Bobby Jones once said that tournament golf is played on a 5 Â½ inch fieldâ?¦â?¦the space between your ears. This month we are going to focus on the mental side of the game of golf. The brain is a powerful mechanism and it is amazing what you are able to achieve through positive thinking. In this article I am going to talk about how to mentally prepare for a round the night/morning prior, during, and most importantly after the round itself.
Letâ??s first talk about how to prepare your mind prior to the round itself. The night before a big tournament I always play the course hole by hole, shot by shot in my mind. I try to get my mental picture of each shot as detailed as possibleâ?¦..all the way down to where on the tee box I will tee the ball up. I go through each shot picturing the ball flight I am trying to hit and the landing spot for each individual shot. Once I play the course in my mind I simply shut my brain off from golf and go through my normal nightly routine. One of my biggest mistakes in the past has been to over think a round before I even played it. I have found that by trying to make my evenings and morning as routine as possible I place a lot less stress on the round itself and ultimately play better because of it.
The next step to preparing your mind to play is arriving at the course with sufficient time to get ready to play. Be sure to leave yourself enough time to hit a few balls on the range (or at least take several swings to loosen up) and most importantly hit a few putts to get a feel for the speed of the greens. Once you have hit 10-20 balls on the range (enough to feel loose) finish your warm-up by playing holes on the range. I always like to play the first three holes and the last three holes in order. So, if the first hole is a 400 yard par 4, tee up your driver, go through your pre-shot routine, and hit your driver to a specific target on the range. Next, hit whatever club you expect to need for your second shot. Again, go through your pre-shot routine and be sure to pick a specific target. Go through the same process for the remaining holes. This routine will help get your brain into a mode of playing golf instead of simply hitting balls.
Once on the course, your main goal should be to stay in the moment! Let me repeat, we want to make the moment that we are in last as long as possible! Jim Fannin, one of the best mental coaches I have met, teaches the following mantra: â??I have no future. I have no past. My goal is to make the present last.â? I truly believe in the mantra and use it every day that I step onto the course. In fact, this one statement was the biggest reason I was able to advance through the first stage of U.S. Open Qualifying this year. It especially becomes unbelievable difficult to stay in the moment when you are having either a really good round or a really bad round, which is why most golfers tend to shoot around their handicap regardless of how well or how poorly they play.
The final on course thought that you should have is: where is my next target? After each shot, no matter how good or how bad, your focus always should be on the next shot. In fact, I believe that the most important shot in golf is your next shot. By keeping your mind focused in the present tense and on the target you will find that you will worry less about poor shots and also not get overly excited about great shots. Donâ??t get me wrong, if you hit a great shot, I want you to be pleased with it and show some excitement. After all, golf is supposed to be fun. The trick is that you canâ??t let that excitement effect what you are going to do next. I have no future. I have no past. My goal is to make the present last.
Last, but certainly not least, is post round analysis. This is the part of mental performance that usually gets overlooked, even though it is possibly the most important. After your round, I would like you to go through your round and analyze your performance both physically and mentally. First, go through each hole and figure out if there was a particular club, shot type, or shot selection that you struggled with that day. This will give you a good idea of what you need to work on with your golf game. Next, go through your round and see if you can remember what your emotional levels were throughout the round. Were there any points that you felt nervous? Stressed? Discouraged? Mad? Excited? Also, how did you react when you felt these emotions? By recognizing where certain emotions happen and why they happen, you will be better prepared for each scenario when it arises in the future. Once you have evaluated your round it is time to put it away and revert your focus to what you are going to do to prepare for the next round.
Remember, golf is supposed to be fun. The more you dwell on bad shots, the more frequently they will occur. Thinking positively, preparing effectively, and learning from your mistakes are three easy ways to improve your scores and ultimately have more fun on the course.
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Author Bio: Colby Wollitz is a PGA-certified teaching pro at The Players Club of Henderson in Kentucky. If you have any questions or would like to set up a lesson, please contact Colby at Golf Plus in Evansville (812-477-7529).