How to Overcome - The Bogey Hole
Replacing doomsday thoughts with simple mental diversions can help you to treat a troublesome hole just like any other.
The majority of you will recognise this destructive line of thinking: out there, lurking among 17 other holes that each weekend raise nothing more than the usual doubts and frustrations, lies your 'bogey’ hole - the card-wrecker that stands defiantly between you and a decent 18 holes of golf. While it might not be the toughest hole on the course, the bogey hole is your very own personal Index 1. It’s a hole that always costs you dear.
The dreaded 15th. You're not sure whether it’s the funnel-like view from the tee, as trees close in on both sides, that ties your stomach in knots, or the fact that only two of your very best shots can hope to get anywhere near the green at this evil par-four.
Then there’s the green itself, a raised double-decker upon which three putts are more common than two. Not to mention the out-of-bounds if you should scuttle through. You don’t know how to cope with it. What you do know is that it has been on your mind all week. And all your friends know this, because it comes up in your conversation every time you talk about golf. The alarm bells are ringing even on the 1st tee, and as you play the first few holes the mania escalates with every step you take towards the dreaded 15th - the bogey hole!
What can you do about it?
There are several simple things we might do to deal with the bogey hole. And each of the following techniques is designed to help you control the very thoughts that create your bogey hole. The key is always to find something to think about that is within your control, something that you are confident you can do, and that you do not doubt your ability to repeat. In that way you occupy your mind with positive thoughts, and arrive at the hole without all that mental baggage.
'Watching’ closely (i.e. feeling or listening to our breathing pattern) is a way to stop the bogey thoughts. When you attend closely to your breathing pattern, negative thoughts of the bogey hole cannot enter your conscious mind. It's like having a particular swing thought. It is done as you walk between shots. Focusing on breathing out as the club is on the downswing during your swing is an extension of this technique during the shot itself - breathing out helps you to stay relaxed.
Talking with your playing partners or caddie is one way to keep your mind occupied on positive thoughts (or subjects non-related to golf, which might be good for both of you), rather than dwell on negative ones surrounding 'that hole’. Much depends on the nature of your partner or opponent. Nattering away may be a distraction - anyone remember Lee Trevino?
Many golfers react to their bogey hole by trying to hit their very best shots -- the longest and straightest drive of the day. Given your record at this juncture in the round, you are much better off changing your expectations, perhaps even leaving the driver in the bag and taking a different club. Change your game plan. Playing the hole a little more conservatively may take some of the pressure off you on the tee. Hitting your favourite iron off the tee, laying up rather than going across the water, aiming for the centre of the green instead of the flag - all of these solutions help to ease the pressure.
In your efforts to play your bogey hole well, it is all too easy to speed up - the "I want to get it over with as quickly as possible..." syndrome. The danger then is that your pre-shot routine quickens, bad habits creep in, and the swing itself speeds up. You might get quick from the top of the backswing (or all the way through), and immediately the outcome of the shot is in jeopardy. So slow down. Swinging at 60-70% of your normal effort is an effective way to regain some control.