We’ve all played with them, the person who always has something to say about everything. Performance coach Duncan McCarthy on how best to keep playing your own game
The person who can’t keep their mouth shut
There will always be random comments out there. You will always come across that person who has a comment about everything and, most of the time, they actually don’t realise what they’re saying as they’re not fully engaged. Sometimes you can laugh it off but sometimes when you’ve hit a poor shot they still say ‘good shot’ and it becomes frustrating. It’s hard to deal with; you can give the textbook answer and say you can’t control what they say so get on with it and don’t dwell on it but, when you’re in the moment, it will stick with you. The key reaction is to make sure it’s a helpful one and that it doesn’t turn to anger as you are then carrying tension inside and it will affect you. If you do feel anger turn it into a helpful emotion and try and focus and engage a bit more and respond in a better way – see it for what it is and thank your lucky stars that you’re not that person. If you’re at the point when you’re waiting for a comment then it’s inside you. You’re unlikely to say anything as you don’t want to look silly so you just need to shift your attention. Your attention is with them and you want it to be on your next shot so think of your target and go straight at it.
The person who tries to play mind games
Some players will try and play them and there will be little comments. First up see it for what it is at the start, have you taken it the right way and was it just an innocent comment? If it continues and it’s pretty obvious that they’re trying something just remember, if they are trying to get in your head, they want to get a response from you. Think of it like a tennis shot coming over the net; if you respond then the ball is in play, if you let it bounce out the court then there’s no fuel for the fire and no gain. Put the fire out straightaway and show that, if it is mind games, you’re in control of how you respond to any situation and they’ll soon stop what they’re doing.
The person who dishes out swing advice
If a very good player points something out then it might be a valid point but one maybe not worth making out on the course. More often it’s just someone who knows it all and then it’s just a case of laughing it off. It will generally be based on just a few shots and what top coach would do that? If it gets too much then offer some advice back, ask if they inhale or exhale at impact and that will get him thinking too much and soon stop any chat about your swing.
The person who is obsessed with keeping score
Not only this but they are obsessed with everyone’s score. You don’t want the score in the forefront of your mind, yo want to focus on the performance and the process. A lot of golfers play with the same people every week so it’s fine to have a polite word with them, the person who talks about the score is very unhelpful and a lot of us don’t want to know how we’re doing. They want to know where everyone is in relation to them and that is a bit of a weakness, by externalising it, so see it for what it is. It’s a sign of weakness, they want to know where you are and they want to beat you so just play your own game.
The person who wants to swap scores after nine holes
This doesn’t happen out on tour but it’s a big culture in golf. We have a halfway house and we have a break but you don’t do that in any other sport in the middle of a performance. Just add them up at the end. Whenever you add your scores up there will follow analysis and you will label it a good or bad nine and that’s not a helpful thing until you’ve finished. It’s fine to advise anyone to leave the adding up until after you’ve finished your performance. What do you gain by having someone point out that you’ve had a good front nine? You get a bit of a buzz for 10 seconds and then you’ll start analysing things.
The person who points out that you’re playing well
How often do we hear someone offer that you’re driving it great or putting well? That will generally lead to most of us then to start thinking about what might now go wrong. You will go into self talk and, all of a sudden, you’re thinking of what you’re doing rather than letting it happen. Simply acknowledge that you are playing well, and that’s great, and stick with your processes. All these comments are going to happen and, when they do, make sure that you become aware of how to respond in a helpful way for you.
Duncan McCarthy is the performance coach at Underpin Sports and works with a number of European Tour players including Marcus Armitage