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The Golf Error Chain – Stopping the Wheels from Falling Off

My career in aviation introduced me to the important realm of minimizing errors and in turn accidents.  The concept of the error chain can be defined as a series of decisions that made one after another that lead to a terrible situation.  This could all be eliminated by recognizing the start point and make a safe and prudent decision.  This is easy to do on the ground but through training and constant vigilance the error chain can be eliminated.

How does the error chain relate to golf?  Easy.  Take a score card and you will find that one hole that either ended up with a snowman or was the first in a string of triple bogeys.  In your car, you will say to yourself,

If I had just hit that 5 iron instead of the 6 iron, I would have had a par chance on that hole.

But you did swing that 6 iron and you did not par.  And you carried that poor decision to the next shot and to the next hole and to the end of the round.

It is simple to see the error chain once the round is over but how can you spot and stop it before you take that errant swing?  This is where your internal dialogue of shot selection.

Check out how this back 9 fell apart after a par on the 12th hole.

They key to a good round of golf is recognizing the bad swing before you execute it and not after you mark down a triple bogey.

Elements of Error Chain Recognition:

  • Doesn’t feel right: this is a bit vague but you know it.  You stand over the ball and your head is not in the swing but battling self doubt.
  • Your heart rate is up: In a casual round of golf (riding in a golf cart), your heart rate should never spike.  This is a relaxing game for fun.  If you feel your heart pounding in your ears. Step away and reevaluate your selection.
  • The outcome is unknown: You read an article on or saw a video on YouTube and are trying it out for the first time on the course.  Bad idea, bro.
  • Thinking of the next shot or next hole: If your mind is not focus on what is in front of you, your outcome is in danger.  Yes a par can lead to more pars but first you need to hit this 130 yard shot to the green.  Do that and then you can concentrate on the putt.  Not before.

If you can recognize an errant shots potential before you execute the swing, you will save strokes and save you round. This is not easy and I am not good at it yet.  Once the wheels fall off, it is easy to stop concentrating on your swing and more on the scorecard and its dismal future.

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