We’ve all been there: you’re playing pretty well, and then you slice a drive out-of-bounds or top one into the water. A series of stupid mistakes follows, and suddenly you feel like your game is spiralling out of control.
You’re not alone.
The goods news is, bouncing back after a bad shot is easier than you might think.
Here, Butch Harmon reveals his favourite tips for recovering quickly and keeping a round on track. His “10-yard rule” can rescue even the most agitated golfers.
Have a short memory
Most golfers struggle to put bad shots behind them. Having a short memory after a miscue is a skill that can take your game to the next level. Just look at the pros.
“One of Dustin Johnson’s greatest strengths is that the last shot never happened,” Harmon says.
Johnson is one of many tour players who use this skill multiple times a round – and it’s not just golfers. Many elite athletes apply this mentality in their sport.
“Think of a cornerback in the NFL and how many times he gets beat before he stops a pass play or makes a great tackle,” Harmon says.
This kind of perseverance might not come naturally to you, but Harmon explains that letting go of your mistake will allow you to be more focused on the next shot, which will open up more opportunities for a comeback. With practice, you can definitely get better.
The 10-yard rule, explained
After a mistake, Harmon says to remind yourself that you can’t go back and fix it, but you can control what’s happening next and the shot you have to play.
“If your mind is still thinking about the three-putt or the dubbed chip or the boned shot out of the bunker where you made double-bogey, there’s no way you can give 100-percent effort on this next shot,” Harmon says. This distracted mental state is probably the reason that a single slip can wreck your rounds. By implementing the short-term attitude that Harmon suggests, you can step up to the next shot completely focused and avoid careless mistakes that snowball into big numbers.
“If you give 100-percent concentration and effort on that shot, you’ve given yourself the best chance to hit a good one,” Harmon says.
After all, it’s not about eliminating mistakes – we all make them – it’s about minimising the damage and moving on quickly.
And Harmon says his 10-yard rule is one of the best ways to do that.
Harmon says being upset after a bad shot is natural and that every player needs to process their emotions in their own way. This isn’t a green light to throw clubs or have a tantrum, but if you’re someone who needs to vent a little, Harmon has a solution.
“You’ve got a 10-yard rule,” Harmon says. “You can get as mad as you want at yourself for 10 yards, but after you walk that 10 yards, it has to be out of your nervous system. You have to be focused on the next one.”
Think of Harmon’s 10-yard rule as a trigger to refocus yourself. Once you cross that imaginary boundary, commit to letting the last shot go. Having a set space to vent will help you compartmentalise your emotions and move on from your mistake faster.
“It might take you five minutes to walk 10 yards,” Harmon jokes, “but try it. It’ll help.”