When your game starts clicking, you want it to last. The better the golfer, the longer he or she can keep a hot streak going. An average tour pro might play well for three to four weeks in a row, but sometimes we see the world's best go strong for three to four months. It's hard to remember Jordan Spieth or Inbee Park carding an over-par round last season. Most weekend golfers, on the other hand, would be happy to string together three or four satisfying rounds.
Ironically, the first step to keeping a streak alive is to forget it ever started. Great golfers have extreme short-term memories. At the 2005 Solheim Cup, when I made seven birdies in 13 holes to win my singles match against Laura Davies, 7 and 5, possibly the hottest two hours of my career, I wasn't counting them up. To say I was staying in the present is a cliché, but it's true. A better way to think about it is, you get to reinvent yourself on every shot. Whether you're in the middle of a fairway or behind a bush, each shot is a fresh and positive challenge. Never stand over the ball thinking about the swing that put you there.
Another key is to practice trusting your first instinct. That can be hard to sustain, but I bet if you remember a period when you were playing well, that's exactly what you were doing. You weren't hemming and hawing over which club to hit. You weren't looking 15 feet left of the flag and then deciding—maybe on the downswing—that 25 feet would be safer to stay away from the right bunker. You weren't asking other people to read your putts. You saw the shot, committed to it, and hit. So what if it should've been a 7-iron instead of a 6-iron, and now your ball is over the back of the green? Embrace the challenge of getting it up and down. This kind of confident, first-instinct mind-set pays off in the long run.
Some golfers passively hope to keep playing well, but others actively seek to understand why, so they can make it last. I know very few serious players who don't keep a journal of swing thoughts in their golf bag. I always jot down two thoughts from my "bible" on a sticky note and put it in my scorecard holder. My most recent ones were, Turn left shoulder over right knee and Slow transition.
My last secret to riding momentum is to love what my coach Gary Gilchrist and I call "functional golf." This means being OK with shots that find the light rough or the wrong section of the green. When most golfers struggle, they tend to put even higher expectations on themselves to hit perfect shots. A lot of the time our eyes and hands are going to feel a little off—that's just golf. It's no reason to believe a streak can't start, or continue. With a little luck and some smart course management, you never know what you might end up shooting.
Paula Creamer, a Golf Digest Playing Editor, ranks eighth on the LPGA Tour in birdies and 14th in scoring average.