When you melt down on the course

Get out and go golf now!  It’s high time for us Northerners to take full advantage of the weather.

GET EXCITED! Get out there! I know I am. 🙂

Ok, that’s just how I’m feeling right now about this time of year when the Tours are in full swing and the days are the longest….LOVE IT!

We go out with all the hopes in the world, you just feel like this is a fresh new season and this is the year that you are going to break your scoring barrier. We show up to the course smiling and taking deep breaths soaking in the smell of the fresh cut grass and hearing the sounds of balls pinging off drivers on the range – Remember the last blog post where I discussed FOCUSING on what you’re senses are taking in?

You get up on the first tee and pull hook it OB. “No problem, I’ll just take a mulligan and start all over.”
Your next shot is reasonable and your approach comes up short. You chunk your chip, hit the next one 30 feet long and then 3 putt coming back for a triple bogey.

All the air has been taken out of your sails. Maybe you are able to shrug it off and start fresh again on the second hole. But, inevitably, more bad shots show up and you stop scoring about the 13th hole and start calling the round a “practice” round.

All of a sudden, you start making more shots! 5 foot putts start dropping and seem easy. Your body actually starts feeling more flexible and loose and the next few holes has you feeling like a kid again.

What happened here?

Maybe this exact scene hasn’t happened to you but I would bet that the part about letting go of your score and then starting to play well has!

I am going to say something bold here today….

If you have learned the fundamentals of golf and have had some good holes before, then

ALL of your mistakes can be attributed to your mental game.

This is the biggest problem with golfers actually realizing new personal bests for scoring.  They just think they need to hit more balls and buy the newest equipment and get another swing tweak and then the game will be all better.

Let’s turn this all around now.

What if you were to just go out the next couple rounds not even caring about your  score or even bothering to put it down on the card and just focusing on hitting a few great shots and putts?

What would happen if your whole reason for playing was something other than score?

Even more important…what do you do when you are in the midst of a melt down? How do you stop it? I’ve got an answer for you here today.  (Sorry about the rambling above, I’m just writing what comes to mind today).

For instance….I followed my 18 year old son around at the High School State Tournament.  He wasn’t playing to his potential through the first 9 holes and thought he was out of it. But as he checked the leader board at the turn, he found out that he would make the cut for the 2nd day if he played the same way on the back. With the bad weather, everyone was turning in high scores.

He got a renewed sense of hope…and then promptly on the 10th hole, he birdies it.

On the par 3 11th, he gets up there and hits a horrible shot that goes into the bushes. Totally miffed after lying 3 near the green, he chokes the chip and ends up with a triple.

He lost it and ended up tripling the next hole and doubling the one after that and ended up not making the cut.

You might be asking, aren’t you the mental game guru? Why couldn’t you help him?  Well, I wished I could have but the rules prohibited any contact with the gallery.

What he needed to do after that 3 par miss was to use a powerful tool I call “The observer” in order to stop the meltdown of his emotional state.  This is where you pretend you can take yourself out of yourself and observer yourself like another person would and you comment on what you are observing.

This is such an effective mental game technique because of a bunch of reasons. One, you automatically take control of your thoughts instead of your thoughts controlling you. Two, you become bigger than your problem at that moment. You can see more clearly. As an objective observer, it’s easy to see what the problem is and how to solve it. Three, I can’t explain it, but there is some mental magic that happens when you do this technique that shifts your energy.  You’ll just have to do this for yourself and experience it.

I’d love to see your comments below

Greens and fairways,

Craig

  • Simon says:

    Craig,

    Thanks for this very important and game-changing information. If I had to put it in one word (and this goes to your lying in bed experience and reminding yourself of everything you have), it would be “gratitude”. A wise man once said “gratitude is the secret to happiness”. It may also be the secret to meltdown-free golf.

    • Craig says:

      You bet Simon! Gratitude will solve a lot of mental issues won’t it?
      🙂

      Greens and fairways,
      Craig

  • Moksha says:

    Good to read that there are some people beginning to see the practical applications of this technique. I have been practicing meditation for over 35 years and one of the most effective approaches and the ultimate meditation technique is to become the “watcher on the hill” even while continuing to perform tasks at hand. this is also effective while sitting and meditating.
    I use a visual approach that allows me to see my “superior self” elevated above my reactive self and watching what i am doing and then reversing the tables and allowing my “elevated self” to watch my “reactive self”. This is also referred to as a ‘witness state of consciousness’ that creates the same effect. It is best for allowing someone enough space and distance from an immediate and unpleasant experience and by doing so not be so reactive and emotional about the outcome. Try it and see…….so to speak.
    And to add to what Tom wrote about above you could see yourself and treat yourself as if you are your most precious child.

    • Craig says:

      This is beautiful, thank you Moksha!

      Greens and fairways,

      Craig

  • It`s a wonderful observation, Craig! The only thing, to become an observer, you need to practise this state of mind. And only daily meditation could help you. I start to see myself better then I play golf and can fix my probleme. I do meditation every day, it`s a great tool not only for golf:)
    Nina

    • Craig says:

      Excellent, thank you Nina!

      Craig

  • James Brummer says:

    Craig,

    Thank you so much for this article. This is the single biggest problem I’ve been having with my mental game that I haven’t been able to solve.

    I can actually look back at my last few “blow up” rounds and realize that I’ve done this unconsciously when I’ve been able to recover. It has usually just happened too late in the round. The last couple rounds my warm up on the range would be immaculate, then a few mishaps on the first few holes would derail me and I couldn’t get past the self-pity.

    I definitely play my best when I’m focused on how great it is to be out playing, how nice the weather is and how fortunate it is that I even have the opportunity. I’m excited to try out this technique this weekend.

    Thanks Craig (and also Tom for the great explanation).

    James

    • Craig says:

      You’re welcome James! Thanks for being part of the community.
      Would love it if you forwarded my stuff to others that can benefit.

      greens and fairways,

      Craig

  • Tom Hainlen says:

    I really like this recommendation. I am a psychologist, and in technical terms, what is happening is that the adult rational mind is taking care of the 5 year old emotional mind. When the five year old starts to lose it, it takes over your body. But just like with a child, when the adult gently intervenes the 5 year old responds with more relaxation. I use something like this with many of my clients. And yes, you simply talk to yourself, like you are talking to another person or child. And if you can do this out loud instead of just mentally it is even more powerful – just do it quietly, which is also more powerful.

    • Craig says:

      Tom! Thank you so much for stepping in and commenting! I hadn’t thought of it that way but I see your point. In my sessions in my office we will sometimes do exactly that, talk to the younger version of the self. Didn’t realize this was another version of that. 🙂
      Whatever it takes to get control of the autonomic nervous system!
      Craig

  • Mark Wilson says:

    So how do you actually do this? Do you stand there and talk to yourself? It’s an interesting concept, but can you give me a bit more to go on?

    • Craig says:

      I use this technique often to get to bed when my head is spinning with thoughts and I can’t get to sleep. I take myself out of myself and talk to myself like this: “Craig, look at you in bed in your comfortable, climate controlled building lying on a feather pillow with a full belly. And while doing this, you’re making your head hurt by allowing all these crazy thoughts about what you need to do tomorrow when there’s nothing you can do about any of it right now while lying in bed. You are warm, you are safe, you are secure. You have abundance in your life right now. It’s good to be you…

      …and I go on and on like that until I fall asleep. I just talk about what I’m observing of me. There’s much more to observe on a golf course that makes it even easier to do this….check out Tom’s comment below on the subject…
      Greens and fairways,
      Craig

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