Are you a smart golfer? Or do you regularly toss away unnecessary strokes due to mental mistakes?
Working with golfers at all levels on the mental/emotional game and having spent the better part of my entire life around the game, the things I’ve seen very smart people do on the golf course really leaves me scratching my head sometimes.
You don’t necessarily need to practice for hours and hours to lower your scores; all it takes is smarter thinking and preparing with a purpose.
What Most Golfers Do
Let’s start with an example:
A few months ago I was standing on the first tee at an event greeting players. Some arrived from the parking lot after racing across town to make their tee time, while others arrived after a brief stint on the practice tee.
The first hole was a slightly elevated par-4 about 410 yards, straight away with water down the right side. The hole opened up on the left — a wide fairway, a generous cut of rough and then trees about 30 yards beyond. On that day there was a slight cross-wind blowing from left to right.
As the players pulled up to the tee, about 95 percent of them pulled the driver from their bag without considering the shape of the hole, hazards or wind. Almost all walked up on the tee, aimed down the middle, and watched as the ball sailed into the water on the right. Every second player watched their ball start in the fairway or right-center, spin right and splash!
It was bewildering to see the look of surprise on their faces afterwards. What were they expecting? About 80 percent of golfers slice the ball for various reasons, yet none of these players considered aiming away from trouble and avoiding the hazard, even with wind blowing towards the water on the right.
Yes, mistakes were made during the swings, but these penalty strokes could have been saved even before stepping on the tee.
Are You a Smart Player?
My job is to essentially help performers/athletes get out of their own way. There are so many things that keep athletes from maximizing their performance, but the most common is just plain lack of thought.
Questions to ask yourself:
Do you properly prepare to play? Are you aware of your strengths and limitations? Do you play the course like a chess match, strategically placing your ball around the course?
Or, do you fall into the same traps that the players in the example above fall into — little to no warm-up, not paying attention to what the course gives you and not playing to your strengths? Do you makes mistakes that could have easily been avoided? Do you play some good holes but also have “too many” disaster holes?
A Few Ideas to Help You Play Smart
Here are a few simple ways — some factors you can directly control — to smarten up and immediately lower your scores.
1. Prepare yourself to play! Most players just do not allow for adequate warm-up time — a key part to allowing yourself to play to your strengths. Pay attention to your warm-up and get a sense for the flight of the ball — it will enable you to know “what you’ve got” that day. Also, standing on the first tee with the right club in your hand and thinking strategically can help build positive momentum for the remainder of your round.
2. Have a plan on how to play each hole. Evaluate each hole by first having a general focus of the entire hole including all trouble spots. Error away from trouble, then narrow your focus of the hole on a specific target area and hit the shot there. Remember that each hole is a chess game vs. the architect’s design, and you must know how to position your strength against the hole’s limitations.
3. Start slow and build. Stick your toe in to test the water early in the round and focus on keeping the ball in play. Hit the club that makes you feel most comfortable, allowing the nerves to settle and dissolve over the first few holes. Many players ignite the nerves by playing well beyond their capabilities very early in rounds. This approach puts players on the emotional roller coaster early in the round and it can be difficult to overcome.
4. Develop a “stock shot.” Every player will feel uncomfortable on certain holes in a round. What may be a comfortable-looking hole for me might be very uncomfortable for you. You should develop a shot you can trust to keep in play. It doesn’t matter what the shot looks like as long as it produces the result. Smart players acknowledge when things aren’t quite right and have a “go-to” shot when things get uncomfortable. This helps to eliminate big numbers on holes that just don’t fit your eye.
While there are many things you can’t control in the game of golf, being prepared and being smart are factors you can control. Many players like Jim Furyk have had great careers and made tremendous livings in the game of golf maximizing their abilities by having a plan and playing smart.
Use your head and see your scores drop!
What should your hips do in the golf swing?
If you want to become more consistent, a better ball striker and hit longer golf shots then this is the video for you. This video will show you exactly what your hips pelvis should be doing during your backswing, downswing and through impact. Having great control of your pelvis and it’s movement will help you have greater control over your golf swing.
