In golf, as in all sports, margin for error is a key concept that influences the performance of an athlete. Most golfers approach the game as if there were very little margin for error on most shots, but the best in the game play with a sense that there is a wide margin for error. In fact, this is a key aspect of how athletes describe the experience of being in the zone or in flow. Whether it is Michael Jordan describing the basket as appearing bigger than it actually is or legendary golfer Moe Norman asking someone to compare the width of the ball to the width of the fairway, the perception is different with better players.
Of course you are probably thinking better players see a wider margin for error because their shot dispersion is tighter than the average player. This is absolutely true and there are no short cuts to building the skills required to play better golf and gaining the confidence to see shots from a different perspective. But what if a player is having difficulty transferring their skills to the golf course? Perhaps the marginal perception is distorted due to a combination of internal and external factors. One such combination is a hole that appears tighter than normal but may actually not be as tight as it appears and the fear of consequences for a shot that does not finish in play. In fact, legendary golf course architect Pete Dye has stated that one of his strategies in designing golf courses is to create visual intimidation.
The fear of consequences can create this distortion and allow the visual intimidation to interfere with a player’s ability to execute at their skill level.
Take time to think through certain holes or shots that you find difficult and ask yourself if marginal perception is a factor. Then you can visualize yourself settling into the shot and having a sense of plenty of margin for error. This just may allow you to get out of your own way.