MEANDMI FUNDAMENTALS SERIES
This series is designed as a self-help troubleshooting guide. By focusing on the fundamentals related to your handicap we will help you achieve the lowest score and not search fruitlessly for the perfect swing.
In conjunction with our flow chart ‘analysis matrix’, we hope to provide the tools for your improvement.
The ‘FUNDAMENTALS’ series includes:
There are many websites and books out there that promise improved performance, it really is a minefield. Bob Rotella is the industry leader, he is the Butch Harmon of golf psychology. His books are good, they provide some interesting stories from the tour and some perspective on the mental challenge of golf. Personally we feel that the Vision 54 system and the Chimp Paradox offer a better structure of improvement.
FUNDAMENTALS FOR A HIGH HANDICAP – ABOVE 18
It is always an interesting area of debate in golf instruction, the grey area of defining the root cause of a bad shot. A player may have swing faults, it may require good timing, but if he has hit some genuinely good shots before why did the previous one land a long way from the target? The level of focus and concentration play a major part as well as the pressure and nerves that the player feels.
These aspects affect the player’s ability to make his best swing. You just have to look at players earning millions of dollars from the game – it is possible to find a technical fault with all of them, but does this define their ability or potential? Jack Nicklaus had a flying right elbow yet is the most successful player in history. His results are rightly credited to his fantastic mental abilities. So what can you do to improve your mental focus and ability, is it not something you are born with?
The first fundamental is to remain in control of your emotions. Tiger Woods made getting angry very appealing in recent years. It seemed to create an extreme level of focus for him, the same can perhaps be said for John McEnroe in tennis. Unfortunately most people are not able to regain their focus after a burst of extreme emotion. As an example think how road rage effects you – how long does it upset you for?
A better role model for a higher handicap is Ernie Els or Fred Couples – they never seem flustered. As a high handicap you are going to face some tough moments out there on the course. Try and keep your perspective and appreciate that bad shots will happen. If you can keep your emotion in check you improve your chances of performing better on the next shot. Adrenaline is not always your friend.
FUNDAMENTALS FOR A MID-HANDICAP – FROM 10-17
Everyone has heard the advice that a pre shot routine is crucial to becoming a better golfer but few explore the true reasoning for this. Most concentrate on looking like their favourite golfer before the shot. Hold the club in line to the target, step in from the side, three waggles and hit – something like that. In truth it does’t really matter what your routine looks like, what really matters is how you control your thoughts before the shot. In golf you have so long between shots that it is not possible to remain in a high intensity state for the whole round. A pre shot routine is not needed or not possible in football or basketball – you remain constantly alert and ready to shoot. Only when taking a penalty or free throw do you have to make a conscious effort to control your emotions.
It doesn’t have to be complicated but a pre-shot routine that works must reflect your personality. If you walk and talk fast and make decisions at speed you should develop a short routine that narrows your focus to the target. Other players may need to prepare for each shot in more detail to achieve the 100% commitment that is required. They need more information about the shot and they may need more practice swing rehearsals to get comfortable with its demands. Experiment with different routines and mental checklists – you might be surprised at the results.
FUNDAMENTALS FOR A LOW HANDICAP – FROM 0 – 9
How do you deal with the pressure of needing a good start to your round to play to your handicap? How do you avoid the thought that if you hit it in the water here you will destroy a good round? How do you react to a playing partner holing putt after putt when your putts keep grazing the edge? The general advice is to stay in the present – remain focussed and take it one shot at a time. This is not wrong advice, its just very hard to go from one extreme to another – from trepidation to confidence. Your brain isn’t stupid, you can’t just think confidence, your brain needs evidence to create belief.
The middle step between fear and confidence is having the ability to become passive to your negative thoughts and to counter with rational arguments. Your personality will dictate how aggressive you are on the course. A risk taker, a gambler is less likely to worry about the consequences of a bad shot. Play shots that you are comfortable with to keep the negativity at bay. If you are faced with a long shot over water with no other options, accept that you probably won’t feel confident about it, you are mentally rehearsing the situation. Don’t talk yourself into failure.
A rational counter argument to the difficulty of the shot would be your previous attempts at 200 yard shots in the round. Your playing partner might have seen you hit three nice long hybrids off the fairway and will probably assume you are going to strike a similar shot over the water. He is being rational and objective at the situation facing you, he is not full of the emotion of what might happen if you don’t make a good swing as he frankly doesn’t really care!
Take a new perspective to the golf course next time you play!
FUNDAMENTALS FOR AN EXPERT – BETTER THAN SCRATCH
The mental game for an expert golfer in not so much about how to conquer fear or how to create belief and confidence. Your style so far has made you an expert. The most interesting area of the psychology of golf for you is peak performance. Commonly referred to as ‘the zone’ expert players have all experienced the pleasure of rounds where you could do no wrong. The day you had your best round probably felt too easy, very effortless with the most natural level of concentration. You have probably experienced it many times in much shorter periods of a few holes at a time. It seems almost random so how can you do as the cliché instructs and ‘get out of your own way’.
Peak performance is a natural state of a high degree of awareness and focus on the present. A pilot landing a passenger plane in poor weather will have this mental state – to perform successfully he cannot think of the what if’s, he has to concentrate on what he can control. He will be so focused on the exact speed and altitude of the plane and a multitude of other things that it isn’t possible to go through a mental checklist. Just like a soldier under fire the pressure and adrenaline is intense, they must let their training take over, they must trust their subconscious.
If you are thinking about absolutely anything in your swing, you are not in the zone. It is permissible to swing with an image or feeling that will be individual to you. If you do not lose track of time when playing then your focus is not deep enough on the task at hand. Commit to ambitious goals and commit to the perfect shot. Before you pull the trigger utilise an image like the one below of Bubba in the zone pulling off an unbelievable shot to win the Masters!