Have you ever heard someone say, “He had a great round today, he was really focused?” When a professional is playing very well, the adjective that is often used to describe his mental state is “focused.” What does it mean to say that someone is focused? Focus is defined as “a point at which rays of light appear to diverge, or the clarity of an image rendered by an optical system.” Of all our different senses, focus is associated mostly with sight or the eyes. It is the ability of our eyes to zoom in on an object, or, in the case of golf, the target. For example, look at an object such as a book. Focus on the book. Now focus on the book with an increase in intensity. Next, focus on the book with an even higher increase in energy. Notice what happens when you increase your intensity. You get more absorbed into the object, and you may notice more details. The energy from your eyes to the object increases with greater fervour and all the other senses move to the background as you eyes become primary. The more you see with your eyes, the less you think with your brain. Let me repeat this truth, the more you see with your eyes, the less you think with your brain.
We know from a variety of studies that athletes performing at a high level have very little chatter in their brain, and their focus is extremely high. What happens when you are nervous or struggling on the golf course? Often you begin to increase the self talk and thinking, while decreasing the energy available for focusing. In an attempt to think through the struggle on the course, one often makes the problem worst by increasing the thinking, and diminishing the focus. I am not saying that thinking is bad,I am simply saying that lots of thinking during actual performance is usually detrimental.
Over the last 60 years technological advances in clubs and balls have helped golfers hit the ball farther and straighter than any time in history. The science of bio-mechanics has identified the perfect swing for every body type and improvements in error detection equipment help professionals pinpoint exactly where a golfer’s swing deviates from the ideal. How much have golfers, as a whole, improved their ability to score. According to the USGA, nothing! Both amateurs and professionals alike still score, on average, exactly the same as their counterparts of six decades ago. Not to minimize the great strides a small percentage of golfers make in their own journey, one would expect that these advances would lead to lower scores. They haven’t. In fact, USGA statistics show, that as a whole, golfers don’t improve after the third year in the game.
One of the Most Costly Mental Mistakes in Golf is the Easiest to Eliminate. Here’s How…
Golf is a game that is played mostly from within, and for this reason, it is important to know when you are putting too much pressure on yourself to perform. Having too high expectations of yourself is one of the biggest causes of a loss of self confidence and not playing to your potential. But by simply re-framing your mind-set and being more disciplined in your approach, you can easily eliminate this pressure and play better, more enjoyable golf.
Expectation is a self-created pressure we need to eliminate if we want to become better golfers. It demands that we should play in a certain way, and if we don’t, something is wrong, leading to frustration and self-doubt. The general opinion is that expectation and confidence are one in the same thing. If we expect to win a tournament or expect to hit great golf shots, this will increase our confidence. But in fact the opposite is true. Confidence is how much self belief you have in executing a given shot, not trying to continually meet expectations.
Whether it be your performance relative to your pre-round driving range session, your playing partners or your last round, continuously measuring yourself will you make you frustrated and further remove you from the process needed to execute good golf shots. For example, let’s say your last round was one of your best and you are getting closer to becoming the player you always knew you could be. Then during your next round you find yourself quickly several shots over your new expectation (target) of yourself. Thoughts of “what am I doing wrong?” and “this is not how I know I can play!” will result and you will quickly find yourself becoming frustrated and losing focus over the ball.
The opposite can occur if we are playing better than our expectations. If we go into self-assessment mode and measure our performance vs our expectations, we will feel out of our comfort zone and the result is likely to be a quick retreat back to our usual level of play.
Success in golf is playing each and every shot as best you can. This sounds obvious, but your score is an aggregate of all these individual shots. We need to focus on the execution process of each individual shot (THE PRESENT), not the target of a good score (THE FUTURE). I like to tell my students to focus on the steps of their shot routine and make that their goal for the round instead of going out there to shoot their best score. As hard as it is to do, mark your score card, but don’t think about your running total. At the end of each hole write down the number of shots that you felt you successfully stuck to your routine. Total these numbers and make this your target for your next round. If you can make this a habit, I’ve no doubt you will start to see the results and get more enjoyment from the game whether you shoot your best score or not.
