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No. 1. FEAR – Sam Snead (regarded as one of the all-time greatest players) said: “Of all the hazards on the golf course, fear is the worst.”
No. 2 - Paralysis of Analysis. That is – over thinking and being too technical.
These two elements are the greatest sabotages of golf shots in the game. And I am afraid to break the news to you that no new driver, that latest set of irons, 6 different wedges and some high technically designed putter will eradicate these problems from your game.
Admittedly, new equipment does make the game easier, but why then aren’t golfers more consistent? Why does the new equipment work for a while, then the old problems creep back in?
Why do many golfers feel they have the potential to play much better, but just can’t figure out why they don’t achieve this?
Why do golfers hit good shots on the range, but can’t take it to the course?
Why are many golfers unable to bring their best game to the events they REALLY want to play well in?
Why do many golfers have a good practise swings, then completely loose it when the ball is in front of them?
Fear is a natural, powerful and primitive human emotion. Fear alerts us to the presence of danger or the threat of harm, whether the danger is physical or psychological. Sometimes fear stems from real threats, but it can also originate from imagined dangers.
These are ALL real fears. They are CREATED, though, from our thoughts.
I am not going to have a life threatening experience if I hit it in the water or 3 putt. I am not going to have any broken bones if I hit a bad shot in front of other golfers who have a lower handicap then me. However, my pride or self-esteem may get bruised.
Step 1. Own your fear. Yep, actually admitting that the fear exists. When we do this, it gives a sense of relief. But most people think it’s weak to do this and pretend it’s not real or try to ignore it. This is the worst thing you can do. You are almost feeding the fear when you do this. There is courage in admitting your fears or emotional state.
You don’t have to scream it from the first tee. You can just say the words to yourself I am nervous right now; I am anxious right now. Then breath it out. When we carry pent up emotions it’s hard to think clearly and we panic and then rush our swing, trying to get the shot over and done with as quickly as possible.
Step 2. Slow your routine down. This is pretty self-explanatory.
Step 3. Understand the fear is coming from the thoughts you are thinking.
Therefore, I recommend to firstly start by taking note of what you say to yourself. I call this ‘catch your thinking’. You can then choose to accept the thought. Delete it if you wish and then insert the thought you want.
The Par 3 Water Hole. “Oh no the water. I always hit in in the water”. (Do you want that thought to be your reality for ever?) In this instance you are fearful of hitting it in the water. The more you say don’t hit it in the water the more the brain hears water, water, water and guess what that’s where the ball ends up.
Try saying: “I am deleting that thought of hitting it in the water”. “The water is not my target”. And repeat over and over- “The green is my target; the green is my target.”
First Tee Nerves. “I hate the first tee. I hope no-one is watching. I will embarrass myself.”
Catch those thoughts, delete them and instead say “I am nervous on the first tee”. Here you are admitting a normal emotion most golfers have. Realise no one is worried about your shot, they are probably thinking about their own.
Next, say to yourself, “I make a good swing even when I am nervous, I will just swing back slowly and focus on watching the ball”. This thought of the action you need to take to get through that first shot, distracts the mind with a task, and all of a sudden you forget there are other people there. It worked for me when the fairways were lined with 5,000 spectators!
Short putts. Is your head playing these thoughts? “I am a bad putter. I hate those testers lengths. I always miss them”. Again. Delete those thoughts and say: “It’s just another putt. I’ll hole these putts on the practice green. I will concentrate on a slow deliberate back swing and follow through to the hole.”
Try saying: “I love putting and I am a good putter.” Verbalising the word love can actually change how you feel. Also, when you DO hole a putt that’s when you need to encourage yourself. Say: “See you can do this; you ARE a good putter.”
This type of thinking will change the way you play. If you start to control or manage your thinking it will change the way you feel and one of those feeling is FEAR (appearing in the form of nerves or subtle anxiety). All golfers experience this no matter what level they play. Those golfers who learn to manage their thought, are the players who play their best golf.
Arnold Palmer said: “I have a tip that can take five strokes off anyone’s golf game, it’s called an eraser.”
I say: “You can take five shots off a round if you erase those sabotaging, negative thoughts.”
For more mind techniques and strategies please visit www.mindfulgolfcoaching.com
Looking for ways to improve your game further without having to spend hours & hours of practice?
Check out my book; ‘Intentional Success’ – available in e-book or hard copy.
And /or join my 3 week online course via Zoom or contact me for a one on one session.
Until next time, enjoy your game.
Article courtesy of Jenny Jones (formerly Sevil)
Mindful Golf Coaching and Creator of 'The Golf Mind Gym'
T: 0402 235 639