Undoubtedly someone has recorded a three hole golf score of “1, 2, 3” or “3, 2, 1” at some point in golf’s long history. That is a bit out of my league. The most unusual series of scores for me occurred a couple years ago. The opening hole was a relatively short par-5 and I managed to put a 3-wood second shot about 2 feet from the hole. After my “3” on the first hole I proceeded to birdie the par-4 that followed. So now my score card was “3, 3”. The next hole was a relatively long par-3 (210 yards). I managed to hit the green and two-putt. Now my score card read “3, 3, 3”. I had a putt for birdie on the next par-4 but had to settle for a par. I wish I could end the story with a tale of a record round. Unfortunately for me, my game quickly reverted to its usual inconsistent form and I did not even break 80 for the day. Sigh.
Which leads me to my second tale of golf scoring. Long before I ever managed to shoot under 45 for nine holes, I had a streak of brilliance that, looking back today, still seems impossible. I started my round with a typical double-bogey and then strolled over to the 2nd hole, a par 5. I hit a tee shot to the dogleg corner and then put a 3-wood on the green. When I made my 15 foot putt I had my first eagle as a golfer. On the next hole, a par-3, I made a 40 foot birdie putt to go under par for the first time in my golf career. I proceeded to birdie the next two holes with tap in putts and stood on the 6th tee 3 under par. My confidence was soaring and thoughts of shooting in the 30’s for nine swirled in my head. Oops. I had forgotten the golf imperative; play one shot at a time and don’t worry about your victory speech until after the round is over. I not only failed to break 40, I did not even beat my “bogey golfer” target of 45.
Both these stories underscore an idea called “fear of going low.” The idea being that many of us change our outlook when we start a round on a hot streak. Certainly I am not fearful of shooting a low score. However, I know that consciously or unconsciously I often start to play more conservatively when I manage to work my way close to or under par. Occasionally I manage to finish with a fine round; more often, my conservative play leads to disaster. One plays away from a bunkered pin location which leads to missing the green entirely. Or rather than play to the dogleg corner one goes for the safe landing area, which results in a 4-iron approach instead of a 7-iron.
I recently had an opportunity to “go low” and butchered the round with poor decisions and conservative play. At least I partially understand my faulty thinking process. Now all I need to do is fix it.