Playing Your Best When The Golf Course Slows Down

Its happened to everyone. You’re playing great and then wham — you hit a wall of people. The golf course slows down to a crawl and with it — so goes all your rhythm and ultimately — your patience. From there, it doesn’t take long before your scorecard is loaded with bogeys and double bogeys. So, how can you stop this from happening? How can you — with pace and rhythm such an important part of good golf — continue to play consistently when something outside your control impacts the speed at which you play?

To me, the easiest way to deal with issues like this is to play something I like to call “bubble golf.” Basically, all it means is — getting inside your bubble when it’s your turn to hit or putt — no matter the pace your group is playing. This way, your pace will never change — no matter what happens on the golf course.

Let me show you how it works.

Every golfer should have a key — whether physical or mental — that puts them inside their bubble. And, inside their bubble, they should focus only on the shot at hand. They should gather all key data. They should visualize the shot. They should pick a club that matches the shot they see. And, they should walk into the ball with a consistent pace, which will put them in the best position to succeed. And just as importantly, once the shot is over, they should have a quick post-round routine while still in their bubble. Then, they should leave their mental bubble of concentration and think about whatever.

In his prime, Billy Casper would enter his bubble as he pulled the club from his bag. If something happened to interfere with his concentration during his pre-swing or actual motion — he would put the club back in the bag and start completely over. He had done it so many times — it was his key to concentrate. And he would never take the club out of the bag until he was ready to enter his bubble. I like that. It’s simple. On the greens, Payne Stewart would tap his putter lightly when he was ready to enter his bubble. Some players take their gloves on and off. It doesn’t really matter what your key is — just have one.

Here’s an ideal example of what should go through a player’s mind as they enter and leave their bubble.

It’s their turn to hit…they activate their key to focus…in this example, it’s a simple key word — go…so, they say “go” quietly to themselves, which puts them in focus mode…from observing — they have already made some decisions based on yardage, wind or hole shape…so they are not necessarily starting from scratch when entering their bubble…but — the first part is definitely the evaluation stage…how far is it…where is the wind going…what’s the actual yardage…these are the type of questions a player in a bubble will ask themselves before committing to a shot…they basically have a checklist…this will get easier and more efficient the more they do it…once they make their club choice based on their evaluation — they should see the shot one more time in their mind…really see it…paint a very detailed picture…this process of evaluation should have flexibility…some shots are easy to see…some shots are not easy to see…so — the evaluation stage may vary in pace…this is okay and normal…however, once the player sees and commits to the shot — the walk into the ball, look and waggle — should always be the same pace…this should not vary at all…this is the trusting phase…if the player is unsure during the trusting phase — they should start over and go back to the evaluation…they should never try to take longer or try and change something while over the ball…then, after the strike, the player should take 10-15 seconds and evaluate what happened…if it was a great shot — they should enjoy it…they should take a picture of it for their mind…and put it somewhere easily recallable….if it was a poor shot, they should take a couple practice swings and try to leave that spot with a positive feel, as opposed to a negative…once that’s accomplished — they should leave the bubble…from there, they should talk to their playing partners…think about whatever…but, they should not obsess about the game…when it’s their turn again — they should simply return to their bubble and start the process over again…

Now, if you play this way — it won’t matter if you hit a wall of people on the golf course. It won’t matter because — you are the one who is controlling the pace of your game. No matter if the pace is fast or slow — your pace never changes. It never changes because — it doesn’t actually start until you enter the bubble.

Practice this. I know if you do — you will see a big improvement in the rounds of golf that vary in pace.

Good luck!

16 Responses to “Playing Your Best When The Golf Course Slows Down”

  1. I hate to be critical of sound advice, but don’t these routines slow down the game anyway? A guy taking 2-3 minutes over a shot because he is in a bubble! no wonder golf takes 5 hours. I see golfers going through the same pre-shot routines for every shot and the last thought or movement lets them down, resulting in a duff!

  2. Nikolaus Lehmann says:

    😉 I honestly agree what you are saying. My MANTRA when getting into the bubble is: What is my intention? What do I want to achieve? This helps to get my mind a kind of cleared and the more often I use my mantra the better I can focus on what is ahead of me. This helps me to improve shot by shot.

  3. Wim Holterman says:

    Thanks again for another practical tip.


  4. Ed says:

    Great topic. One I will definitely try to use more often . Normally I am a foursome captain which requires me to keep score and stableford points for the players in my group. So I have to switch roles from player to captain to player. Also I have the added pressure of trying to keep our group moving at a reasonable rate. So a “slow Player” within the foursome creates slow play for the group. Normally the “slow player” is not bothered by his slow pace, but has a negative effect on the rest of the group not playing “in the bubble”

  5. Dan Harkins says:

    Excellent description of a process in psychology where you use Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) which I have learned a similar method called Neuro Associative Conditioning or (NAC) whose father was a gentleman by the name of Jim Rohn and later another life coach in Anthony Robbins. Everything has a “Trigger” to cause you to go into a positive mental state which produces such powerful consistency as to create the origination of the “Zone” which we have have all achieved in one way or another or have had the desire to. You see the focus of that in golf from Tiger, Annika, and yes even Boo Weekly, not saying that he knows that though. So I want to thank you for writing a great article on this process and maybe the next time you run into that wall it won’t be sooooo harsh on your emotional states! Positive training without application is like trying to stop your 5 yr old from talking when you are putting…not going to happen!

