4 keys to overcoming negativity on the golf course
The amount of chatter we have going on in our brains at any given time during a round of golf can limit us in attaining a peak performance state. Even when I’m giving golf lessons, my students reveal an incredible number of thoughts and conversations they have running through their mind.
It’s common for golfers to experience an influx of thoughts and phrases on how to swing the club while standing over the ball. These thoughts can then morph into judgments about our abilities and skills. If these thoughts are repeated enough times in a believable way, they can transition into firmly held beliefs, or schemas: I’m a horrible putter, I’m not good enough, etc.
We use different parts of our brain when we switch between conscious thoughts and executing athletic motions. When the brain is quiet and at peace, we generally hit our best shots. When there’s a “committee” of voices going on in our mind, our athletic motions become jerky, erratic, and result in poor shots.
Have you ever experienced the phenomenon of hitting a ball out of bounds, then, when filled with emotions and anger, you hit your next drive as hard as you can and rip it straight down the fairway? What an anomaly to be so irritated and mad that you just swing away without thought and have it result in a wonderful outcome! There’s an important lesson there. Be aware of the chatter you have running through your mind before your shot, during your shot, and after. Gaining control over the chatter improves your performance by making you feel more confident over shots, and can help you achieve the golf game of your dreams.
Gaining control over your thoughts is important because negative ones can quickly lead to self-doubt. Phrases like You can’t do this! Here we go again! See, I knew you weren’t good enough! are the perfect recipe for a deteriorating mental game, which results in a deteriorating physical game. To combat these tendencies, here is a four-step plan to help you quiet the mind and play your best golf:
1. Just the facts, ma’am
Before your shot is a great time to use neutral statements and facts with regard to target, distance, and club selection. This habit can be instilled by creating a pre-shot routine. As a part of your routine, create statements that are objective (fact-based) rather than subjective (emotion-based), such as, My 9-iron flies 100 yards — this is the club for this shot! Or, The right side of the green is the best side to aim for.
2. Breathe with purpose
Take a deep breath before setting up to the ball. During this deep breath, imagine all the chatter in your mind exhaling from your body. The power of imagery and visualization are great tools — see those words and phrases leave your body in your mind’s eye.
3. Let your body take over
When you’re standing over the shot, just trust. Let your body perform the athletic movement. Feel what it’s like to just swing the club around your body without judgment or analysis. Let those “how-to” thoughts melt away over the ball. You want to feel at peace with an empty mind, ready to perform and respond.
4. Plan for the future
After you execute your shot, it’s OK to then become analytical and assess how to make the next shot better or take in data for future learning. If you really like your shot, reinforce how awesome you did with some positive affirmations! If you wanted your shot to turn out better, note what you plan to improve upon for the next shot.
If you monitor your brain chatter and take control over it, you will be able to make more mindful swings that will eventually allow your best swing to show up more often. This does take practice to perfect, so try using these tactics in other parts of your life when you notice the chatter getting louder, and it will certainly make you better when you are ready to apply these lessons to the golf course.
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