Preparing Yourself Mentally for Golf
May 20, 2020
Of all the sports you can take up, make no doubt about it, golf is a sport that will require a lot of mental resilience and focus. Unlike team sports there’s nowhere to hide. If you play football, cricket or basketball, you may not have a good day but if the rest of the team are focused you can still come out on the winning side.
Individual sports are not the same, you are out there on your own totally exposed and governed by your mental focus and physical performance. No one is going to cover you or bail you out because you are having a bad day.
When you practice your drive shot as a beginner, there are muscles in your arms, shoulders and back that have not been used before to the motion that is needed to perfect your swing and all the other elements that go with it. These muscles are coming up against resistance, they need to be strengthened and stretched so the shot becomes perfect. Once the shot becomes perfect then muscle memory takes over and the whole thing becomes natural.
Mental strength and focus are no different when you want to get good at something, you will always come up against mental resistance.
This mental resistance can come in many ways.
“I’m not skilled enough”
“I’m too old”
“People like me don’t do this sort of sport”
“If I fail, I’m going to look stupid”
“I should have taken this up when I was younger”
“People will laugh at me”
Basically, mental resistance are negative thoughts that overwhelm us. Just remember our brains are designed to keep us safe and so will naturally take us in the direction of least resistance. Our subconscious is always on the lookout to keep us safe from being physically and emotionally hurt. Being successful at anything requires you to take the road less travelled, so you must override your primal instincts and leave your comfort zone behind.
If you think mental resistance is a bad thing, think again. A plane cannot take off without the resistance of the wind against it giving it lift. We may not realise it, but we all need resistance to go anywhere worth going.
If you want to get good at something first make sure you are going in the right direction (do not get good at doing the wrong thing) and just keep going. After all, practice makes perfect.
Practice golf consistency
One of the key factors of being successful in what you want to do is consistency. Consistency and hard work will win over just talent every time. Talent and natural ability may give you a head start, but it will not take you over the finish line.
Step out of your comfort zone
Another important element to overcoming metal resistance is to learn to like being uncomfortable, take comfort in being in mental discomfort. No one gets anywhere worth going without stepping out of their comfort zone. If you want your world to get bigger and more comfortable just keep taking steps out of it into the unknown.
Positive mental attitude
There is a lot of truth in the statement you are what you eat. The same goes for you are what you think you are. If you do not believe you can win or hit that winning shot chances are you will not, because we always act in our own self-image.
If you hit 100 balls on the driving range and 70 go way off target, you will no doubt tell yourself you are a rotten golfer. 3 months later after hours spent on the range you will hit 100 balls and maybe only 30 will be way off target and so on. As time goes by and your bad drive percentage goes down you will begin to see yourself as a good golfer. Once you see yourself as a good golfer, that is exactly what you will become. If you can shape your self-image, you can shape how good you are at your game.
Talking the walk is never going to get you where you want to be in any area of life, you must walk the talk. The pause and pain between taking that step from thinking about doing something, and taking the necessary action, by stepping out of your comfort zone and physically doing it, is called anxiety. The longer the pause the more anxiety you will get.
Stepping out of your comfort zone is like going to the gym. If I am comfortably lifting 50kg I am not going to become stronger until I increase the weight, so I increase it by 5 or 10 kg gradually until I feel I can increase it further. If I am comfortably lifting 50kg and jump to 80kg I am asking for trouble and probably a big fail, which will set me back both physically and psychologically. If you want a rapid increase in mental strength, then do not overload your mind so it cannot cope with what you are asking it to do. Take many small incremental steps to building your confidence, all that matters is you keep pushing your mental boundaries and limits no matter how small.
Once you have decided to become a great golfer, you have to get consistent with your practice and keep going. The only thing I would say when it comes to golf or any sport come to that, is get a coach! There is no point in being consistent and to keep going, if it’s in the wrong direction. As I said earlier do not get really good at doing the wrong thing.
A good coach will tell you to be consistent and steady and just gently keep pushing ahead in the right direction. On the tennis court or the golf course, you will find the strong minded steady players are the ones who are victorious. There are many players with flashy shots with drives down the range that look the business, but if they are not consistent with it, you have nothing to fear.
Play against experienced golfers
If you want to get good, do not hide from the players who always beat you. They are the players you need to get better. It’s very tempting to act out the role of being a big fish in a small pond. If you want to grow as a player and get mentally stronger, you need to step out of the pond and into the lake, there is no other way to improve your game. Do not listen to that primal instinct to protect yourself from feeling self-doubt and the fear of feeling silly.
Your everyday problems are your weights and gym equipment for your strength of mind. Think of them as a gift not a curse.
With every shot and step you take in life towards your goals, there is the element of risk and this is another hurdle you must overcome. Risk is the gap between greatness and staying mediocre. Staying stuck where we are is riskier than going for our goals. There are two types of risk, first is a calculated risk and the second is a reckless risk, I urge you to take the first option. No one gets far in life without a calculated risk. When you buy a house there is a risk attached to it. To improve your golf game by pushing forward into new territory you will be introducing risk into your game.
When it comes to risk you have to care about making the shot, but at the same time not to care too much. If you care too much it can quickly lead to desperation and at worst anxiety. When things get slightly uncomfortable embrace the feeling.
This blog is written by The Caddy