Most golfers always seem to think if you get your ‘swing down’ you are good to go and ready to play some of your best golf. But, they get out there on the course and just can’t figure out why they can’t score or why they can’t reproduce those awesome practice range swings. The reason…your brain gets in the way!!!
Many sports psychologists see golf as one of the most fascinating of all sports in the depth of the mind that is needed to perform. The mental concentration and cognitive ability required in golf makes the sport one of the most difficult to perform at a high level consistently. Why? It’s all you and your brain…no reaction to a ball flying at you! Simply put…it is you against the course!
Golf is classified as an individual, target sport requiring solid precise fine motor skills to accomplish one’s goals. It is also a deep thinking game because you must understand and react to the vulnerability of how the environment around you impacts your overall results. The good player can detect and adjust their mistakes quickly during play.
How do they do that? Of course, the great players physically practice the game (putting, short game, long irons and driving), but they also put time—good amount of time—into the mental game. When do they do this? These players start off the course and then incorporate the mental game into their game on the course.
But let’s slow down a bit. It is time to set goals for your own game. By setting goals, you will be able to focus on areas you wish to improve—the mental game. Goals setting and writing down your goals will help motivate you and hold you accountable.
Let’s set the goal: I want to understand and implement a better mental game.
Write it down. Own it. Feel it. Breathe it and believe it!!!
Where to start?
Relaxation and Imagery These are techniques that have proven to be effective in improving golfer’s performance. Relaxation allows the player to remove tension both physically and mentally before the shot is performed. This will take some practice and time to really hone the relaxation skills to play more to your potential. Start by practicing at home in a quiet room in a comfortable position. Close your eyes. Breathe in 6-10 seconds; hold 6-10 seconds; breathe out 6-10 seconds. Now, keep doing this as you allow your body to completely release all tension: tighten a muscle group (quads say) and then release it and let it get heavy and drop into the surface you are sitting/laying on.
Once your entire body (to the best of your ability) has relaxed, then it is time to move into the Imagery portion of mental training.
Now you are ready to enlist all your senses (vision, hearing, touch) to create a mental picture of both the flight of the ball and your own swing mechanics. Visualize, in this relaxed state, as though you are watching yourself complete the shot from outside your body (external) or by actually felling/experiencing the shot through your own eyes (internal). Try to play an entire hole to start—one of your favorite—and complete it from tee to green making par or birdie. Be as specific as possible with how the ball sounds hitting off the club; what the ball looks like taking flight from your club; what the club feels like in your hand and how you internally feel with a perfect swing and shot. If you can, play 18 holes and see what your score is at the end.
If you consistently practice in this way—Relaxed with Imagery—you will then be able to take the next step and take it to the course.
The best part about mentally practicing—you will improve your self-confidence on the course.
Give this a ‘shot’—no pun—and next time I will discuss how to incorporate this training into your game.
‘keep smiling and always believe’
By Kate Hughes