British Coiumbia Golf High Performance Camp Club Pro Takeaway: Worst Ball Separates Good from Great Golfers

October 23, 2014

Alfie Lau, Inside Golf

The British Columbia Golf High-Performance Camp for the province’s best and brightest under the age of 17 featured many drills designed to challenge the physical, mental and emotional games of each golfer.

But one drill in particular was a “Coach’s Favourite” and can be used by any club player who thinks they can succeed at the highest levels of golf.

“ 'Worst ball' is something I’ll sometimes play with my friends,” said Team B.C. coach Matt Palsenbarg.

 “It sounds so simple, hit two balls each time and play the worst ball each time, but I guarantee you won’t be able to play a full 18 holes of golf this way.”

The beauty of ‘worst ball’ is that while it’s always a challenge to make a good score with your best shots, it’s incrementally harder when you have to try to make a good score with your lesser shots.

The 24 high performance players got their chance to play ‘worst ball’ at the uphill par-4 15th at Northview’s Ridge Course and despite some great shots being hit, not one player was able to walk away with a birdie 3 on their card.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a player make a long birdie putt or birdie chip and walk away with a bogey on their card,” said Palsenbarg. “I’ll cheer when a player makes a great shot, but then I tell them they have to do it again. That’s not easy.”

Such is the devilish simplicity and beauty of ‘worst ball’, as a player who hits a heroic shot or makes a long putt has to calm their emotions and repeat the sometimes improbable shot.

Another Team B.C. coach, Matt Cella, was by the 15th green to witness ‘worst ball’ play by each golfer and said each player was tested by the exercise.

“We’re looking for players to stay in the moment,” said Cella. “If they make a good shot on their first ball, they need to concentrate on doing it again. Don’t think about the result of the last shot.” Cella said he watched B.C. Juvenile Girls champion Shirin Anjarwalla hit her worst putt up to four feet and then gritted out her first par putt.

When she realized she had to do it again, she overcame her nerves to drain her second putt. “I think that’s when she realized how ‘worst ball’ can get into your head,” said Cella.

Palsenbarg said the ‘worst ball’ drill is a great opportunity for golfers to see if they have the mettle to compete at the highest levels. “If you can play 9 holes of worst ball and come in at par, you’ve got a pretty good game,” said Palsenbarg.

“Making par on any hole means making four or six really good shots in a row. If you can do that consistently, then you’ve got a chance to move to the next level.”

As for Palsenbarg and his ‘worst ball’ matches with his friends, he said they usually only play 3 holes after work, not just because of the time, but because it’s all their golf psyches can take.