Smash Through Your Comfort Zone in 2010

When I discuss playing in pressure-packed situations with my professional students, I’ll always try and remind them that… all great things are accomplished outside their comfort zones. Or, I might say to them — rarely does anything exceptional happen if you’re afraid to get a little uncomfortable. And then, we actually prepare for that uncomfort — and what to do when it happens.

If you think about it, this phenomonam is true in all areas of life. Whether it’s having the nerve to walk over to that beautiful woman and ask her name. Or to walk into the manager’s office and say — hey, I think I deserve a raise. As we all know, it’s never easy spending time on uncomfortable island. But if you think about it — that seems to be where they keep all the really good stuff.

Now, how does this relate to your golf game? Well, I want to help you smash through your comfort zone in 2010 and start scoring up to your capability. Basically, I want to see you get in an uncomfortable situation on the golf course…and handle it!

Let’s just say your average score is 80 for 18 holes. How many times have you had a wonderful front-nine score of 35 or so, only to follow it up with a back-nine score of 45? Or for that matter, scored 45 on the front — but came back with a great 35 on the back? My guess would be often. And really, it all comes down to comfort zone. In both of these examples, you weren’t quite comfortable. Not comfortable shooting another 35 for a 70. And not comfortable shooting another 45 for a 90. But…because you’re comfortable with 80…that’s where you’ll end up.

Now, what do you do about it?

First, let me share an example of how I smashed through a comfort zone and finally had a good score on a tough golf course. When I first started working at Cheval Golf and Country Club, just outside of Tampa in 1995, I was a pretty good player. I don’t want to exaggerate, as we all seem to get a little better as we get older. I suppose our skewed memories give all of us an over-inflated idea of just how good we “once were.” But I was a mini-tour player in Florida and capable of shooting in the 60’s on any day on any course. I was long and had a very good short game. I wasn’t the straightest guy in the world, nor was I a wonderful short putter — but I could play. I decided to work in the bag room at Cheval for playing privileges. It was a very nice private course, with great greens… and a reputation for being impossibly hard. I figured this would be a great test every day, as I tried to bring my game to the next level. The first few weeks, I had some good rounds — but nothing spectacular. But I also had some horrendous rounds. I actually shot in the 80’s a couple times and my guess is — if you were to average my scores for those first few weeks — it would have been in the mid 70’s. Hardly the scores of someone looking to make a step to the next level. But this course was hard. And for me, it was a different kind of hard. It had OB and water on every single hole. To put it simply, it was crazy tight. So, I was hitting a couple balls a day out of bounds and Lord knows where else. I was making birdies — but also very high numbers. Part of me realized what was going on. It was the course and my inability to play it — not my game. I could still go to other courses and shoot great scores — but not at Cheval. Still, I also thought, as a pro, I should be able to play any course and to that end — my scores were awful. Either way, I was losing a lot of confidence. And for the first time started thinking about where I didn’t want my ball to go, as opposed to where I wanted it to go. I was playing scared.

But then a very serendipitous thing happened. The head professional at the time, who would later become a great friend, was a pretty cocky guy. And also a pretty good player. He wasn’t too thrilled about me taking some of his thunder, in spite of my high scores. Some of the members were talking about me as a player… and it was time for him to show me once and for all that he was the best. So he challenged me. He said that I could play a two-ball scramble against his one ball. And that he would still win. I gladly took that challenge and off we went. It was amazing. Just having that second ball as an option freed me up so much. Granted, I used it some, especially on the greens — but I felt completely different on the first attempt. I shot something in the mid-60’s and easily beat the head pro. For the first time since I started working there, I left the course that day feeling good about my game. The next day, the head pro challenged me to a red tee game. We both would play the red tees and see how low we could shoot. Again, I said okay. We had a blast and I shot something like 61 or 62. But… more importantly, I started to see the course differently. There were good scores out there — even if it took me playing the red tees and a scramble to see them. However, the next day, I played the tips, shot 65 and broke the course record. Then, the day after that I shot 66. It was almost like an out of body experience. All of a sudden, I couldn’t wait to play and see how low I could shoot at Cheval. Of course, reality set in eventually, and I came back to earth. But that four day stretch of golf was all it took for me to break through my comfort zone at an extremely tough course. And it all started with a scramble and the red tees. You see, sometimes before you can actually do something — you have to know you can do something…if that makes sense. And you have to see yourself doing it. And for me, I was able to dissect those scramble and red tee rounds and say — I’m capable of doing that here. After all, the red tees are just up — but it still is the same course. And with the scramble — it was still me hitting the shots. Plus, those two days changed me back to looking where I wanted the ball to go, as opposed to where I didn’t want it to go. By the way, at the end of the day, that is the real secret.

I’ll talk more about this in future posts — but for now, I would like you to take this away in trying to smash through your comfort zone. Play a scramble and from the forward tees… and shoot the score you’ve been trying to shoot. See yourself doing it and then feel what it feels like. I can’t tell you how valuable this is to the psyche. Lets say for example, you want to break 80 – but you just can’t seem to pull it off. And you normally play the blue tees. For the next few rounds, I want you to play the whites or silver tees. I want to see you shoot in the 70’s a few times. Then, go back to the blues with those great memories and play. If after 3 rounds, you still haven’t broken 80, go back to the forward tees for a few rounds. Keep this up until you break 80. Then, whenever you go 3 rounds without breaking your scoring goal — move up a tee and break it. Or play a scramble if you’re alone. Great golf is built of mini successes — so set yourself up to have a bunch of them.