Believe that your ultimate success in the game relies on being “in the zone” for every shot and making the best decisions you can for the shot at hand. Your best golf will come when you are in the present moment for each shot and truly enjoying the experience of the game.
This is a variation of the game that Eben Dennis talks about in his Power Feel Golf Book. The game was invented by the late Ted Ball and is called “Cuts and Scrapes”. Try it and it will definitely help your mental game and lower your scores.
The game is designed to credit anything positive about your shots and your routine, so that becomes the focus. The more positive thoughts you have, the more you will suppress the negatives which is what we need to do for better performance. It is designed to teach you to focus on the process of hitting the shot at hand and to get you to stay in the present, instead of thinking about your total score.
It’s club championship time shortly. It’s an exciting time for many but it can also be a nerve-wracking experience that, for many players, ends in disappointment. A lot of golfers perform far below their potential and expectations in the club championship because they’re not as prepared as they could be. They don’t arrive on the first tee with as much confidence as they should. Also, many golfers aren’t sure how to be their own best coach – how to effectively execute shots and a sound game plan under tournament pressure.
1.Plan ahead. Give yourself the necessary practice and playing time to prepare for the club championship. Be clear on your preparation for this event at least three weeks prior – write it down. Block your calendar and plan sufficient practice time and pre-event rounds.
2.Practice effectively. Good performance in tournament golf is largely attributable to consistent tee shot execution: minimal errors and penalty strokes, high percentage putting conversions in the 4-10 foot range, and sound wedge play. Spend a high percentage of your pre-event practice time and effort on these skills to build competence and confidence.
3.Hole out in casual rounds don’t fall into the trap of not holing your short putts in casual rounds before the club championship. The habit of accepting “gimmies” – short putts in the 2-5 foot range – is common place. Expect to be nervous and miss a lot more of these critical length putts in competition if you don’t practice holing them out in your regular social rounds. If the putts are in fact that easy, then putt them in the hole.
4.Coaching check a week or two before the event it is a good idea to have a coaching session with your Professional – not a technical session but rather a session on key scoring skills and to discuss your game plan and execution strategies. Tap into your professional’s experience and expertise.
5.Set realistic goals in sports, less than 10 per cent of participants can expect “career” performances in major events. Preparing your best beforehand makes this highly probable. Know your skill and performance level, for example, a typical 12 handicap may likely have a 79-85 scoring range. Set up a game plan and shot strategies that are in alignment with your range. Don’t try to play a game that you don’t have. Don’t force shots – let the magic happen!
6.Create a written game plan. Write down how you plan to play each hole. Know your tendencies and where you feel the most confident and the most vulnerable on the course. Be appropriately aggressive and don’t be shy to play cautious on holes that are potential blow-ups for you. your plan should be focused on enabling you to hit as many greens in regulation as possible and planning for the most probable up and down conversion spots when you miss greens.
7.Focus on deep breathing to get relaxed over your shots. When golfers peak perform they are in a calm and relaxed state over the ball. Focus your energy and attention on using your breathing. Here’s a technique. Breath-in deeply through an imaginary straw and completely empty your lungs when you exhale; soften your body tension and lower your mental tension when you are over the ball. as the great George Knudson said, “don’t play golf to relax – relax to play great golf.”
8.Think the “right” stuff. Players perform their best in competition when they engage the right side of their brain – this is where the athlete lives. Right brain thoughts are “external” on the target, tempo, desired flight and simple performance cues like “full back and through” or “smooth roll.” Be careful not to play “golf swing” in competition: this can be a deadly performance buster – it is left-brained thinking on technique or a “to do” list. Leave this thinking on the practice tee.
9.See yourself succeeding. Visualize and imagine yourself executing your game plan – escaping from trouble and hitting good shots. Winners see themselves winning before they begin. Moe Norman always said that Jack nicklaus had the Green Jacket on his breakfast plate on Thursday before the first round of the masters.
“Players perform their best in competition when they engage the right side of their brain – this is where the athlete lives.”
10.Just play, enjoy the opportunity to compete and challenge yourself. expect some mistakes and deal with poor shots. Don’t make the tournament bigger than it is. Your identity and personal self-concept are not related to your golf score in the club championship. Smile and have fun!
