car park, check-in, hit a few putts and then waltz up to the first tee expecting to hit a belter with the first hit of the day.

But the comparison with the pros is not a fair one for golfers like us. Pros hit golf balls for a living, every day and well before the get on the tee – consistently. There’s a clue. My back nine aberration was probably just a brief spell of inconsistency, like flipping a coin and getting 3 heads in a row. It happens. My golf wasn’t that bad but a few unlucky bounces, bobbles and jumping trees took their toll. It just wasn’t my best day. The Pros have those too. I’m sure normal service will be resumed next time round.

Enjoy your game

Please do tell us your tales of consistent golf, good or bad – or lack of it. Email them to us at contribute@puttbandit.com and we’ll mention some of the best stories in our monthly newsletter.

Paul Hart is a founding director of PuttBANDIT Ltd, co-inventor of the PuttBANDIT Ball Marker and enthusiastic improver. Paul now plays off a new WHS handicap index of 11.9 and returned to his usual back nine form in the following round.

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