Learning To Go With The Flow

The great martial arts instructors talk often about pulling as your opponent is pushing. What does this mean? Basically, it’s a simple way of maintaining balance. Think of it this way…

If your opponent pushes you in the chest with all of his force…and you resist…it won’t take long before you lose balance. But if instead of resisting, you let your body step backward — you would easily keep balance. This is a great example of not fighting the laws of nature.

Another example is water. Imagine a river finding it’s way. It doesn’t try and ram it’s way trough a rock wall. It’s just meanders around the wall — basically taking the path of least resistance.

To me, great golf is a lot like these two examples. And in turn, poor golf is like standing your ground against that opponent – instead of stepping backward. Or, like water ramming against the rock wall – instead of gently finding it’s way around.

How does that relate to you and the golf course?

Too many times I see people struggle instead of taking what the golf course gives. Or, for that matter, struggling with their game — in a quest for perfection — instead of playing with what they have on a given day…or just going with the flow.

Tour professionals understand this. Well, at least the best ones do. They know that there are literally dozens, if not hundreds, of ways to achieve the same result. And when it comes right down to it — the result — or a good score — is all that matters. On one day, their swing might be so good that getting around the golf course is easy. But maybe their putting doesn’t feel all that great. So, even though their swing is great — they still only manage two or three under par. But on the next day, their putter comes alive — but their swing feel goes slightly dormant. They hit less greens – but make lots of par putts and take advantage of the greens they do hit. But the net result is the same — two or three under par. They understand that golf is a marathon — not a sprint — so they take this in stride. They’ll wait for those days when everything clicks – but aren’t consumed with it happening each time they tee it up.

This can happen with course conditions just as easy. One day, on a par four, you could hit driver within a short iron of the green. But the next Saturday, when the wind shifts a little, it might turn into a hybrid or fairway wood. The golf course is constantly changing, which to me, is one of the things that makes this game so special. But if you don’t embrace that change and expect to end up in the same spot every time — you will end up a seriously frustrated golfer.

These are some of the reasons why it’s difficult to follow up a great round with another great round. Say the last time you played — you were 2 under by the 6th hole — but now you are 1 over — so it’s very easy to think “what’s happening here?” Or, “why am I so bad today when I was so good yesterday?” Part of it could be some simple fundamentals, which I’ll address in another post shortly…but mostly — it’s about just being at peace with the game. And knowing that no one masters golf. This is why Tiger Woods doesn’t shoot 54 every time he plays. Or why Ben Hogan would always wake up from his famous dream on the 18th hole — right after making 17 straight birdies. Even in his dreams he couldn’t master this game.

Can taking a more serene approach help you score better? Absolutely!

Here are a few things that could help you go with the flow on the golf course…

1. Understand that golf course conditions are ever-changing — so it’s impossible to duplicate your play each time out.

2. Develop a balanced game — with emphasis on the short game — so when you don’t have a solid swing — you still have chances to shoot your handicap.

3. Take each shot and each round on it’s own merit. Don’t compare past rounds and past shots. Just take what you have in front of you — with whatever physical tools you have for that given day — and make a plan accordingly.

4. Understand that your score on a given day doesn’t define you as a golfer. Sometimes — a lot of times actually — luck plays a huge part in this game. I know Gary Player said “the more he practiced, the luckier he got” — but somethings are just outside of your control. Know that and be OK with it.

As strange as it sounds — you may have to think about and practice going with the flow. There is a wonderful story about the great South African champion Bobby Locke. As a young pro, Locke was a nervous wreck. He couldn’t take the pressure and would always beat himself up on the golf course. But one day he had an epiphany and decided to act calmer and easy going on the golf course. This took practice, as he was definitely a “type-A” personality. But he decided to fake it if he had to. He decided to start his new persona as soon as he left the house. On purpose, he would drive to the golf course much slower than the speed limit. Upon arriving, he would take the long way into the clubhouse. Once in the locker room, he would take lots of time putting on his shoes. Outside he would ‘shoot the breeze’ with a few other pros. Sometimes he was so relaxed and unassuming, he wouldn’t have time to warm up. But he didn’t care. He would just go with the flow. He knew other pros were concerned with all the negative stuff that used to consume him — and knew that would always work to his advantage. So even if he didn’t practice or warm up — he was prepared to take what the course gave him and stay calm. It must have worked, as he won 3 British Opens and countless other events. But none of his profound success happened until he learned to go with the flow.

