7 Golf Mental Training Tips To Use Your Time Between Shots
Minding The Gaps
When golfers think of the “mental side” of the game, most likely, they think about their mindset as they stand over the ball just prior to their stroke. Those seconds prior to striking the ball are critical to playing at a high level but, let’s face it, those seconds add up to only minutes during a round of golf.
If you think about it, you are on the course for hours but the majority of the time you are not playing shots. Most of the time, you are alone with your thoughts as you walk from shot to shot. Minding the mind gaps is about purposefully directing your attention between shots. For those hundreds of minutes where you are not physically or technically engaged in playing a shot. Since you are never inactive mentally during a round of golf, you must effectively focus your attention between shots to stay on track. “Minding the mind gaps” can be the difference maker that you have been looking for in your golf game.
Jordan Spieth is known, not only for his physical talent as a golfer, but also for his strong mental game. Prior to the start of the 2016 season, Jordan Spieth talked about his seasonal goals and the importance of staying “mentally right” throughout a round of golf.
SPIETH: “For this year to be a success, we have goals. I need to contend in at least a couple of majors on Sunday. Obviously, we’d like to be able to continue the streak of winning at least one of them. To be in contention in multiple (majors) on Sunday… You have to have things go your way, and you have to be on top of your game and at the top of your mental game. I just want to put myself in a position this year.”
If you want to put yourself in the best position to play great golf, you need to take control of your entire golf game: the technical, tactical, physical and mental aspects. A large part of the mental game takes places in between shots. What you do and think about in the minutes between shots has a huge impact on your overall performance. If you allow yourself a flood of distractions can enter your mind between shots, it becomes more difficult to re-gain focus when you need to.
Have these distractions ever entered your mind in between shots:
- “I’m not on my game. I played horribly yesterday.”
- “I can’t believe I just shanked that shot.”
- “Why can’t I sink a putt?”
- “I will never catch the leaders.”
- “I am blowing this lead.”
- “I’m so frustrated. I’m just embarrassing myself today.”
- “What if I my score is totally off today?”
- “Everyone probably thinks I’m a bad golfer.”
- “How in the world am I going to recover from that shot?”
All these negative thoughts drum up accompanying negative emotions: frustration, despair, anger, anxiety, fearful, embarrassed, worthless, humiliated, inferior, discouraged or sad. These negative emotions move you out of the mental zone where you play your best golf. Minding the mind gaps will allow you to maintain control throughout a round and play your best golf.
Common Thinking Errors between Shots
There are some common mental traps that cause golfers to mentally veer off course. By being aware of the potential mental hazards, you can eventually build a plan to avoid these traps.
Many golfers use bad shots as predictors of future shots. These golfers convince themselves that one bad shot equals another… and another… and another. This mentality causes golfers to quickly spiral out of control and lose focus.
Rather than talking yourself into a slump, you need shake off the last shot and tell yourself that you are one shot away from finding your groove. Visualize what you want to happen. You never know what can happen in the game of golf, so keep your head in the game.
Another thinking error that interferes with golfer’s playing a relaxed, fluid style is when they over-analyze things. These golfers analyze what is wrong with their game, start tinkering with their swing and try to do too much to get a few strokes back. Soon, these golfers suffer information overload, become overwhelmed and under-perform.
You need to realize now is not the time to overhaul your swing. Take it one shot at a time and simply try to trust that you can put a good swing on the ball. The goal is not to be perfect but get the ball in the hole in aa few a strokes as possible.
Buying in to Emotions
Many golfers allow how they feel to dictate how they play as if they are helpless to change their emotions. When these golfers are angry, they play angry golf trying to crush the ball. When these golfers are frustrated, they play hesitant and don’t go for their shots.
Understand that your emotions are a by-product of your thinking. If you focus on positive or neutral thoughts and perceive the situation in a different way, your emotions will change to match your thinking.
Beating up Yourself
After a bad shot, some golfers just berate themselves and mentally beat themselves into submission. These golfers often struggle to regain their form after their verbal self-abuse,
Being your own best caddy is a more beneficial method for dealing with yourself. Talk to yourself as if you were a supportive coach. Find some positive part of your game and give yourself credit for doing that well.
Golf Mental Training Tips
7 Effective Ways to Occupy your Mind between Shots
Staying focused while on the golf course is no doubt a difficult task especially after a bad shot… But in order to enjoy the game and play your best, you need to “mind the mind gaps” with purposeful intent. If you have control over your focus between shots, you will be able to play freely and stay in the moment.
Have a chat
One way of getting your mind off of yourself is to talk to your playing partners. The conversation does not have to be about golf. Lighten the mood by talking about funny things that happened during the week. This chat will help get you out of your head and the negative mental chatter. It will also make the round more enjoyable.
By focusing on your breathing, you take the focus off your thinking. Take several long, deep, slow breaths. Deep breathing will have the added benefit of calming your body as well as your mind. When you are calm and your mind is clear, you will be better able to focus on what you need to do on your next shot.
Think of those successful rounds you had in the past or times when you came back from difficult circumstances. Write on a piece of paper 5 of your most successful events, fold it up and put it in your pocket. If you need reinforcement, pull it out and review those events as you walk to the next hole. You can even bring along past scorecards of tournaments where you played well. These past events will help generate positive feelings.
Enjoy the scenery
Soak in the scenery by really taking in your surroundings. Most golf courses are known for their beauty and nature. Notice the details of a certain tree or a squirrel off in the distance. This mental vacation will help take your mind away from golf. Think of how refreshed you feel when you return to your everyday life after a vacation. Mini mental vacations are like hitting a mental reset button.
Take a snack break, eat, drink, refuel and refresh. Focusing on replenishing your body takes the focus off what may be happening in your head. And, by being properly fueled, you will maintain your energy levels and be better physically prepared for the whole round.
Create a game within the game
Games are fun so create a game as you walk to the next hole. Try to guess how many steps it will take you to get to the next hole. See how many times you can recite the alphabet before you get to the next hole. Play “rock star” and belt out the lyrics to your favorite song in your head. Find ways to enjoy your time as you travel to the next hole. This will help pass the time and distract you from your golf game especially if you are overthinking during the down time.
Use your time as a transition period
Consider the time between shots as a routine transition period. As you put your club in your golf bag, put your thoughts about that away too. The next step is to distract yourself and focus on something other than golf. This helps you to conserve your precious focusing power. As you approach your next shot, start planning your strategy.
By utilizing your time constructively, you will in control of your thinking, emotions and game.
ACTION DRILL: The Biggest Key to Minding the Mental Gaps between Shots
To actually make use of these Golf Mental Training Tips you need to do something with them. Here is what to do.
HAVE A PLAN! Too often, golfers leave their mental game to chance. If you do not purposefully and intentionally focus your mind during these “off” times during a round, you will allow your mind to drift and accept whatever comes barreling into your mind.
Have a pre-determined plan for how you will occupy your time between shots. Rehearse your plan in practice. Commit to your plan in tournaments. Act on your plan as you walk to the next hole. If you mind drifts to the past shot, it doesn’t mean that your plan is not working… It just means you veered away from your plan. Re-focus on your plan and move forward.
You are a golfer the entire time you are on the course, not just the small amount of time you are engaged in playing a shot. Being prepared means being FULLY prepared! Minding the mind gaps will help you take control of entire round instead of leaving the majority of your game to chance.
To further understand how your mental game affects your golf performance, why not take the mental game assessment.
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