Like I said, I’ll talk more about this subject in the future — but try this for now. My guess is that you will finally smash through that comfort zone that’s been holding you back.

17 Responses to “Smash Through Your Comfort Zone in 2010”

  1. Johnny Keller says:

    Great article Andy. Got me thinking about your ideas and they make a lot sense. You present your ideas clearly and to the point. Keep up the good work.

  2. Vince says:

    I find the comments you make really interesting and also it has helped me take enjoyment from my last game.

    I am a 14 handicap player and recently played to 8 on my own course, having got back to the club house a comment was made which really knocked the icing off the cake ” yes but you have to remember we are playing of the winter tees that are closer the pins in all but 2 holes”.

    Nethertheless I agree with what you say, I still left the course feeling good and I did come second in the competition.

    Unfortunately I have not had chance to see if it continues due to the terrible weather we are having.

    regards Vince

  3. Paul says:


    What a brilliant article. Along the same lines, When I was a youngster, growing up and still learning the game, I’d go out almost daily with a friend of mine, Mike. What Mike and I would do is decide, on at least one day a week, to play off the ladies’ tees- the reason being that I wanted to get “comfortable” shooting low scores. The results were pretty similar to those achieved by George and I soon became a scratch golfer and found that I would get less and less nervous shooting sub-par rounds. This is certainly a great mental exercise which all golfers should try, provided they are permitted to by their respective clubs.

  4. Ridgley says:

    Thanks Andy next time I play. will use the advice recomended.and give you feed back

  5. Donald says:

    Thanks for the inspiration I think it will help my game

  6. WILLIS C. TOMLIN says:

    Hi Andy!

    This is so timely. At the end of the summer I started to play from the red tees. I did see the course differently and I birdied some holes and made par on a couple of others. I can’t wait to get back out there when the weather warms up.

  7. Yomi says:

    What a lovely piece. Actually reading through, I feel like going out there and challenging a friend of mine who is a teaching pro to a two ball scramble (with me playing 2 balls of course)… But I am at work and the
    weather in good old blighty does not support after work play at the moment.

    So, I will just have to store it up and try it later.



  8. Dave says:

    Hi Andy,

    I know exactly where you are comming from about getting out of your comfort zone. I was out at the golf course the other day and joined up with some really low handicap golfers. I wasn’t that keen to join them but I thought, what the hell. I am not a good golfer, still on 24 but this day I couldn’t do a thing wrong. First hole I out drove the 3 of them, chipped on to the green and 1 put for birdie. That’s how the whole game went for me and I ended up with 78 off the stick. It really made my day and the other guys thought I was having them on about my handicap. Thanks for all tha tips etc, it has really been a big help for me.


  9. Billy P says:

    Great suggestions, tried and true for sure, thanks,


  10. To Jose,

    I would recommend a scramble for a tournament practice round only if can play the course more than once…or if you’re already familiar with the course. But if you do know the course, it’s a great way to reinforce your plan and to get some good mojo going. Good luck!


  11. Kobus says:

    Very true considering the effect a golf course can have on your confidence. I will try hitting every shot as if I have a second shot available if the first shot is not good.


  12. Marius says:

    Very deep. Thank you


  13. Bob Williams says:

    This makes so much sense. I don’t know why it is not in every golfers idea package. We golfer for some reason think if we keep doing the same thing we will get different results. Something as simple as moving from the back to a forward tee will give you the experance of success and then you move back with a new understanding, is GREAT.

  14. Bob says:

    Submitted on 2010/01/11 at 3:25pm
    I like the idea of playing a scramble when you are playing alone, but i also like playing the different tee’s. the only thing is when i play from the front tee’s, i’m satisfied to shoot only a couple strokes better, but after reading your article, i kind of think my thinking was all wrong. form now on when i play my scrambls against ( tiger, phil.freddy) i will not change tee’s till i break par. thanks

  15. José Rolz says:

    Hi George:

    Would you recommend that I play a “private scamble” during the practice round before a tournament ??

    Thanks for your time.


  16. Mark B says:

    Let me tell yah something, I am having fun playing golf again. For 20 years (10 to 18 rounds ) i haven’t been able to break 90 on our favorite course here in connecticut. I played your idea’s with my wife one week and got laughed at by some of the guys, but shot an 83 from the reds. It’s only 680 yards difference. It changed my mindset and the next day i shot 88 from the whites…. Golf is fun to play again. I am now learning the mental game of disecting the course in parts to shoot even lower…. Thanks for your wonderful insight

  17. Adam says:

    Great article George, thank you! Nice ideas on how to change your perception of your comfort zone by changing the rules a bit! To add to this, I also like to get players to change how they unconsciously store their beliefs t o give them long term change in their comfort zone. When you combine this internal work work with the kind of exercises you talked about the results can be dramatic and stay that way!

    Thanks again , Adam

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