If you’ve been following this 5-part series then you now have a better understanding of mental game strategies you can implement to fine tune your focus on the course. To recap, I have covered the following topics in prior posts –
- Part 1 – Gaining Control of Your Thoughts
- Part 2 – Selective Awareness
- Part 3 – Eliminating Distractions
- Part 4 – Recovering from a Bad Shot
The final piece of the puzzle is managing your performance stress. One of the most common questions I get from clients is why they can strike the ball well on the practice tee, but find that their swing completely changes when they take it on the course. The simple answer is the introduction of fear of failure. Fear is real in the game of golf – fear of failure, fear of success, fear of water hazards or sand traps, and even fear of what others think of you. Fear can manifest itself in many forms, but it will only hurt your performance and reduce your ability to focus effectively until you decide to combat it. Overcoming fear begins by understanding it. You need to ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the source of my fear (is it something over which I have direct control)?
- How is my fear impacting my performance (mentally and physically)?
- How are my thoughts changing (positive or negative self-talk)?
- Where does my focus go (relevant or irrelevant cues)?
Once you have answered these questions you can determine whether or not your fearful thoughts hold water. Most of the time they are the result of your imagination creating a bunch of unfounded material because you’re not proactively driving your thoughts in the direction of your goals. Or perhaps you lack direction for your game. Practicing and playing with purpose, and being crystal clear about the future you desire will give you something daily on which to lock your focus. And the more structure and discipline you infuse into your training, the tighter your focus will become, especially under competitive pressure.
Inventory your self-talk – Identify the limiting beliefs and external variables you are allowing to impact your stress level and feed your fear. Instead of keeping traditional score during your next casual round of golf, keep score of how many of your thoughts were positive, present-centered, and supportive. Be present-centered – You are incapable of controlling the future or replaying the past, so it’s a complete waste of your mental and physical energy to worry about them. Besides, the outcome you desire on any given day (i.e., winning a tournament) is only possible if you apply yourself with excellence moment by moment. Utilize appropriate swing thoughts that cue your best swing – Words like “smooth,” “oily,” “fluid control,” or “soft” can help you recall the feel of your great swing. Incorporate positive visual imagery to connect powerfully to the actions you desire to recreate. Seeing the shot come off successfully before you take it can be a confidence booster. Take your time – If done correctly, your pre-shot routine should set the stage for you to feel confident at address. But if you are feeling rushed, hesitant or uncertain about the shot you planned to take, it is okay to step back from the ball, and restart your process. Stand still, breathe, re-engage your target, think only of the desired outcome, re-start your pre-shot routine, and execute. Sustained focus is something that is learned and can be highly developed if you are willing to invest the time and energy. Avoid the common deterrents to focus by maintaining a healthy lifestyle through proper rest, nutrition, relaxation, and balance. Demands are a part of life, but you can set limits to prevent them from overrunning your life. You can be the master of your game from start to finish – you are the only one who can positively or negatively impact your performance. The biggest obstacle to the game of golf is you. So do what it takes to get out of your own way and enjoy the best that the game has to offer. If you have specific questions about your game, I would be happy to talk to you. Contact Me to discuss how we can move your game forward. And if you enjoyed this post, please use one of the links below and share it!