I missed the cut in the Carolinas Amateur. I shot 79-84 and missed the cut by a dozen or so. This, to me, is a failure.
In fact, I don’t know anyone who would label that as anything but a failure. But the fact that it’s a failure is not the important part. It’s how one reacts to the failure that defines the player.
And what I realized after these two rounds was that I actually really love failure. And I started looking back at my past failures and realized I’ve always loved failing at golf. Because it shows me what I need to work on. It shows me that I’m not practicing hard enough. And this particular instance failure showed me that I’m not practicing at all. Because my bad rounds didn’t used to be that bad. I didn’t know where the ball was going when I was over a shot. I had no feel for putts. I struggled with reading greens way more than I thought I would. Even my mind was all over the place. And as a mental coach that’s definitely not good.
So all this to say, failing showed me how valuable practice is. Sounds obvious, but it took me failing to be reminded of it. I was reminded that you can’t only work on your mental game. Because I can promise you, no one has thought more about their mental game than I have over the last 18-24 months. Without pairing practice on the mental game with physical game practice, it’s not a holistic solution to a golf game. There’s no way to hack success. Other than the rare exception, there’s no way to show up to a tournament without practicing and play your best golf. The only viable strategy is holistically working on your whole game.
The reason why this is true is because a major pillar of the mental game is trust. You have to trust your game and what you’ve worked on. But in order to trust what you’ve worked on, you have to have worked on things. And when you haven’t worked on things, there’s nothing there to trust. Imagine free falling and grabbing for a ledge to stop yourself and the ledge isn’t there. The ledge is your practice. Without practice your trust will free fall. In order to trust you have to have put in time and effort and quality work on your game.
So failing is the exposer of how important it is to practice the whole game, not just the mental game. And without failing I wouldn’t have known that. If I had played well, it would’ve reinforced the concept in my mind that work ethic isn’t that important. And we can all agree that that’s not the right thought.
Failing is one of the most valuable things that can happen to you. You should not only embrace failure, you should celebrate it. You should love it. You should welcome it with open arms. I’ll even go as far to say you should seek out failure. As the saying goes, “Fail early and often.” Fail as much as you can.
Golfers need to stop demonizing struggling. There’s an expectation in golf that winning is the only good result. “If you’re not winning then it’s a waste of time.” Honestly I am a fan of showing up to a tournament knowing you’re going to lose, just so that the tournament shines a bright light on what you’re bad at. Golfers are so sensitive when it comes to what they’re bad at. You need to be able to step up on a tee box and be completely ok with the ball going out of bounds. That sounds crazy, I know. But it’s the only way to not be nervous, to not care about the result at all. And not caring about the result is to be totally fine with failing. Just like you’re totally fine with winning. Either outcome needs to hold the same value.
Learn from my mistakes (which I’m encountering more and more of the older I get) to have mistakes of your own. Don’t avoid mistakes. Fail. Not the advice you might expect from a mental coach. But I want you to fail as often as possible so you can learn.