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Vosgerichian: Thinking Like a Champion

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Great golf and playing up to your full potential all starts from within your mind.

Henry Ford put it simply and eloquently, “Whether you believe you can or you believe you can’t – you are right.” 

The thoughts and beliefs you have will either set you up for success or set you up for a lack of success. This is why my focus as The Director of Mental Training at The Gary Gilchrist Golf Academy is to get our players to Think Like a Champion.

Self-belief is as important as a great swing and a great short game in golf. You need to believe in yourself and your ability. You can have all the ability in the world, but if you don’t believe you can pull a shot off when it matters you will dramatically limit your chances of pulling off that shot successfully.

Tiger Woods put it similar to Henry Ford.

“The road to failure is paved with negativity. If you think you can’t do something, chances are you won’t be able to.”

The power of thought in creating action is extremely important. A positive solution-oriented focus leads to positive results and outcomes, while negative distracting thoughts will lead to inefficient haphazard results and outcomes.

One of the keys to developing and mastering your attitude and outlook is by mastering how you think and talk to yourself. Master your thoughts and you will master your attitude and outlook. Golf will still be demanding and you will still face challenges, but the challenges will make you better and mentally stronger.

Follow these five tips to kickstart your thinking and get on your way to thinking like a champion. 

Be your own best caddie

All too often on the golf course, golfers talk to themselves in negative ways and say things they would never say to their playing partners, even if their partners were playing against them. Golf is a game of sportsmanship and class, but a lot of the time golfers will belittle and berate themselves. On the other hand, if you were caddying for someone else, you would stay positive and your focus would be to keep them positive and believing in themselves. So talk to yourself the way that you would want your own best caddy to talk to you. Also remember, this is not only for the golf course – always be your own best friend, your biggest fan, and your greatest coach.

See setbacks & challenges as temporary

There are two ways to view the length of a negative situation – very short-lived and long-lived. The truth is that the majority of situations last a second, however, our thoughts hold on to them much longer. Not only do some people replay bad memories over and over again, but they also believe that a bad situation will always happen in the future. If you miss a shot, it was only one shot and it lasted a second. It doesn’t mean that you will continue to hit shots in that manner. You can choose to forget and move-on.

Focus on your successes

What’s wrong is always available, but so is what’s right. It’s a person choice of what they are going to focus on. Focusing on what is right and what your successes are will always lead to better results and a better mindset. It will also lead to better physical health. So, if you want confidence and a great golf game, learn to focus on your successes. I guarantee you, there is always a positive!

See opportunities in challenges and adversity

Every challenge is an opportunity to prove that you can handle it. Become more resilient and build character. It is also an opportunity to find a solution and get better. Whether it’s the ball not going where you want it to, or getting over a difficult loss; something can be learned. Once you see the lesson, put it into action.

Ask yourself good questions

The way the mind works, it always wants to fill in gaps and continue the conversation. Think about it. If you went up to someone at a bus stop and asked the person sitting there a question and they didn’t answer you, it would be considered rude. Your mind doesn’t intentionally want to be rude, so it answers. But if you ask a bad question, it may still be rude. For example, if you ask, “Why I’m I such a loser?” Your brain will comeback with a list of reasons. But if you ask, “What was the best shot I hit today?” it will comeback with a better answer. When you ask yourself good questions, you get good responses, which helps breed confidence and mental toughness. If you ask bad questions, however, you will get bad answers which breed doubt and fear.

Follow these five tips and you will be well on your way to thinking like a champion.

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Dan Vosgerichian Ph.D. is owner of Elite Performance Solutions. Dr. Dan earned his doctorate in Sport Psychology from Florida State University and has more than 10 years of experience working with golfers to maximize their mental game. His clients have included golfers from The PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Web.com Tour, PGA Latin America, as well as some of the top junior and collegiate players in the country. Dr. Dan has experience training elite golfers on every aspect of the game. He served as The Director of Mental Training at Gary Gilchrist Golf Academy, as well as a Mental Game Coach for Nike Golf Schools. He’s also worked as an instructor at The PGA Tour Golf Academy and assistant golf coach at Springfield College. Dan's worked as a professional caddie at TPC Sawgrass, Home of The Players Championship, as well as an assistant to Florida State University's PGA Professional Golf Management Program.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Mike

    Feb 14, 2015 at 12:34 am

    I fully enjoyed this article. I really like the advice you offer. What I like even more are topics that take on this aspect of the game.
    I think we can all feel better about ourselves on the course if we can start to be positive and be in the moment… Great article!!!

  2. leftright

    Feb 9, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    Has anyone ever thought that you can teach all you want but that person may not be a “I can” person for parts of their life. Not everyone can be very positive about golf or sports but when it comes to something else they may be very good at it. Not everyone is going to be good or bad at everything. A good psychologist will recognize this and work on what the player can do with success. Tiger Woods is an extremely great golfer and had the mental game down at or exceeding the level of all the previous great golfers. He is either the 1st or 2nd best golfer that ever lived depending on who you talk to…but he is a failure in other aspects of his life. The “gluteous” comments were absolutely absurd and point to why he is a wreck currently. Who in their right mind thinks of glutes activating this or that. I have got to admit, it’s the first time I have ever heard them used in this context. Lindsay Vonn better watch out, she will be disappointed in the future because Tiger has a whole boatload of demons he is fighting currently.

  3. other paul

    Feb 9, 2015 at 2:32 pm

    It just drives me nuts that I can do well at the mental game (positive self talk, I get over a bad shot really fast, and am naturally easy going) yet mechanics can fall apart randomly. I practiced my butt off this winter, used a net, played virtual golf, and all I shot in 4 rounds on vacation was a lousy 87, which is still better then I did last year. But I pretty much thinned every shot I hit for 4 rounds. Need more lessons I guess. And a personal high speed camera.

  4. MRC

    Feb 6, 2015 at 9:33 pm

    At the end of the day it’s only golf. It’s something we do, not who we are.
    Stay positive, breath and enjoy!
    Great tips, great article.
    Thanks

  5. Mtek VersaSpeed

    Feb 6, 2015 at 6:11 pm

    Great article Dan, very insightful & helpful to golfers of all skill levels! Yes, getting & staying “in the zone’ or playing like a champion consistently is where the pro or top amatuer seperates themselves from the rest no doubt.

    At the top level pro golfer’s know their psyche & their swing mechanic’s intimately, which leads them to be extremely confident in their “games”. I learnt that one without the other (mental + physical game) is where, for the amatuer golfer like me, their game can go a little or a lot awry lol depending on the day lol!

    I’m obviously generalising a touch here but the fact remains confidence & trust in your swing (which i eventually found) will come through the right knowledge (theory + teacher), fitted club’s & hard work at the range etc.

    Imo having the “right” mental attitude like Dan suggest’s on course (& in life, perhaps) is the second part of the puzzle that helps you pull off the legend shot’s & putt’s just like your favorite pro, get the first part of the puzzle right then combine it with Dan’s great & proven advice, surely you will be on the way to golfing nirvana in no time!

    cheer’s,
    M. Kaloustian
    Mtek Versaspeed

  6. Golfraven

    Feb 6, 2015 at 7:27 am

    I like all of what you say. Psychology can be a weird thing and can separate the good from the avarage. I see all of that on the golf course and by all means I am not immune to belittling myself at times. However with time comes experience and I started to trust my ability and acknowledge failure as temporary. This can make huge difference on the scorecard and well being at the end of the day.

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