There is something wrong with me – the Myth of Sport Psychology
By Domenic Crouch
You’re standing on the first tee, palms are sweaty, your stomach is in knots, you can hardly remember how to swing the club. In your own mind you aren’t thinking at all about the task at hand, be it hitting the fairway or green, all you can think is:
Don’t stuff this up.
Don’t go in the water
Don’t embarrass yourself
What are my playing partners thinking of me?
It is no wonder you top the ball or slice it straight into the water … really you’ve got no idea what you’re doing.
The slice or top is the result of a swing fault. It is not caused by poor swing plane, poor balance or not keeping your head down. Certainly, this is the manner in which most of these individuals will attempt to explain what happened, many would think it was time for another lesson. This is a failure to correctly attribute their error to a poor mental approach.
Why does this happen? Mostly, it caused by a lack of awareness and understanding of their own mental game. Performers understand the technical aspects of their swing and importantly also feel a sense of control over them; therefore, it is more comforting to use this explanation. Unfortunately, it is quite clearly a mental error and explaining it away as anything else will leave the issue unresolved. Simply, in the above instance you were unable to focus your attention on the appropriate task relevant cues and your were unable to manage your anxiety and nerves in a way that would allow you to “zone in” and do this.
This mental error and the many others most club golfers (and the pros) are making isn’t being handled well. To fix this error, you may listen to your playing partner or your club professional. All I can hope is that one of them has had some serious experience in sport psychology and mental skills. Can a handy man fix the wiring in your new house? Probably to some degree, the problem is that they are not fully trained in understanding the specifics and troubleshooting a qualified electrician would give you.
For a 20 or so handicapper to take the step of seeking out a sport psychologist or mental game professional to many is an outrageous step. There is a stigma of admitting a mental game weakness and to many this is just too much to bear. We don’t like admitting a lack of confidence or being afraid to hit over the water. Also, being attributable to a more generalised personality weakness holds many back. Compounding this, a general fear and lack of confidence also leads many of these individuals to continue to hold onto these feelings and perform well below their potential. It’s so easy to suffer in silence with mental game errors because we can’t see them like a swing fault.
“Competitive golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course, the space between your ears.” – Bobby Jones
Firstly, everyone makes mental errors on the course. Jones knew that and his quote outlines how the victor is the one who makes the least mental errors. This is important, because it is not the one who makes no mental errors, but the least!
I present to you an argument for why a mental coach should become part of every golfer’s resources. The reason lies in the widely held view that golf is a highly mental game. Sport psychology and improvements in the mental game are the future of instruction in golf. Similar leaps and bounds were made in the field of technical instruction, strength and conditioning and equipment development throughout time; however, the mental game is something that golfers are yet to have fully experienced and utilise to improve their games.
The statisticians of the golfing world have noted very little change in the average handicap of golfers as the game has progressed, will it be the mental game that sees the average golfer improve their performance and take club golf to a whole new place.
You can follow Domenic on Twitter @domenic_crouch and GolfWRX at @GolfWRX
For more information on Domenic, visit his website, www.thinkfeelperform.com