When you’re beginning to play rounds of golf, it’s normal to pay attention to your score: it’s an indicator of how you’re doing and whether or not you’re improving. But focusing on score–especially as a newer golfer–can actually prevent you from playing your best.

The score is certainly going to give you some information about how you’re doing on the course. However, the score is only one indicator of how you’re doing. And though your score can tell you how you’re doing, it’s not going to give you the whole picture. You may actually be making improvements even if your score remains the same.

For example, if you shoot a 108, 110, and then 112 on your next three rounds, you might think you’re not improving. But, if you break down what happened on the course to get to those scores, you might see that your short game has improved, but your long game is what’s inconsistent. That’s what you want to pay attention to: the areas of your game that lead to the score, like the consistency of shots, distance, control, etc. By focusing on score alone, you’re not paying attention to the process of how to achieve a score you feel good about.

Wanting to improve your score is normal for any golfer, and one way that you can help that happen is to enjoy your time out on the course. When you’re enjoying yourself, you’re less likely to feel pressure, which gets in the way of achieving a score you feel good about. Why is that? Because pressure will distract you mentally and will influence you physically, for example, by causing you to unnecessarily tighten your grip.

golf grip

If you can balance having fun with improving, you’ll likely see more changes in your score than if you were just focusing on what you shot today. It might seem a bit backward, but as a Mental Skills Coach, I’ve worked with many golfers on their mental skills and helping them relax and enjoy the game can influence their score just as much as any of the other mental skills we work on.

Focusing on score may not be a bad idea, but it’s important to make sure that it’s not all you pay attention to. As a golfer, you need to be able to shift your focus to what’s helping you achieve your goals. If you’re aiming for a certain score in a round, on a specific hole, or even if you want to putt in three, you need to shift your focus to what you need to do to make those outcomes happen.

Focus on the process, such as how you need to execute your swing, staying calm on your putts, or maintaining consistent follow-through. When you pay attention to the aspects of your game that you have more control over, your score ends up starting to take care of itself. Remember that thinking about the score is normal, so if you find yourself focusing on your score, remind yourself to shift back to the process of the game.