Mental Thoughts…for the Course

Thoughts for the Course

Following is a list of some productive thoughts for the course.  Pick the two or three that you feel are the most relevant to your game and focus on these throughout your round.  This will help you stay focused on the process of playing the game instead of worrying about the impending results.

  • There are only 3 types of shots – Quality shots, acceptable misses, and poor shots. Focus on hitting quality shots and just see how many of these you can hit throughout the day.
  • Tell yourself what a putt IS in terms of 1. – distance, 2. – slope, and 3. – break (i.e. 20-foot downhill, left-to-right putt) not what it’s FOR in terms of score (i.e. 20-foot downhill, left-to-right putt for birdie). Describe the putt physically, not emotionally.
  • After a missed or poor shot, say out loud an Immediate Positive Reaction (Give me a good lie, Get a good bounce, etc.). This helps you stay future focused, not past focused.
  • If you take practice swings, make them realistic. Do not make practice swings that are too hard or that are a continuous motion – they are not productive for the upcoming shot. Each practice swing should have a definite beginning and end and have a similar tempo for the shot being played.
  • You will find what you wait on. Wait on good things to happen (making a long putt, holing out, chipping in, etc.), not poor ones (duck hook, 3-putt, etc.).
  • On the golf course you can change your tempo (slow down), but do not change your golf swing or your swing-thought. Only change these on the range. The closest you can come to changing your golf swing on the course is to change the shot you are hitting (if you normally play a draw and you can’t improve it by tweaking your tempo, hit a fade or a punch-shot).
  • Use a physical boundary (edge of the green, putting your club back in your bag, etc.) to help you stay mentally composed. You are allowed to be upset/frustrated before you have reached the boundary, but once you do, stop, take a few deep breaths, remind yourself golf is still a game, and then proceed. This will help you limit one poor shot from carrying over to another.
  • Your vision should always “match” the shot. For full shots, your vision should be at the target or beyond (tree in the distance). For partial shots, your vision should be at the target or before (i.e. a landing area). Since everything goes through your eyes and into your mind, and your mind tells your body what to do, how you process the golf course visually has a direct impact on how well your body performs.
  • Put simply, if you can’t aim, you can’t score. Therefore, getting properly aligned to your target should be the first consideration once you walk up to the ball. To get properly aligned, first align the club as it is behind the ball to your target. Then separately align your feet to the clubhead. Trying to align both the club and your feet at the same time promotes a comfortable set-up but in most cases poor aim.
  • If you feel like you are moving your head or “peeking” over short-game shots, see where the ball “was” (after the club contacts the ball). This will allow you to focus on a visual aspect of playing instead of a mechanical one. Great vision promotes playing while mechanics often promotes over-thinking.
  • Always think of where you want to hit your ball (which is specific) versus where you don’t want to hit it (which is too general). Thinking of where you don’t want to hit it (water on the left) leaves open the option to hit it to an equally bad location on the “opposite” side (severe bunkers on the right).

Watch Your Language!

A powerful mental golf tip here indeed. You see, language, a.k.a. “self-talk”, has a direct effect on your golf game. This is indisputable. If you are using the wrong kind of language, it is setting you up for failure. It is damaging your development, your potential and your score! To make my point, I will often ask a student in need “If you played back a recording of the entire self-talk conversations you had with yourself during a typical round of golf, what would you hear? The response is always a thought-provoking silence…
The wrong kind of language? “I hope”… “I’ll try”… What if?… “I’m embarrassing myself”… “I hate this hole”…the list goes on and on.

The opposite is also true, however. The right kind of language? “I can… ” I am prepared for success”… “I will”…”Shake it off, the most important shot in golf is the NEXT SHOT”…
That list also goes on and on. You are giving yourself the best chance to play your best.

So watch your language! Start putting this exercise into play. When you self-talk with confidence, you improve your self-image and boost your confidence.