Playing golf on a packed course can be a challenge, and I'm not just talking about finishing in time for dinner. What you do while waiting to play your next shot can make a huge difference in your round. -- by David Leadbetter, with Ron Kaspriske
Two things to try to avoid: (1) Don't let slow play make you angry. That's easier said than done, but if your mood turns dark, it can negatively impact performance. You'll start swinging with more tension; you'll tend to rush your shots, and you'll project blame for bad results on “having to wait too long.” (2) Don't dwell on the future. With all that downtime, you might start thinking about your next play. Bad idea. It's OK to get the yardage and note the wind, etc., but the longer you focus on what's required for the next shot, the more likely you'll drift out of your usual routine. I wouldn't start prepping for the next shot until there's less than a minute before you can hit it.
“It's like calling a timeout on a kicker. It can cause a bad shot.”
So what should you do with all that downtime? It's probably best to get your mind off golf entirely. Talk about anything with your group or caddie. If you must talk about golf, make it something more general like your favorite courses.
If you must swing a club while you wait, work on a particular facet of the swing and not the upcoming task. The ability to turn your golf brain on and off on a packed Saturday-morning golf course is going to make the experience a lot more enjoyable than standing in that statuesque “hands on hips” pose.
BIG PUTT? KNOW YOUR ROUTINE—AND STICK WITH IT
You've got this seven-foot putt, and it's pretty important. It's for birdie or to win a match, etc. What should you do before taking the club back? Simple. The same thing you would do if it was a seven-footer for bogey—or any other putt that day. If you normally take one look at the hole, make a practice stroke, and then hit the putt, that should be your routine for this one, too. Placing more importance on any one putt—especially when it means taking longer to prepare for it—is going to hurt, not help, your chance of making it. Too much focus leads to tension, because your mind starts to become overwhelmed by the magnitude of the event—overshadowing the task at hand.
LEADBETTER is a Golf Digest Teaching Professional.