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Worst ball or best ball – which game would you prefer to play?

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A little while back, during a team practice we had players draw from a hat to play either worst ball or best ball. Out of our seven team members at practice that day, five drew best ball and two worst ball. As you can expect, the two who drew worst ball had a look of disappointment on their faces while the five who drew best ball were walking to the tee with high confidence.

The reactions that I saw as a coach got my wheels turning. One of the phrases that we all utter as golfers is, “I want to be more consistent.” If this is truly the case, then selecting worst ball really should have limited effect on our attitude as we walk to the first tee. I spoke with the team about this thought. Think of it this way: if we are consistent, then we should be able to hit two consecutive shots pretty close to one another, regardless of which game was drawn.

The big difference that I saw, and what played into the players’ ability to hit shots close together, was their attitude and body language as they walked to the first tee. I’ll contrast two players for a hole of play.

Our best ball player walked up to the first tee head high and a pep in her step. With her first shot, she selected her usual 3-wood off the tee, struck it well and found herself down the left hand side of the fairway. For her second shot, she went back to the bag and pulled the driver, swung away and found herself almost dead center and about 120 yards left. Swinging away, for her approach shot her first one came up about 15 feet short right of a back center pin – a birdie attempt any one would have paid her for! Her second approach landed softly and came to rest about five feet pin high to the left of the flag. She calmly rolled in her first attempt for birdie.

Our worst ball player, as mentioned before, had disappointment across her face with the perceived challenge of having to play her worst ball. She stood up with driver in hand, swung away and found the middle of the fairway. Her next one was blocked out to the left (she’s a lefty) and found the trees. Both her recovery shots found the fairway, about five yards apart. Her first approach safely found the middle of the green while her second ended up in the left greenside bunker. Both her bunker attempts made it out and stopped about 15 feet away from the flag. Her lag putts were a little different from each other, one nestled up close to the hole and the other raced past by about four feet. She calmly rolled both four-footers into the cup.

If you pay careful attention to the details of where the balls ended up, for the most part, both played consistently. This thought pattern of “consistent” is different than performing or scoring well. The two shots that were costly for the worst ball player stemmed from her attitude about playing worst ball — this was discovered after play with some reflection. Having your attention on the right intention and a beneficial mindset, playing best ball or worst ball should look similar — especially if you focus on being a consistent player.

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Erin is the Director of Student Athlete Development and Women's Golf Coach at Wingate University. Erin holds a Masters of Arts in Sports Management from Wingate University and is Class A member of the PGA of Canada, a member of the Women’s Golf Coaches Association, and two time SAC Coach of the Year. She aims to help guide student athletes through their time at Wingate, making connections of what they learn in their sport and how they can apply it their careers after graduation.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Scratchscorer

    Mar 5, 2019 at 10:11 am

    Insufficient data to draw any sort of conclusion from.

  2. CJ

    Mar 4, 2019 at 7:21 pm

    I love to play worst ball. I believe it gives you a better idea of how to protect par to an extent especially when hitting it poorly

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