You may already know that the ability to manage your thoughts, is one of the 8 Champion Traits of Professional Golfers!
And if you have read our book, “The 8 Traits of Champion Golfers” or your GolfPsych Mental Skills Report you know that you can lose strokes both by Over-Thinking and by Under-Thinking your way around the golf course.
Now, guess which tendency costs players the most strokes? Did you say over-thinking? If so you are right! This is the nature of playing a game where all the inertia comes from you rather than a moving ball, target or opponent. The golf ball just quietly sits there defying you to react to it with a natural athletic swing.
If a busy mind is costing you strokes, here is a “quick fix” that we use to get even our most analytical players back to swinging athletically in a very short time.
The goal is to help you regain trust in your first impressions. If you are an experienced player, your first impression will usually be your very best when assessing the ideal club, target and shape of shot, or for putting, the read and speed.
To do this you must give yourself a chance to tap your intuition. Trust it and make decisions based on it. Resist the distractions your racing mind is pounding you with: all the possible things that could go wrong; the many ways you could hit or mess-up the shot; past failures, etc, etc.
Here is an exercise to help you quickly regain trust in your first impressions.
On the practice tee, or around/on a practice green, place 3 balls in various challenging places. Without a club, calmly, smoothly and slowly walk up to one of the balls as if you are walking up to it during a round of play.
Once there, come to a complete stop behind the ball. Take a deep, abdominal breath inhaling slowly to a count of three, holding briefly, then exhaling slowly to a count of four. As you inhale, imagine the soothing breath calming you. As you exhale, imagine the released breath expelling your tension.
The moment you reach the count of four with your exhale, immediately and impulsively imagine the shot, chip, pitch or putt you would hit. No analysis, just imagine the first shot that comes to you.
Go to the next ball and the next. Repeat until you can simply walk up to the ball, relax and visualize the shot you want to hit without the mental chatter.
Once you can smoothly and calmly walk up to the ball, relax, get a first impression and visualize your shot with a quiet mind you are ready to take it into play.
If you need to, review this post.
Then hit your shots using these 4 steps in your pre-shot routine.
- Relax and get your first impression.
- Commit to your club/target/shape or your read & speed.
- Feel your shot.
- Visualize the shot or putt.
Do your best to make trusting your first impression and your mental routine more important than a perfect swing or a low score. It helps to actually keep score based on the number of shots you hit doing these 4 things, at least for a few rounds. Just put a little dot on your scorecard for every shot you hit with a quiet mind and a good routine! The more you practice it the more natural it will feel.
The harder you find this exercise, the more likely it is that you need to simplify your thoughts. The perfectionists and control freaks among us will have the hardest time. You will be so accustomed to over-thinking that at first you will feel you are not trying hard enough. You must catch and replace intruding thoughts about score, position, mechanics, trouble, outcome, past mistakes, possible future mistakes, second guessing, etc. with your deep breath, counting and trusting your first impression. Soon you will have more fun and get much more from your game!