Dear Bonnie,

I was coming to number 9 with my best round to date on the front: nothing on the card higher than a 5. Nine is a par 5 with water and I dumped it in and three putt as well—there went my record round. How do you not let the scorecard affect your play?

It is not the scorecard that is affecting your play. It is your thoughts about the scorecard. The numbers on the scorecard are neutral, neither good nor bad. It’s what you are making the numbers mean that affect your play.

When you were playing holes 1-8, I sense your thoughts were focused solidly on your targets and your ball followed accordingly. When your mind strayed to what was on the scorecard at hole 9, your thoughts changed course and your ball did, too.

Noted sports psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella says, “Golf requires a narrow focus on one thing: where you want the ball to go. Anything that detracts from that focus damages your ability to play.”

When you looked at the scorecard and saw you were in contention for playing your best round to date, your thoughts traveled from the present to the future. You began thinking about the possible result of this game, “a record round.” You went from focusing on the present process of getting the ball in the hole on hole 9, to an imaginary future result on hole 18. You also put pressure on yourself to perform well on the next ten holes to achieve what you thought your scorecard could possibly show at the end of the game.

If you watch professional tournaments on Sunday afternoon, you may notice the players at, or near the top, of the leader board rarely look at the board to see where they stand in relation to their nearest competitor. They know it could be a distraction. The best players play one hole at a time keeping their minds on their own games.

I offer when you are playing your best, enjoy the feeling that comes with performing well and keep your thoughts focused on your next shot. You may want to wait until the end of the game to tally the score.

Learning to manage our minds is a skill, just like learning to manage our clubs. It is a skill that takes awareness, know-how and practice. When we learn to manage our minds we can better manage our games and, perhaps more importantly, our lives.