The shot routine is one of three routines associated with playing each golf shot. This one is usually called the pre-shot routine and is often considered the only one. The three routines are the decision routine (selecting club, shot type and target), shot routine (from standing behind the ball to hitting the ball) and the post-shot routine (responses to good and poor shots).
Learning a strong mental pre-shot routine is the single most important thing you can do to improve your mental game, and your golf.
But not just any mental routine. Your mental routine must:
Compliment your learning style
Ease you into narrowing your focus
Free you to hit athletic, artistic, creative, right brain shots or putts
And tap into your powers of self-fulfilling prophesy!
Sound complicated? It’s not. In fact, an effective mental pre-shot routine
Simplifies your thoughts
Makes the game easier
Allows you to think the same for every shot and putt, whether it is to win the Masters or a friendly round with your friends.
We regard the mental pre-shot routine as one of the essentials of a strong mental game. It lends to a very challenging sport….
We have long used the pre-shot routine as an excellent and effective standard for measuring and monitoring skill development in all other parts of your game.
The Three Step Journey to a Great Mental Pre-Shot Routine
To make this fun and easy, start by assuming that you are of two brains. Let’s call the left brain the “thinker/analyzer” and the right brain the “athletic/creator”
Have you done it? I have. We have all done it at some point or another. Hitting a great tee shot quickly followed by a really poor second shot seemingly from nowhere. Completely out of the blue. It is extremely frustrating. What really is the challenge is to not do it too often. But why does it happen? Continue Reading→
The Golf Queensland Junior State Girls team of which I am the coach competed in the Australian Junior Stroke play Championships and also the Burtta Cheney Interstate Teams event. Both tournaments took place at Carbrook Golf Club. The stroke play tournament was our lead in tournament for the Interstate Series and all of the girls performed exceptionally well. All of the competitors representing Golf Queensland made the 36 hole cut and 3 of the team members finished in the top 15. It was a terrific effort from all players in very testing conditions.
Sunday saw the first match of the Interstate Series. Our opponents were South Australia and our team really produced their best to beat them 5 – 0. It was just the start that we needed and put us in a great position going into day 2. Victoria and New South Wales were our day 2 opposition and after 5 very competitive contests against Victoria we held out for a strong win 4 – 1. New South Wales for our afternoon match on day 2 was always going to be a difficult task, but the team was ready to perform and compete. The team continued to apply pressure and after some fantastic golf was played Queensland came away with a win 3.5 – 1.5. The last day’s play was going to be a very challenging match against Western Australia. Queensland was in a comfortable position only having to win 1 contest to win the series, but stranger things have happened. Our goal was to go through the series undefeated and although that wasn’t to be and we lost to Western Australia 3 -2 the team defended its title and was again the champions of the Burtta Cheney Interstate Teams event. With some outstanding individual performances the Golf Queensland Team did their absolutely best during the series. I am exceptionally proud of them not only as talented athletes but also as very individuals. They are a credit to their family, friends and golf clubs. It was my pleasure to be part of this group and hope that they continue to follow their passion whatever that may be. Special thanks must go to Carbrook Golf Club, Royal Pines Resort Mark Gibson’s Exceptional Golf and Riverlakes Golf Club all of which had a special part to play in the preparation of this team. It is very much appreciated. Thanks must also go to Indooroopilly Golf Club who supports me unconditionally during this period also.
April sees some incredibly important tournaments on the calender. None more than “The Masters” but it also sees the Australian Junior Championships and the Interstate Teams Matches being contested. It is an honor to coach these talented athletes and we are heading into the tournament quietly confident. The team has trained exceptionally well and is looking forward to competing in front of a home crowd.
Golf Queensland has named its representative teams to compete in the Girls’ Interstate Teams Matches in April.
Queensland has the home-side advantage with the Girls’ event being played at the Carbrook Golf Club from 15 – 17 April.
The Queensland Girls’ Team won the Series last year and will be looking at repeating their good form in April. During the past four years, the Girls’ Team has won the event three times (2008, 2009 and 2011).
The Junior Queensland Interstate Girls Team are as follows: