You hear it all of the time:
focus on the present
play one shot at a time
stay within yourself
Easier said than done right? You know what the problem really is? It’s that we have too much brainpower for this game. Our brains are way overdeveloped to be able to swing these clubs and knock this little white ball around a grassy field to drop it into a silly cup cut out of the ground.
What I’m writing here today could just be a big breakthrough for you as it has been for a lot of my clients I work with in my office. You see, most of the athletes I see in my office for help with their mental game are smart, really smart. In fact, some are quite brilliant outside of golf and sport. Out on the course, this can be a problem.
You read all of the time about pros who say that they think of “nothing” out there on the course when they are swinging or going through their preshot routine. This is great advice FOR SOME PEOPLE. And poor advice for others.
For many golfers, much better advice is to DIRECT your mind and give it something to do that is constructive instead of the destructive things you are currently doing with it. You are too smart for golf and so you have to learn how to channel all that mind power.
So, I have a couple main lessons for you here that once you understand, I think you could get a big “Aha” moment that frees your from your destructive thinking.
1. Just because a top pro tells you a certain way to think, don’t necessarily buy into it. Your brain probably works completely different than others. Everyone is unique. I’ve been preaching this for years now and sometimes it seems like nobody is listening. Do not think that advice from anyone in the golf world (including me) is good for everyone.
You’ve got to pick and choose and then trust that when it feels right or you somehow get a sense that this works for you, then it is!
2. I like to fill my mind with what my senses are taking in on the course. If you were to just stand on a course and just put all your attention on what your 5 senses are taking in, you will find many things to occupy your mind so that it doesn’t get in the way of your next shot so that you can play unconsciously.
3. Here’s the biggie. You’ve got to make a commitment BEFORE your round that this is what you are going to do during your next round. It’s a mental skill that you develop, get good at, and then do automatically at some point. It’s not going to happen without some effort and dedication. Too many golfers pay lip service to their mental game and then default right back to their old ways once they are on the course. If you haven’t pre-lived how you are going to think once you are on the course, then you’re unconscious is going to create a strong pull to do what you’ve always done…and you won’t break through.
Start tapping into the power of making a decision and commitment to practice using your mind in ways that support your game instead of being a victim of it. You have this power…use it!
Greens and fairways,
Ok, it happened yesterday to me…I played hacker golf.
There, I said it and I admit it. (I still am struggling with that admission).
Yesterday, I played a round and I played the worst I’ve played in years. Now, this is no disrespect to those who are still honing their game and are happy playing hacker golf, believe me. I played that way for years and enjoyed the game immensely.
But this was different for me! You see, I played on the 4th of July (just 2 days before) and played pretty good. Not my best, but certainly right in my range. I shot an honest 80 on a full-sized course. Yes, you probably know how frustrating it is to get that close to breaking 80 while missing 3 putts inside 4 feet when any one of them would have gotten me a 79. Oh well. I was still pretty happy with my 80 since I hadn’t done any practicing and and only played about once a month this year so far.
And then yesterday, the wheels fell off.
I’m playing with my 17 year-old son who is about as good as me and we put $5 on the line, scratch score for 18 holes.
So I go out to the first tee with all the confidence in the world. I’m loose, I’m feeling great, the weather is perfect, the course is in great shape…and what do I do?
I hit my opening drive into the trees on the left with a pull-hook.
Ahhh, no problem right? It’s a par 5 and I can just punch it back to the fairway and play for the par.
But noooooooo. I hit an overhanging branch trying to get too cutesy in attempting to advance the ball and then have to do it all over again. I end up with a double on the first hole.
“Ok, no problem” I tell myself. “Just get back to doing what you know how and play consistent golf and you’ll be fine.”
Hole #2 is a big dogleg left and pull my tee shot into the left trees again.
“What the *($$%%&** is that?
How is it that I can hit 12 fairways in a row 2 days ago without any warmup and then come out and it’s like I’ve never played golf in my life? I end up with a triple bogey and my son is snickering over there counting the money he’s going to make.
I continue with my worst round for the next 4 holes and end up being 12 over par after 6 holes and 9 strokes behind my son. I’m in a daze and I start asking myself “what am I to learn here today?”
Just then, I’m standing on the tee of the 7th hole and the 2-some behind us drives up in their cart with a big smile on their face and jokingly asks “Are we having fun yet?”
And I answer “Not really”
And he says back “Well, why don’t you start?” and I said “Great idea!”
Something shook inside of me and I drilled my next tee shot 270 yards down the right side. I somehow got the idea that I could still win. My next shot was 220 yards and I roll my 3-wood to the back of the green.I miss the birdie but get the tap-in par.
All of a sudden, I hear this voice inside my head “Every shot matters, never ever ever give up.” My son pars the hole too.
It’s the 7th hole and I par it. I par the next 4 holes in a row and I pick up 5 strokes on my son.
“Never ever ever give up….every shot matters” is still ringing in my head. I keep my focus even on the tap-ins.
We come down to the 17th hole and I’m down 4 strokes. I scramble for a par and my son double-bogeys.
18th hole and I’m down 2. I tell him that I’m going to birdie this hole because it’s a par 5 and I’m feeling mighty powerful.
I know it puts the scare into him. I’m 70 yards out when I hit my approach over the green and into the bunker. “Never ever ever give up”
I wedge out to about 8 feet from the hole. My son is about 4 feet away to make his bogey.
I make the putt!!! He’s got tremendous pressure on him and I add a little more by asking him how much pressure he is feeling…hahaha.
He ends up making the putt to win by 1 stroke. I sign the $5 bill and it’s hanging on his bulletin board right now as we speak.
Now, we both played horrible, if you look at our scores, but no matter. That last 5 holes gave me such a thrill and challenge to try to come from behind. I learned more from my day of playing hacker golf than I would have if I had shot a 77.
Never ever ever give up!
There’s always something to learn. I learned about myself that I can turn on focus like a water faucet. I learned that I have a reservoir of determination that I can call on at any time.
Even if your score is toast mid-way through a round you’ve got to find a way to make the rest of the round count.
How many times have you played a round and played bad and given up on your score only to start really playing well AFTER giving up on your score? Happens to all of us.
Even if you have nothing on the line and are just fighting your own anger from playing poorly, you’ve got something to prove… to yourself and there’s something to learn and grow from. No round is a throwaway round unless you declare it so.
At the very least, when you let go of scoring during a bad round, you will find in yourself a certain ease and comfort about your game. A letting go. That is something that you own that you can recall again in the future when something is on the line. Golf can teach us many things, especially when playing hacker golf!
I’m going to be spending the weekend going back to the drawing board and listening to my golf hypnosis recordings. Maybe I’ll see you over there eh?
Greens and fairways,
If just about every top teaching pro says that golf is 90% mental, then why do most golfers spend next to zero time and effort at improving focus, consistency, and managing emotions like pressure and fear?
Here’s your answer and it couldn’t be easier and at $24.95, it’s a steal: Golf Self Hypnosis