My guess is — you won’t see your greatest success on the course until you too can go with the flow…

Good luck!

53 Responses to “Learning To Go With The Flow”

  1. David Turner says:

    As an old man coming back into golf after a 50 year absence, I am still surprised by the things that change and those that don’t. My swing came back like riding a bike. I found out how to use the modern drivers and I just LOVE hybrids and the new balls. Fantastic!

    It seems to me that many of the other guys on the course are having a bad time. They seem to hate the game and want to rush through it as if it’s a race. I watch them zig-zag all over the fairway, seem to take no care over getting the best out of individual shots.

  2. Rich says:

    That is so true. I was on the course yesterday when this email came through. After a not so good front 9, I had a minute to read it. My back 9 went much better. Thanks for the wonderful insight.

  3. Don Sherwood says:

    Hello Andy,

    So many plays on go with the flow, but notice when you do not feel good and are contemplayting a poor round and hey presto you have a good game and play really well because you have took the pressure off yourself.

    Also note that although there are exceptions,most pros have a very relaxed attitude to the game. I remember a famous pro whose name escapes me at the moment but he always whisled quitely round the golf course.

    So yes it does work and thanks for reminding me



  4. graham faraday says:

    The tip about being relaxed on the golf course is a good one.

    Sometimes I think we become too concerned about our score (on the hole or overall) and forget about the next shot which is the real priority.



  5. Rob Naylor says:

    I am 63 and have golfed since I was 12. I work regularly on my short game, as cannot hit too many balls on the range because of some back issues. I play with guys that do everything wrong with their games but seem to beat me quite often. I have been told that I know too much about the golf swing and that I try to be perfect. I have gone from a 6 hdcp. to a 13. How do I just let my game proceed without being too technical. I have tried but when I hit a poor shot I go back to (what did I do wrong there ? ) and try to correct it.

    Thanks, Rob

  6. Tony says:

    I like this advice and will give it a try tomorrow (slowly & easily).

  7. Ranjanesh says:

    Thats a great one. It should be fun to follow it from next time.
    Thanks Andy.

  8. michael says:

    Thank you, that was one of the best articles I have ever read, about going with the flow.

  9. Allan says:

    My opponent yesterday was a great example of going with the flow and not letting golf get to him. I found out later that he had lost his wife through cancer some years earlier and this put it all in perspective. Never to late to learn!

  10. André Packwood says:

    Hi Andy;

    Excellent reading material and a way of Life at the same time.

  11. William Pilkington says:

    Been doing this for years and found I enjoyed life a lot more

  12. Carl S. says:

    Thank you Andy, The best morning read to start my day of practice and play. The great comments by all my fellow golfer’s amazing.

  13. PA says:

    It’s easier to be laid back about unavoidable events on the course if you are striking the ball consistently well. Your new 4 magic moves have changed my game, particularly the flat left wrist. 4 critical actions that have helped me to a consistent swing are-1. the early left wrist break 2. solid legs 3. square shoulders on impact 4. swing a full arc.

  14. allan peacock says:

    Hi Andy ,Just read your article on go with the flow,I couldn’t agree more my best rounds have happened when I was totally relaxed.But I do know the best stroke in golf is a stroke of luck.Go into any club house and you will hear all the bad luck stories,rarely do you here the good luck stories,how the ball hit a tree and came back in bounds, or a chip that was heading for the rubbish hit the flag and stopped.Golfers just want to make life hard for themselves,they need to have built in excuses.!!!

  15. Seto Jew says:

    Each time I step onto a golf course, I want so much to play well that it kills me when I don’t. I have tried to ‘go with the flow’ and it has helped, but that inner demon gets out for a hole or two. It’s not like I go for the green each time. I do lay up quite often. However, it’s skulling the simple chip shot or missing the two footer that drives me mad. Oh well, maybe next time I will be able to get thru a whole round ‘in the flow’.

  16. William Barnett says:

    Thanks for this article Andy; I always enjoy reading your mail and I think this will help my game if I can master it. I’m going to send this to one of my golfing buddies who could really use this advise. He’s 71 and can still play well on his good days but gets so mad when he isn’t at his best his game just blows up and then he spoils the fun for the rest of us. He throws clubs, curses, and stomps around like a mad man. He often declares that he’s “quiting the game” or “he’ll never play this course again” of course he always does. If he would take this advise to heart and start practicing it he could make us all enjoy the game more.
    Keep the articles coming; now that old man winter is here we don’t get to play as much as we’d like but we can still read about it and try to improve in other ways like “Learning to go with the flow”.