Playing in your mind vs. playing out of your mind
Comparing the recreational beginner to the elite player
As a player, I know there are rounds of golf where I feel like I worked extremely hard to achieve the results and there are also rounds that are effortless and just plain easy. Why do we go through these peaks and valleys in golf?
As an instructor and player, I want to explore a deeper understanding of what it means to be playing out of your mind vs. playing in your mind.
I want to address both beginners and elite players on their quest for better play. All beginners and elite players must understand that, as players, we are all experiencing ups and downs. The bottom line is that some handle them better than others.
Why is this a feeling golfers have: “playing out of your mind”?
Well, it is pure relaxation. It is fluid, seamless, continuous motion. No hang-ups. No hiccups.
The next big question, how do we achieve this regularly?
We get to this without forcing it, by believing in our makeup. It is locked in our subconscious. It is a controllable, uncontrollable. Subconsciously, your nervous system is in the green light. You are just doing. This is peak performance. This is the zone. This is playing autonomously, out of your mind.
I believe that over time, a golfer’s game is compiled in his/her built-up expectations of the player they truly believe they are. Expecting to make a putt vs. just so happening to make it feeds two different minds. When you place an expectation on an action tension is created. Tension creeps into our nervous system and our brains either respond or they don’t. This is called pressure. This is what I call playing in your mind. You are in your head, your thoughts are far too many and there is just a whole lot floating around up there.
The more players play/practice, the more they will expect out of themselves, and in result, create that pressure. (ie. Why progress is difficult to achieve the closer you get to shooting par or better). The best players are better at responding to that pressure. Their systems are auto-immune to pressure. (ie. Think of practice like medicine and think of a pre-shot routine like the Advil to help calm the spiking nerves.)
- Playing in your mind = high tension golf… you might need an Advil.
- Playing out of your mind = low tension golf… you are in a good headspace and are doing all the right things before your round even started.
The key to understanding here is that we can play in both minds and achieve success in either situation. It is all about managing yourself and your re-act game.
Subconscious playing is beyond enjoyable. It is more recreational in style. I believe beginners are playing more subconsciously, more recreationally. I believe elite players can learn from the beginner because they are achieving superior moments and sensations more subconsciously, more often. All players at all levels have off days. It is important to remember we all have this in common.
The goal is always to play your best. When I play my best, there are no preconceived thoughts of action. It’s simply action. Playing out of your mind is an unwritten script, unrehearsed, and unrepeatable on a day to day basis, you’re living it.
Say you have that one round, that out of your mind, crazy good day. The next few days, what do you do? Do you try to mimic everything you did to achieve that low number? As good players, we take these great days and try to piece it together into a script of playing. We know we can get it down to almost damn near perfect. The more a player rehearses the better they get. Edits are made…knowing that things are always shifting. Visualization is key.
No doubt, it’s a huge cycle. Players are in a continuous race to achieve results in numbers. Players looking to reach great success should generate a journal/log and compile a record and playback method and revisit it repeatedly.
There is no secret or magic…it takes mastering the minds to achieve the best results more often. Most important, as players, we must recognize that during our amazing rounds…
- We are relaxed
- We are having fun
- We are just doing
In this game, the deeper we go, the more we propose to be there. It will always bring us back to the basics. One complete full circle, back to the beginner in all of us. So, the next time an experienced player sees a beginner on the first tee…take a moment and appreciate that player!
Remember to enjoy the walk and believe that hard work always works!
Please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about the zone and how to become accustomed to playing autonomously.
Equipment improvements are even better for women! Now they are getting over 300 yards!
We had a sweet driver shaft fitting at Club Champion in January. We picked up the shaft in their store in Phoenix and that afternoon, and Savannah hit two benchmark drives at 305 and another at 317 yards! Kinda makes you a bit of a believer, huh!? We are looking forward to seeing the numbers on our GC Quad back home this week to check out the difference. Stay tuned for next week!
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