  6. David Price says:

    Hi Andy,
    Many thanks for all the informative contents of your many emails. I enjoy them very much. The Rules of Golf are great. The Slow Play item is very helpful as are all the others.

    Kind regards,

    David Price

  7. Gary woodard says:

    Thanks Andy,

    Great tip to always be in control of the moment. One shot at a time.

  8. Gabriele says:

    Thanks for this great advise. I used to get very impatient and upset when things were not moving at my pace. I used your bubble technique and won my match play 7/6, and played the best round ever.

    Thanks again, really wonderful to get all these tips.

    Gabi :-))

  9. Katie Beddek says:

    I love “Bubble Golf”! I have just played an interclub match where I had to give 12 shots (which I found a bit daunting), but I used my “bubble” for every shot, and won 7/5. What a great way to leave all the baggage behind when taking your shot. Thanks so much for the article.:grin:

  10. Guy Warner says:

    Brilliant piece of advice – much needed by all who play golf of whatever standard. Keep up the good work. 😉

  11. Jim says:

    Waiting about 20 metres behind my ball helps me when held up on the fairway. When clear I approach the ball and play the short in the normal manner.

    Kind regards and thank you for the tips you send out

  12. Bill purchase says:

    Hi andy and Team
    The subject of slow play is a realy thorn in the side. as I seem to lose my way with my shot and become very upset :mrgreen: with my shots for awhile then calm down and start to look at the shot and picture where it will end up. So what You have said maybe this is my bubble or way of handling slow play.
    Thanks Andy It Makes me feel better, to know that other golfers go through this as well as myself. and I am Enjoying my golf at the moment, But I will be having shoulder surgery on the 4th of june.

    thanks for the e-mail andy

  13. John Holter says:

    There is a saying in the Good Book: “Turn the other cheek”. While you are at it, turn your whole body so that your back is facing the group playing in front of you. Look at the sky and the trees; take some practice swings but refuse to watch the action in front. The worst thing we can do is to watch a 35 handicapper walk aroung a putt for 2 minutes, knowing the outcome of that putt. I have found this tip to be very simple and effective. Don’t look at the source of your distraction.

  14. Hugh James Copeland says:

    😀 I find your tip great especially as I am playing in a tournament tomorrow I will let you know if it helps,

  15. Jerry says:

    Hi Andy,
    Entering ones own bubble makes a lot of sense. I find Myself goofing
    around too much, which I’m sure brings My score up.
    Thank You once again for all the interesting E-MAILS You have been
    sending…..By the way, the 4 MAGIC MOVES are working great.I’m out-
    driving all the young members in Our league.(I’m pushing 76)


    Jerry (Wisconsin)

  16. Bob Haggard says:

    That was a good read. I have a similar process, but I’ve never named it. My tempo and rhythm never change because the course slows down. It does not matter to me whether the pace of play results in a 3.5-hour round or a 5.5-hour round. I believe using the “bubble” theory, as you call it, is great. None of my buddies have a similar system, and once slow play is evident, sometimes from the first tee, I know I have an advantage because that’s all they can talk about, and I know their games will suffer and I’ll have a distinct advantage.

    Do I believe a round of golf “should” take more than 4 hours? Not really, but the reality is it often does, and one has to learn to deal with it. Sometimes the course setup itself leads to slow play, especially with less-skilled players. Sometimes the tee times are squeezed too close together. There can be many contributing factors, including those that are just slow, and the course does nothing to maintain a pace of play.

    One thing you did not mention that I’ve come to realize, having read all sorts of complaints about slow play, is that a lot of the aggravation starts before one even tees off. There are those who are doomed to “slow play angst” before they even leave the house for the course. They have an 8:00 a.m. tee time, it is a 30-minute drive to the course, each way, but they have to be back by noon for whatever reason. Even with a four-hour pace, which is not bad, especially on a weekend, they just will not make it in time, and they’re in a hurry before they ever tee off and are aggravated at everyone on the course because they need to play in 3.5 hours, and feel they’re entitled to do so , no matter the course conditions that day.

    If you don’t have the time to at least allow four hours for the round, to enjoy it you need to reschedule either the round or the later appointment, because the reality is, rightly or wrongly, you are probably not going to make it, and you will be aggravated the entire time and not enjoy the round, and you will be rushing every shot to no avail. 🙁

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