  17. Seve Giardina says:


    Swing techniques can be discussed all day long and for every coach you will get a different opinion, but this article transends all kind of golfers. If you never have another lesson or listen to another golf tip take head of this article and not only will you score better but will also enjoy your golf much more.



  18. jefferson phiri says:

    thanks andy
    your tips about playing with the flow are awesome. am a six hncp so now I know most of the bad rounds are a result of forcing which I think is the opposite of playing with the flow. that was great!

  19. JD says:

    Today’s Email really hit home—I am someone who wants everything I do to be as perfect as my body and head will allow—I understand my limitations, but I do not except 2nd best, even with my 100% percent disabled body—This message really made me look at exactly I expect out of Golf—I play golf for the exercise (I have dropped 40 lb’s since I started back playing last May)—But more than that, I play because I love the game and the challenge and without a challenge in life, life itself is not worth living—Today’s email help me realize that perfection is not the main goal—I think, with time I can enjoy the game for what it really is.


  20. Robert Chua says:

    Hi Andy,

    Well said. Going with the flow is an attitude one has to learn to embrace and it’s not something that we can learn from the Pro, unlike the swing and the putt. The ability to adapt and stay focus is similar to having the capacity to block distractions, it improves the attitude to ride the flow. I always find myself strike the ball sweeter and longer, putt more accurately when my mood is relax and the score is inconsequential.


  21. Josie H'cap 26 says:

    A very good read. It makes sense. I am now happy to face the course regardless of the weather and I will try to apply the adviced given with a more broad and positive attitude. Many thanks. 🙂

  22. richard furman says:

    thank you for this article you must have been talking about me.thank you again
    dick furman

  23. Jaipal says:

    Good advice. I can only add to this that stay neutral or even better positive even if you have hit a bad shot. At most give yourself 10 seconds to think of the shot you have hit and then move on.

  24. paul reihana says:

    I hardly have time to read mail but I found this most interesting and I highly agree with it .I shall try to adopt this attitude

  25. Robert Hutton says:

    Another superb article.

    I am 56 years old. I have three tears in my left rotator cuff and a lifting capacity of 30lbs. I can no longer hammer the ball 275/280 yards but occasionally I get there (by default). Maturity has certainly helped me and while I canot keep up with the twenty year old hickey players who have just played golf for three months for distance, I have clearly out thought then with careful play. Natalie Gulbis, (when selling a GPS) says, “YOu don’t go to the golf course to practise…” I ask, Why not? This is precisely where I practice. The ranges are different from playing the course and the conditions. Plastic turf does not react the same as grass. And the calmer I am the better I play. I am way too aggressive by nature.

    Just over a month ago, I set off on the front nine of my local course behind a large group of “First Tee” kids. I had a two and a half to three hour nine holes in front of me. I had a client with me, who did not play golf and we chatted and drank flavoured water together as we waited for the landing area to clear. While I did’t play perfect shots all day, I played nine very good tee shots. I played nine really good approaches and I made a lot of two putts. I misplaced a single shot, due to being too smart for my game and played to only one over par. I had a blast. I even got out of my cart to find balls for the kids as I waited to get to the greenside shots and surprised myself that I could do this at all. I hate slow play, slow players and not being allowed through when “entitled to be let through.” I usually rush my own shots because some of the group are ridiculously slow and ponderous, or because someone behind is restless or impatient but that day, I suppose, I went with the flow. This is a lesson well and truly learned, but I have to hope I can continue it in the future.

    Great website Andy. Lots of common sense approaches to everyday concerns for the everyday golfer who has neither time, money or the inclination to take everything to the pro.

  26. fetiga says:

    hullo, andy it is really fun i enjoy it very much we shall talk more when you come to uganda am just waiting for you to come
    God bless

  27. David O Trask says:

    Hi Andy the article about keeping cool, you hit the nail on the head. i have allways had the ability to keep cool in sports. i have seen many golfers practice and do great and then when the round starts they seem to change and get very excited.i agree with everything you said. to keep every part of ones game at the top is impossible. use what you have at the time. the main thing have fun.

  28. Steve says:

    I can relate to this I am a 1 Handicap shooting 1-2 under on fairly regular basis my golf was smoking hot for about 2 months everything I did turned to gold but the last 3 weeks were one of this times where I had to battle to shoot below 80 and I did beat myself up untill, last Sat we played league on a unknown course for me and I shot 78 4 under and to be dead honest I was not playing the best golf. Before hand I just told myself to stay calm and take it shot for shot calmly and manage your game around the course and it did work.

    I must say staying calm is not easy but this also goes hand in hand with course management as without it being calm will not get you around


  29. Colin Lennox says:

    Never a truer word. After a bad accident I could not play the game for 18 months. I doubted I would ever play again. So when I finally got back on the course I looked on it as being a bonus just being out. The result much more relaxed and able to cope with what it threw at me. My handicap tumbled from 16 to 10 over one season and now I really enjoy not only my golf but everything that goes with it.

  30. Cholai says:

    As a martial artist and golfer, I agree fully with all points mentioned in this article as there are so many parallels between the two..martial arts is about the pursuit of perfection whilst in golf, it is referred to as mastery which in both arena’s will never be achieved..
    It is the striving for this elusive goal that keep us going back to the course and the gym and to enjoy the journey…
    Annika Sorenstam, in her book said “” …no matter how often I win, or how many of my goals I meet, I’ll never master the game itself. And I wouldn’t expect to. Because golf is a never ending challenge; there’s always one more shot to hit, one more opponent to beat, one more course to think my way around…””

  31. Dave says:

    greet article sometimes when the round starts off bad it is hard to get the mind straightened out hopefully will try better tomorrow.

  32. Daryl Holt says:

    Hi Andy,
    I completely agree… I play with a friend and he consistently beats himself up. He refers to previous days and/or shots and can’t understand “WHY isn’t it doing what it did before”. This is good for me when we play for drinks, I keep my ‘lip zipped’. But when we are partners, I constantly remind him “subtly” to mellow out, and he plays a good round. Then at the clubhouse he’ll comment that “we play well together, don’t we”. But I’m not going to tell him my secret. I love it when he pays.:roll:

  33. Mike says:

    Very valid comments, like most things, incredibly easy to say, but hard to do. As always your mind gets in the way of a good round

  34. Ken Lange says:

    I believe this theory would improve my game immensely if I am able to accomplish it.

  35. Tom Gordanier says:

    I know I would play better with a calmer temperment,will make special effort,for myself and fellow golfers! It’s hard to remember that I’m going to be 73 this month,not 33,43etc,still think I can hit same club as then,trying to adjust! Thanks for your tips,look forward to more.

  36. Mark-John says:

    GREAT stuff, Andy!

    This technique, and behaviour, truly are effective. We must actually “practice” this, until it becomes nature.

    One day this past summer, I found myself out on the course, alone. I was excited, but calm. My first Drive felt soft in my hands, and was long, and center-cut. I walked the first Fairway with a smile. Roundabout the fourth hole, on a long Par 5, I had a longish 5-Wood to the green. (I had noticed that I had been speaking internally and positively to myself from the First Tee). To my delight I HIT that green, and caught myself speaking ALOUD; “Nice job, good shot there, Pro!” On this gloriously-long walk on approach, I studied the green and spoke to myself all the way to the green. Even though I had assessed that I faced a 17-foot, right-breaking Putt from the lower tier, I had already told myself, “You’ve GOT this Putt!” With a confidence that had no reason at all, I lined it up, took my stance, and stroked that Putt…and was all smiles and a whoop! as that Putt dropped for Birdie.

    It was THEN that I learned the importance of Calm, and the amazing influence it has on the Spirit, and your Game.

    Again, Thanks, Andy!

  37. Brian Phillips says:

    Hi Andy,another good article,perhaps this is one of the reasons we seem to play better having a practice round with friends than when there is a card in our hand

  38. Jimmy Hood says:

    😀 Hi That sounds feesable, i am going to try and inplement this from tomorrow and then again on the weekend(playing 2 days) will give feed back on Monday

  39. Mike O'Donnell says:

    Another terrific piece of advice. Can’t wait to give it a try. Thanks for taking the time to share these.

  40. Denis says:

    Hi Andy

    Without a doubt my best rounds have been when I am relaxed and but focused and playing within myself. I try not to think too far ahead and play each shot as I see it. When i’ve had a bad round (and i’ve had plenty) it is normally because I am not playing within myself and to my abilities. The next shot becomes too important and I can feel the pressure building up and I try to play a “once in a lifetime” shot, which normally goes horribly wrong. Keep the articles and tips coming as they are very welcome.

  41. Scott Norris says:

    Thanks Andy,
    I started out yesterday putting the first tee shot in the water and that set the mood for 3 horible holes.:sad: On the fourth I said to myself I’ve got to slow down, and the transformation was quite amazing.:smile:

  42. Tom says:

    That is the best advice anyone can ever give or receive. Going slow, well no, not slow as in slow ‘play’ but just the demeanor of your attitude. My best round ever was walking the course (pull cart) on a day when I almost had the course to myself. No pressure, took my time, a peaceful walk with my golf clubs… and I broke 80 for the first time EVER !!! shot a 77 and even left a few shots out there…

  43. Nauhar says:

    Hey Andy,
    Must say,something in your column must have worked as I shot a 2 over back 9 and thats the money wagon…the tips about the 6 best and worst shots made me play better and more calm as I had a terrible front 9 and came with a bang….thanks mate!!

  44. bill says:

    thanks, andy.

    goes a long way to explain why we hit great shots on lay-ups – sometimes too far !- ’cause we’re relaxed…

  45. Jonathon says:

    Totally agree. I damaged my body in a car accident a few years back so can no longer hit long tee balls. These days I play comfortably to an 18 hdcp and with my 180 yard 3 woods off the tee and good chipping I seldom have a bad round. On my home course I know which par fours to have a go at in two and which ones are better played as a 5 par. Best way to enjoy the game is to know your limitations, accept them and play within yourself.

  46. Anish says:


    Could not be a better timed article, I just played 3 tournaments in 3 days, the first I won, shot a net 67 could do nothing wrong. The 2nd, i was blasting my driver 300 yds center of the fairway, and wld take approx 3 shots to get on the green. and the last tournament, my driver gave away, my irons gave away, my putter would not work!! I cld not believe how a game collapsed from such high levels to such a low…

    Now it makes sense… maybe I was too hard on myself,or maybe I figured I got this game in control..

    Anyway.. thanks for your article.. am sure i will be more relaxed the next time!

  47. shaun chatterton says:

    I have been fortunate to own a very successful business for over twenty years and believe that most of my issues with golf are because I attempt to set incredibly high standards and invariably finish a round reflecting on the poor shots and not the positive aspects of my game. Your article ‘learning to go with the flow’ is extremely valid and I will (attempt) to adopt this concept whilst playing in a competitive pro-am later this week.

  48. Delmar Yennie says:

    Thanks again Andy for a very good piece of instruction. I will be trying very hard to remember not to get sooooo tied up with my mistakes. I am a perfectionist and I will have to work very hard at this as I think it is a very good piece of advice. Winter is here for us for this year so I will have to put this away for forward revive. I do golf on a seniors league and we do try very hard to just have fun and NOT try to be TIGER WOODS. So these tips will work for me.

  49. david waters says:

    These good tips are an excellent follow up to your last posting. Thanks again as I reapply these principles

  50. Mike Black says:

    I played Winterfield GC near Dunbar early in August, and went round a par 65 in 81 despite having an estimated handicap more like 20; for the first nine holes I was playing out of my skin. I have a photo of where the ball finished on the second green in two as my background on this PC – ten feet from the pin – I got par with a two inch tap in.

    You are quite right to say “play within yourself” – the pro called me a bandit when I told him about my round. But that was the best round I played this year, and all because I relaxed, and made sure that whatever happened to my game, all I wanted to do was enjoy myself. You could say I was so laid back, I was horizontal!

  51. gary b says:

    Thanks Andy
    I’m going to try to stay relax and just go with the flow. This is hard for me because ,I always feel that I’m the one holding back the the group. This just makes it worst and i really start to fight the course and the game. gary

  52. Willy Ellis says:

    Great comment about the importance of the short game. Remember an article where two groups of leading golfers were coached. Group A spent 1/3 time on short game and 2/3 on swing and long game. Group B spent 2/3 on short game amd 1/3 the other. 6 months later their progress was followed over several months. Guess what – Group B not only mathematically significantly did better than Group A but the difference was huge! We spend $600 on a new driver but don’t spend two half -hour sessions a week – just chipping and putting. We have a +1 handicapper at our club in Queesnscliff, Australia. He is near 60 yrs and has a practice green with bunker and different chipping areas around it in his back yard. During a week he will spend many short sessions just developing his touch. Says it all.

  53. Mike court says:

    Thanks Andy
    What a very good article, there was a lot of sound sense in it. I think I would benefit from being a little more relaxed on the course instead of blowing up each time I hit a bad shot. Will definitely give it a go.

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