I stand up to the golf ball with an 8 iron in my hand. I take a glance at the flag, 150 yards away. I am about to hit, but I feel a breeze in my face. I glance at the flag again, and notice it is slightly uphill. “No problem” I think, as I take the club back, “I’ll just swing harder.” Now I am at the top of my backswing, and all I want is to take another glance at the flag, suddenly now seeming like a mile away. Too late, as my neck and arms tense up with the added effort of getting it all the way to the green. The club burrows into the ground, throwing a chunk of dirt farther than the ball has moved. All that effort and I’m not even halfway there.
This short story is a situation I have recreated hundreds of times growing up golfing. The decision, the anxiety, the second guessing, frustratingly resulting in a mediocre golf shot even though I have hit thousands of perfect ones. This was a consistent phenomenon every round of golf. How could I go from booming straight shots down the middle of the driving range to digging trenches on the golf course? It didn’t make any sense, at least at the time. It was not until embracing some of the core concepts discussed in IMT did my golf game go from mediocre to where it is now.
The key IMT concept that transformed my game was the idea that the more initial conditions you know, the more you can know the final outcome. In my younger days, I would grab a club that seemed about right, take one look at the flag, and then get up and hit. While it seems fairly straightforward, it resulted in all kinds of problems. First, the lack of information. A 150 yard shot can easily play like 180 depending on wind, elevation, and a whole host of other things. More detrimental to playing good golf, however, was the second guessing. Standing over the ball with an 8 iron, it’s very easy to think, “What if a 7 iron would be better”, “what about hitting a 9 really hard”, “I hit my 8 poorly last time so maybe I should hit a different club.” None of these are things that you want to be thinking when hitting a golf shot. IMT solved this problem.
Today, my golf routine is much different. I look at the exact distance to the flag, where the flag is on the green, how much room there in front of and behind the flag, how easy my shot will be if I mishit my ball. Then I look at the wind direction, the slope of the ground that my ball is sitting on, the elevation change to the green, the ideal place on the green to putt from, and the difficulty of the shot that I need to hit to put the ball there. Then I consider my club selection. I choose between all the shots I know how to hit, namely shaping the ball to the left or right, hitting a knockdown, and controlling how much the ball rolls when it hits the green. Then, I pick my club, and hit the shot.
So what is the difference? The difference is in stress level. In the first scenario, the shot selection must be decided on. There was no real reason a hard 8 was worse than an easy 7, because I didn’t have enough information to know such a thing, resulting in a decision. With the current method in the same scenario, the thought process would have been something like this:
I am 153 yards from the pin, the pin is towards the back of the green, and there is a large elevation change in the middle of the green that will result in the ball rolling back down the green potentially. The green is at a higher elevation than me, and the ball is sitting on an upslope, which means the ball will fly higher. Combined with the wind, this means the ball will fly very high, which is hard to control. There is a false front on the green, which means if I am short the ball will roll away from the green about thirty yards. I am going to hit an easy knockdown 6, because the ball will fly lower, which will help negate the wind pushing it up and will help compensate for the upslope the ball is on. The ball will come into the green low, and because I swung easy, it shouldn’t have too much spin and should roll up the mound on the green up towards the pin. A 6 iron is plenty of club to get it there, so I should have a very small chance of being short and rolling down the false front.
The difference is obvious. In the second scenario, no decision had to be made, because there is only one really good choice given all the information. It is very low stress, because there is a plan in place and a reason for the selection. Also, the second scenario emphasizes minimizing risk, which further adds to a low stress environment. Both the idea of gathering information and minimizing risk and stress are core concepts in IMT, and they are what have changed my golf game for the better.