If you play golf then you know the mental ups and downs you experience. The old saying “Golf is 90% Mental” is a popular phrase. I think that’s certainly exaggerated, but nevertheless, golf is very mental. Before we get started discussing some ideas to strengthen your mental game, let’s examine some quotes from some of the best players of all time.
“Be decisive. A wrong decision is generally less disastrous than indecision” – Bernard Langer
“Mental rehearsal is just as important as physical rehearsal.” – Phil Mickelson
“Visualization is the most powerful thing we have” – Sir Nick Faldo
“Of all the hazards, fear is the worst” – Sam Snead
“Golf is played on a 5 inch course between the ears.” – Bobby Jones
“Confidence is the single most important factor in this game. No matter how great of a natural talent, there is only one way to obtain and sustain it: WORK! – Jack Nicklaus
“You hit a bad shot; you have to get over it there, so you can get focused on the next one.” – Tiger Woods
Certainly at the highest level in the game, the mind game of golf is very important to achieve success week in and week out. Let’s discuss some ideas you can work on to strengthen your mental game and ultimately shoot lower scores. I want to explore how we can use positive suggestions to improve you game. Many people dwell on negative aspects of the game when talking about their golf. Such as, saying…I don’t want to hit slices; I don’t want to blade chips; I miss too many short putts; etc, etc. This unhealthy self-talk leads to them staying in a state of negativity and is a sure roadmap for delayed improvement. I would prefer them to talk about what they do you want to accomplish on the golf course and get into a state of positivity.
Here are just a few examples of what you can say to yourself as positive mental suggestions… I will make confident swings on every shot I hit today; I will keep my golf swing total control; I consistently play from the fairways; My swing is smooth and effortless; I will release the club well with every shot; I can make everything putt I look at; I trust my putter; I love making sand saves. Ok, you get the point. These positive suggestions could go on and on. The main thing to glean from positive self-talk and suggestion is that you are the majority of the way to achieving the results when you think it. Just be realistic about your capabilities and limitations. Also, please focus on what you want to do and achieve and NOT the problem. For instance, do not suggest to yourself, “I do not duff chips any more”. Instead suggest, “I hit chips solidly around the greens”. This is very important! Focusing on the problem will create pictures of the problem and more of it.
For many of my competitive players I teach, I like to use the Bubble Technique I got from Dr. Deborah Graham and Jon Stabler with GolfPsych. On a note card draw a circle and in the circle write down some key words or phrases that reaffirm a positive attitude towards your game. Keep it in your bag and when you find yourself drifting into a negative mindset refer to your “bubble”. I find this exercise helps my players especially in competition.
Don’t underestimate the power of your words on your subconscious mind. Much of the research shows that the subconscious mind doesn’t discern between good and bad thoughts, rather it supports your most powerful thoughts. Garbage in – Garbage out. The starting point to strengthening your mindset in golf is making shifts in your language you use. Think and speak positive thoughts! We all have negative thoughts creep in our mind from time to time. Use this negative thought as a cue to get back into your “Bubble” and refer to a positive thought. Also much of the research of “Peak Performance” in golf shows that we do not need to grind mentally on our game and have such a narrow focus the entire time on the golf course. Instead, let your focus widen a little between shots. Basically, we need really solid pre-shot routines, but walking between or time in the cart between shots we can let our mind relax and think of other things. This helps us conserve mental energy and return back to our laser focus during the next shot.
To wrap it up this time, work on positive mental suggestions about you game and create your “bubble”. Stick to a great pre-shot and allow your mind to relax between shots. The mental game of golf needs just as much work as the physical game. Go out and start playing your best golf now!
Brech Spradley, PGA
Director of Instruction
Barton Creek Golf Academy
Golf Channel Academ