10 ways to survive a bad round (because we all have them)

Golfer laying on the green.

Bad days are a part of golf

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Anyone who has played this crazy game of golf has had days that make you question your sanity. While the successes are fun and make the game seem simple, the difficult days test our ability to remain calm and confident.

Bad days happen. The challenge is knowing how to pivot, adjust and survive. Here are 10 keys for saving face when things go south.

1. Have a plan B

Some rounds start slowly. Things don’t go right early, and if you know your game well enough, an early self-correction can turn an average round into a great one.

But even the best golfers have bad days. When your struggles can’t be self-corrected, it may be time to go with your plan B.

What is a plan B? It could be as simple as making smaller swings, or hitting less club into greens to set up an easy chip. Whatever your plan B may be, you should always have one ready for when you’re not at your best.

2. Keep it simple around the green

This is a general rule that you can use on all your rounds, especially when things aren’t going your way. Defaulting to the least risky short game shot can help you survive when you’re struggling.

On the off days, your goal is to make shorter strokes, and keep the ball close to the ground whenever possible to limit your risk.

Putting from off the green can help you avoid skulls, chunks and shanks.

When you are too far to putt, a bump-and-run shot means you cam make a shorter stroke but still propel the ball far enough.

And on the days you are really struggling, you may even consider pitching around the bunker, instead of over it, to keep the ball in play.

3. Favor easier-to-hit clubs

Your longest club isn’t always your best club. Pulling a 3-wood just because you’re a long way from the green can be a terrible idea when you’re not playing well.

Instead, aim for consistent fairway shots. Sacrifice distance for an easier-to-hit club, like a 7-iron. It may not go as far, but it will keep your ball in play and avoid knocking your confidence even further.

4. Know your faults

Speaking from experience, I tend to make the same mistakes over time. Why? Because it’s easier to return to what’s comfortable, rather than correct.

Knowing what tends to go wrong can help you turn around your game on those off days. If your ball is slicing, for instance, it might be because your grip tends to get too weak. 

Work with a coach to develop a list of your specific faults, so you can refer back to it when things go south.

5. Take extra club and swing smooth

A shorter swing is generally less risky than a longer one, so this can be a smart adjustment when you aren’t making good contact. By taking extra club and making a slower, more compact swing, you can improve your balance and likely make better contact.

6. Play your misses around the green

When you’re not playing well, your game becomes about damage control. On the days when your chip shots aren’t as crisp as you might like, take more club and play a bump-and-run. You won’t need to make perfect contact in order to enjoy a good result.

If you need some rough guidelines, here’s a chipping chart you can use as a guide:

Gap wedge – 10 yards total
Pitching wedge – 20 yards total
9 iron – 30 yards total
8 iron – 40 yards total
7 iron – 50 yards total

7. Tee off with a club that gives you confidence

On days when your driver isn’t cooperating, keeping it in the bag and teeing off with a more lofted fairway wood can help increase your consistency and confidence. Remember that loft is your friend; more loft means you can keep the ball in the air for longer, with less potential for it to fly into trouble.

8. Talk to your teacher

I have been fortunate to have worked with many of the same students over time, so I know their swings well. If you have a teacher you can trust, you can always text them a quick swing video. This check-in may be able to help turn your round around.

9. Order a drink

Tension can make a bad day worse. Slowing down and trying to breath can help lower your heart rate, and sometimes, an adult beverage of choice can help bring some enjoyment back to your round.

10. Never stop trying

Good days and bad days are part of playing golf. We’ve all had them. The most successful golfers I know are also stubborn; they’ll just keep toughing it out even on the worst days. This continued fight is a true skill.

It can also be polite to keep to yourself on these difficult days. Being loud and drawing attention to yourself just adds to the destruction. Keep trying and keep quiet.

Long-term success in golf is a journey, and requires a commitment over time. There will be ups and downs, no matter what level you are. Use the suggestions above to survive on the bad days — and look forward to more great days ahead.

Another reason you may be struggling? Because your clubs aren’t fit to your swing. Book a fitting from the experts at our sister company, True Spec Golf.

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