Sometimes golfers can put up mental barriers built out of past performances and how they view themselves as a golfer. As they play more rounds they start to establish a range of scores in which they tend to shoot most often. This is what is commonly referred to as the “comfort zone”. This term has been beaten like a rented mule in golf articles and videos, so I’m not about to reinvent the wheel or anything. In fact, I want to start ignoring it completely and stop acknowledging that it even exists. Rather than trying to get rid of a negative, let’s focus on how to remain in the positive. I want to take it completely out of my vocabulary and replace it with the “Improvement Zone”.
Human nature urges us to break external limitations placed upon us. The speed limit on a road is 50, we want to go 60. Change the speed limit on that same road to 40 and we’re content going 50. When we were young and our curfew was 10pm we wanted to stay out until 11pm. If our curfew was at 9pm we’d be content staying out till 10pm. Which goes to show you that our brains can be tricked just by adjusting the limitations placed upon us. Those examples are external limitations.
In golf, however, limitations are placed upon ourselves internally. Nobody tells us what score we cannot shoot below. There is no sign on the first tee saying “YOU CANNOT BREAK 80 ON THIS COURSE”. Many golfers, whether they realize it or not, tell themselves. Yet, unlike the external limitations discussed, they can become too accepting of these internal limitations. Someone who currently views themselves as a bogey golfer may accept it as some sort of fate or inevitability that one way or another they’ll end up playing bogey golf more often than not. They still try hard to play their best…relative to their self imposed limitations.
This is where the improvement zone comes in. In the improvement zone, there aren’t any limitations because things are constantly evolving. There is only a steady focus on improvement over time. From shot to shot, hole to hole, round to round, or year to year. These improvements can be minor, like improving your posture and attitude after making a bogey. They can be major like deciding to seek professional instruction and start practicing in the off season.
It involves constantly taking inventory of your game and thinking of ways you can make it better than it was yesterday. Whether it’s during a round or during the off season, you can always be in the improvement zone. Draw confidence from your Confidence Jar to improve with a particular club or shot regardless of what your scoring is like that round. If you can totally immerse yourself in the cycle of improvement, there is no time to get too comfortable or complacent.
You’re always pushing yourself and making improvements to your physical and mental game. Improvement is a form of change, so doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is complete madness. Have you ever heard a member of the media ask Tiger Woods what his goals are for a season. His response is usually something along the lines of “I’m just focusing on trying to get better each and every day”. He’s immersed in the improvement zone and is not placing any barriers on what he can or cannot achieve that year.
Golfers may have an internal barrier relative to their personal best score, accepting that as a rock bottom anomaly. However, if you’re immersed in the improvement zone, you’ve improved in some way since you shot that score so it’s impossible for that barrier to truly exist.
Some amateurs may fear commitment to improvement and practice because it strips them of their excuses as to why they didn’t play well. It strips them of their ability to say to their buddy after a lost match “I wish I had time to practice like you”. Those excuses are just a crutch. I’d much rather play golf on two strong legs than on one leg and a crutch.
If you don’t want to improve, don’t want to practice, if bogey golf is fun enough for you, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that under one condition. Adjust your attitude on the golf course accordingly. There’s nothing worse than someone who doesn’t practice, doesn’t get instruction, plays once every two weeks and whines all round about his game, “I just don’t get it, I never play like this. I can’t believe how bad I’m hitting it”….I can. Believe it, it’s happening in front of your very eyes.
You can keep whining, or you can do something about it by jumping into the Improvement Zone.