Harness the power of positive thinking to improve your golf game and overcome those little mental hurdles that can hold your gameplay back.
Get your head in the game. It’s a often quoted phrase for most sports and, indeed, for anything that requires focus, positive thinking and mental toughness. Being able to focus, overcome doubts and tune out distractions is one of the major skills that professional sportspeople have in abundance.
Golf is no exception. Whether you are a golfing newbie, a hot-shot amateur or a well-known pro, your mental game is almost as important as your physical game.
Let’s take a look at some ways that you can improve your mental game on the golf course, and harness the power of positive thinking to boost your skills, overcome hurdles, and invigorate your enjoyment of the game.
Hitting a crappy shot is a bummer. Feelings of frustration and anger can often translate into a loss of concentration. They can also distract you from playing your best game, and, worst of all, make you consider giving up.
All of these reactions are natural and normal. Golf is a hard game to master and sometimes the smallest of errors can bring about disastrous results. Being able to master your emotions and stay focused will help you move on from a bad shot and get going on the next good shot.
Stop the Voices
Sometimes, a little voice in your head tells you that you are going to fail, or that the next shot is going to be way outside your skillset. Sometimes, a golf course might have a particular hazard or obstacle that is your nemesis.
Those little nagging voices that are telling you that you are going to blow it will often create a set of circumstances that ensure that you do, indeed, blow it.
Tune those negative voices out. Say to yourself “I got this” and, chances are, you’ll ace the shot!
Take a Breath
When things are going wrong, take a few moments to breathe. An upset mind needs a breath of fresh air to steady it. Box breathing is a great way to achieve this. Breathe in for four seconds, hold for four seconds, exhale for four seconds, then hold for four seconds until your next breath in. Relaxed? OK…let’s move on.
Accentuate the Positive and Eliminate the Negative
Negative thinking will always get the better of you. If you approach a shot thinking that you’re going to mess it up, you probably will.
Reverse the Polarity
Instead of thinking “here we go again” on a hole that you’ve had trouble with in the past, turn that thought around. Think to yourself, “I’ll ace this shot then move on to the next one, no problem.” Channel your negativity into positivity and you’ll find that big gains in confidence will follow.
Good things happen if you expect them to. If you expect to hit the perfect shot, or putt the perfect putt, there’s a good chance that is what you’ll do. By blanking out the memories of bad shots, and only remembering the good ones, you are well on the way to training your mindset to expect success.
Tough it Out
Of course, you’re always going to have bad days when nothing goes right and you feel like giving the game up, putting your clubs on eBay and taking up stamp collecting. But this is when your mental game comes into play.
Carrying on through the tough times will not only strengthen your mental game, it will also give you a set of experiences to look back on and use as your game improves.
Look at Tiger Woods, for instance. He’s toughed it out through some really bad patches and emerged victorious as a better golfer.
Visualise Your Game
Many good golfers begin each hole by visualising what they are going to do and how they are going to do it. Plotting a mental map of each section of your game is a great way to boost your confidence and plan your way around hurdles.
Set Your Intentions
According to former Number 1 golfer Luke Donald, visualising your shot means more than just getting behind the ball and looking down the fairway or across the green.
“Visualisation is extremely important when it comes to seeing the shot that you want to hit,” he says. “Your visualisation should match your intentions before you step up to the ball and physically play the shot.”
“The first process is to get behind the shot, look at the shot, see what you want to do and plant that visual image into your brain. Then it becomes a lot easier for your body to actually do that.”
Having a healthy mind means that you will also have a healthy body. And playing golf, even if you struggle with some of the mental aspects of the game, is a great way to improve the fitness of both your body and your mind. But remember, golf has to be fun to be enjoyable.
It's Just a Game
If you have fun while playing, the bad shots will become less important to you than enjoying the game. By focussing on the fun aspect of golf - open spaces, hanging out with your friends, buying cool gear - as well as improving your game, you will achieve a sort of golfing Yin and Yang, where the bad stuff will be cancelled out by the good stuff.
The Buddy System
Play your golf with people you like. That may seem like an obvious thing, but it is a vital aspect of a good mental approach to your golf. Sure, you might have to take (and give) a bit of friendly rivalry and ribbing from your buddies.
But overall, your buddies will support you on your golf journey; and you will support them in return.
Playing with people who are overly critical, or who have skills way in excess of yours, can be tough on you mentally and may lead you to try shots that are doomed to failure. Play with your friends…it’s so much more fun!
Rules of Engagement
A positive mental attitude needs some parameters. For this reason, make yourself a set of rules that you can stick to when things go wrong…and when they go right.
That bad shot you just made. As soon as your club slides back into the bag it's over. Gone. Done, See ya later! Bad shots will happen in every game and when they do, forget them. The next shot will be better.
That great shot you just made. Give yourself a pat on the back. Remember that we are accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative. Play on and use that great shot as a mental boost for the next hole.
Keep up the Pace
Establish a rhythm that suits your skills and stick to it. So-called “slow golf” - when other players are ahead of you meaning that you have to wait - can be a time when you start to dwell on mistakes.
If you are awaiting your turn on a green, use that time to practice a swing or two, get out your alignment sticks and check your stance and takeaway, challenge your buddies to a wager over the next hole…or simply enjoy being in the outdoors.
Play the Mind Game
Negative thinking can certainly get the best of you if you let it. By maintaining a positive mental attitude, your golf will be more enjoyable and your skillset will improve accordingly.
Focussing on what you want to achieve, blocking out that nagging negative voice, and visualising how you intend your shots to look will ensure that you will play the best golf you can, both physically and mentally. Play those mind games and use them to your advantage. Happy golfing!