Whether you’re playing in the Presidents Cup with the world watching, or in a $5 nassau with your buddies, there are shots presented during a round of golf that have immense pressure on them; when your back is against the wall and you must hit that chip shot to get up-and-down, or hole a 4-footer to continue the match.
If you’re able to control your emotions and funnel your focus, however, you have a great chance to do what you’re capable of when the moment matters most.
The mind is an asset when used correctly. As we all know, however, when you let your emotions get the best of you, it can also be quite the deterrent for success. I’d like to remind each of you that you can only focus on the process NOT the outcome, and if you do so, you have conquered all you can… the rest is up to the golf gods.
So here are a few ways I suggest you work on the power of your mind and its ability to focus, and for you to TRUST you can make the shots when it matters.
The Trusting Mentality
After training and focusing extra hard on changing an old swing flaw, there comes a time when you have to trust what you have done on the range and in front of the mirror. You must allow your body to react in the new manner naturally; that is why you practice. You take these conscious feelings and manipulations of new swing motions and, through lessons and proper practice, you must allow them to move into your subconscious. This will allow you to simply play golf, and not keep 4,000 swing thoughts swimming through your mind. Unfortunately, most people never achieve this trusting mindset due to their over-analytical state. When people ask me to describe this sensation to them, I cite two examples.
If I put a 2×10-foot board on the floor and told you to walk across it, you would have no trouble at all. If I placed it 50 feet in the air, however, all of a sudden after years and years of walking you would suddenly forget how to put one foot in front of the other.
Why does this happen? You lose that Trusting Mentality, which is necessary to walk across that plank, and you rob yourself of success by thinking about how to walk instead of simply walking. By letting your mind get in the way, it will only be a matter of a few feet before you cause yourself to interfere with your body’s natural homeostatic mechanisms that we use for balance. Guess what happens next… another one bites the dust.
It is the same on the golf course; after working on a new motion on the range, allow yourself to slip back to Trusting Mode when you are on the course. You do this in stages by using small partial swings on the range with a high percentage of successful repetitions, building your way slowly up to full swings. My theory is that if you cannot hit small shots the proper way then it will be impossible to do them at full speed. If the ball goes sideways, it only tells you that you need more practice on the practice facility and in your mirror. You cannot expect to have ANY shot consistency on the course, and especially under pressure, if your golf swing checklist is longer than your grocery list.
My second example of Trusting comes from everyone’s experience of hitting balls or putting while talking with one of your friends… something weird happens. Every shot is effortlessly straight and pure. Why does this happen? For a brief moment in time, you allow your body to do what is natural for it to do. You propel the ball at your target without allowing your mind to tell you how to do it. Your body knows how to swing if you will let it work thought-free. Doubt comes from the mind intercepting the muscles’ natural motions, especially on the big shots. You know, such as trying to kill the ball on a long par 4, the stigma of trying to hit long irons in the air off a tight lie, or trying not to chunk the ball into the pond on No. 8. This Trust must be gained slowly and in stages; if not you will never reach the level of shot purity that you can; that is a promise from me!
If you don’t believe in this idea, I will give you one test. Hit 50 balls with your 5-iron and consciously think all during the swing about your mechanics and how to make your swing correct during that full shot. I bet you hit 80 percent of those balls horribly unsolid and offline. Now, wear headphones playing soothing slow music, and hit the same number of balls allowing your mind to only do one thing: be free of any thoughts. I’ll bet you hit a far greater percentage of those shots better and tension free.
Any teaching professional worth his salt will tell you that they do NOT encourage you to focus on too many things on the course — that is what the range is for. The practice facility is a conscious place for thought and swing mechanic experiments while the course is for getting the ball into the hole, pretty or not. I teach my students to identify their problems and solve them objectively though mirror work, follow-up lessons, and proper, efficient practice. My goal is not to tie my students’ minds up in knots on the golf course. I firmly advocate keeping the mind free and keeping things simple on the golf course; leave mechanics on the practice facility and in the mirror.