Jack Nicklaus said, “Professional golf is the only sport where, if you win 20% of the time, you’re the best.” If your score or beating others is the main source of reward, how often are you experiencing rewarding rounds? You’ve got to commit to seeking the right rewards in golf to experience more consistent wins in your game.
The problem with seeking rewards around outcomes alone is that they are not something you can directly control. The result of any round is the culmination of what you did in the process of producing each shot. You can control the process part of your game, and that’s why you must seek your rewards there.
Outcomes are in the future. Your process happens in the present. To bring your best to the present task of a shot you must make sure you don’t allow your thoughts to get caught up in the possibilities to come. That’s just clutter that you’re inviting into your mind that will prevent you from achieving the level of focus that you need to hit consistently solid shots.
The key is to find reward in your round by tracking the things that contribute to good outcomes. And that’s exactly what I teach my clients to manage in their game.
Key Contributors to Great Play
Golfers all over the world are caught up in measuring themselves against the outcome, rather than the tremendous reward that comes from growing through the process.
Week after week in my work with golfers, I’m reinforcing the importance of investing in key contributors to increase their success. The most important contributors to great play are your inner tools.
No matter how long you’ve been playing, how serious you take your game, how old you are, or what your handicap is, you have a set of inner tools that you can learn to leverage both on and off the course.
Your inner tools are what help you smoothly navigate the ups and downs of the game. No one likes to experience turbulence in the middle of a round. That’s a sign that you’ve stopped using your inner tools to your advantage.
Your inner tools include ~
- your imagination
- your self-talk (a.k.a. – your Inner Caddy)
- and your gut
And here’s how investing in them can bring more rewards in golf.
1 – Your Imagination
Your imagination is in charge of painting the pictures and playing the movies you see in your mind. Those pictures and movies can be uplifting or defeating. That’s why you must take active control of what you allow your imagination to produce.
Taking a disciplined approach with your imagination won’t completely prevent it from generating some negative pictures or movies at times. You know what it’s like to be standing over the ball and suddenly thinking about your shot going into a hazard. Sometimes your thoughts will get away from you.
But when you’re aware the moment your imagination begins taking your attention in the wrong direction you can get it back on track before you proceed with your shot. Tracking how well you’re managing and resetting your imagination during a round is a way to feel rewarded while you play.
2 – Your Self-Talk
I like to refer to that voice inside your head as your Inner Caddy. It’s always chattering about something. As a great inner tool the voice of your Inner Caddy can point your thoughts in the direction of success, reinforce confidence, remind you of past great shots, help you tap into your knowledge base to formulate solutions, and so much more.
Your Inner Caddy can be a great driver of positive self-fulfilling prophecies on the course. The opposite is true as well. Therefore, just like your imagination, your Inner Caddy must be something you police at all times.
The quality of your internal dialog will have an impact on the quality of your shots. I like to say that good thoughts produce good shots, and it really is that simple. Tracking the consistent quality of your self-talk is another great way to start seeking the right rewards in golf.
3 – Your Gut
Last, but certainly not the least of your inner tools, is your gut. You can also think of it as your instinct. Your gut is the voice of your unconscious mind. Dr. Joyce Brothers said, “Trust your hunches…hunches are usually based on facts filed away just below the conscious level.”
Studies have revealed that we use 20% of our brain for conscious thought, and 80% for non-conscious thought. Your gut is essentially a compilation of your past experiences, developed knowledge, and present circumstances all rolled together and operating in your unconscious mind. It engages your perception to help you process all the variables for decision making, including the ones that your conscious mind might not be tracking.
You have a choice each time you approach a shot to trust your gut instinct if you sense it sending you signals. You may also choose to push it out of the way in exchange for excessive analysis that can leave you feeling uncomfortable with your decision. Research studies reveal that about 90% of the time the gut instinct turns out to be correct. How often are you really listening to and following yours? This could be a great source of reward in your game when you decide to follow it.
Start Seeking the Right Rewards in Golf
Depending on when you’re reading this post you may not able to get to the range or the course right now. It could be due to the current health crisis going on at the time of this post, or just poor weather if you’re in one of the northern states.
Either way, I want to wrap things up by sharing how you can start training yourself on and off the course to seek the right rewards. Since all change takes time, if you have some extra time on your hands right now here are some great ways to use it well.
To begin changing your thought habits you will want to tap into the power of your imagination. What you rehearse in your mind when you’re off the course will have a positive impact when you’re back on the course. It’s all about priming your thoughts and developing new ways to look at yourself and your game.
Tap into the power your imagination to enhance your mental pre-shot routine by spending 5-minutes a day imagining some shots. Picture yourself standing in different tee boxes, or on different greens and imagine the shot you want to hit with as much detail as possible. Make sure that what you are picturing is the entire shot from start to finish. That means including where the ball comes to a stop, either in the center of the fairway or at the bottom of the cup.
Work on improving your Inner Caddy chatter by reflecting on a difficult round from the past where your self-talk was more negative and critical than positive and encouraging. Make a list of the statements you could use in the future following a frustrating shot that would refocus your attention on what’s working instead of how to fix what you think isn’t.
When it comes to learning how to listen to your gut, spend some time thinking back to moments on the course when you were facing uncertainty of any kind. You may have been debating between two clubs, your read of a putt, or the impact the wind might have on your next shot. Replay those moments one by one and ask yourself what your gut would most likely tell you to do to resolve the uncertainty. Replaying these scenarios off the course will help you excel in similar situations in the future.
It’s far easier to learn how to change your thought habits when you aren’t in the heat of the moment. Because what you do most often will be what you default to when the pressure is on. Using the extra time you have now to reflect on how you handled past situations will improve how you navigate the rounds to come.
Taking It to the Course
Before you hit the course for your next round, consider where you might be able to make some adjustments to what you track as a reward. Which of the three inner tools that I talked about do you need to pay closer attention to on the course?
Start with one. You can work on the others once you’ve developed greater control of the one you think is most important to focus on first.
Let’s say that you select your Inner Caddy to drive more positive self-talk during your round. This means that you must commit to speaking to yourself with confidence-building and supporting statements no matter how you’re playing, and keep your criticism off the course.
After every hole, give yourself a score that reflects the number of shots you played with a positive Inner Caddy before AND AFTER the shot. The goal is to go for 100% positivity. Giving yourself latitude to think negatively or critically is going to prevent your round from feeling rewarding.
Train yourself to seek the right rewards in your game and to invest in the process over the outcome. You will find that this improvement in your approach will give you a great return on the things that actually improve your outcomes in the end.