You have an advantage when playing a match because the format naturally helps you mentally compartmentalize your round into hole by hole chunks. I believe that breaking things down into manageable pieces is a great way to approach any round no matter the format. To avoid succumbing to the typical distractions that can derail your focus, here are five strategies to help you best focus your mind for match play.
Set Your Expectations to Conquer the Right Competition
How often in a match are you focusing on beating the other golfer to win the hole? The other golfer is not your competition. In match and stroke play, you should always focus on competing against the course and improving on your last best performance. To focus on what another player is or isn’t doing pulls your attention off your game and onto hers. It’s challenging to compete against a variable. The course is a constant which can help you focus on the best strategic options to conquer it one shot at a time.
Allow Pressure to Propel You
When outcomes matter to you there’s going to be some pressure. But pressure gets a bad rap. When those first butterflies begin to form you’ve got to acknowledge them for what they are — energy. You’re feeling the release of adrenalin into your system that is there to ready you, not tank your game. When you embrace your nervous excitement you can use it to focus your mind on the next challenge rather, than interpreting it as a sign of unreadiness to play great.
Don’t Try – Just Play
After a match I will sometimes hear a client say, “I tried so hard to win.” Unfortunately, this is not the best approach to winning. Did you know that when you try you are only giving yourself a 50/50 chance at success? Trying focuses your intention on playing at a level you aren’t sure you can deliver. Trying gives you an out if you can’t. Before a match begins you must decide that you’ve already done the prep work and it’s time to just go play the game. With the right mindset, you can trust your swing and your ability to free it on every shot.
Leave the Past Behind You
Once a shot is played, it’s over. You cannot be an effective competitor if you are constantly rehashing past shots. Until someone builds a time machine for golfers, you will never be able to go back and change a shot that’s already happened. When you break your game down into one-shot challenges you can shift your attention to the next challenge before you. And your preparation for the next shot is the only thing you can control.
Play with Poker Body
You’re probably familiar with the term “poker face.” In competitive golf it’s important to maintain a poker body. While you’ve hopefully set your sights on kicking the course’s butt, you don’t want to let another player see your emotions written all over you while you’re playing. There will be ups and downs during the round. Stay off the emotional roller coaster by training yourself to visibly look calm, cool, and collected moment by moment. Nothing will unnerve another golfer more than if they never see an unexpected outcome or lost hole change your demeanor.
Playing with the right mindset will always help you get the most out of any round of golf no matter the format. Learning to play one shot at a time is a great way to keep your thoughts centered on the most important aspects of a round from the start to the finish.
Leave me a comment below and share your best strategy for staying focused and confident when you’re in a match. I’d love to hear from you!
Until next time…PLAY GREAT!
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