Improve Your Golf Game By Using
5 Simple Golf Mindset Tips
To Help You Play Your Best Round Ever.
All golfers are striving for peak performance or playing to the maximum of their ability but, for many golfers, peak play seems elusive. Why is it so difficult for so many golfers to consistently perform at their best ? Golfers spend hours and hours practicing tee shots, chip shots and putts from various distances. If the old adage, “Practice makes perfect” is true, shouldn’t you be seeing your scores drop?
Getting results during tournaments takes more than merely relying on the physical components of the game. Peak performance is more than driving a ball far or having natural ability. Peak performance requires a certain mindset to maximize your physical skills and training efforts. The mindset that unlocks peak performance has two essential elements: managing your emotions and maintaining the proper mental focus. Think of peak performance as a tripod… the three legs that lay the foundation for playing your best are: (1) physical skills and training, (2) an even-keeled emotional state and (3) a present-moment focus.
If you deeply desire to reach your potential as a golfer, you can’t solely stand on just one leg… You must develop the other essential components of peak performance.
Barriers to Peak Performance
Just as there are hazards on the golf course that you need to navigate, there are some barriers to peak performance that will require your attention.
- Lack of Confidence – When negative thoughts overtake your mind, like reliving mistakes or bad shots, it chips away at you confidence and causes you to doubt your ability to play good shots.
- Excessive Levels of Anxiety – Worrying is a sign that you have mentally moved out of the present. Excessive anxiety is generated when you are focused on outcomes instead of the process. Thinking ten steps ahead detracts from focusing on the shot you need to pay attention to right now.
- Over-Analyzing Play – Consciously, walking yourself through the mechanics of your swing interferes with a smooth, fluid automatic stroke. Over-analyzing generates muscle greater muscle tension and could potentially cause a golfer to yip.
- Too Many Distractions – There are countless things that can invade your mind and steer your off-course (crowd noise, playing against a rival, being sick, worrying about the negative evaluations of others, broken equipment, weather, course conditions. If you allow distractions to build up, you will be unable to focus on the useful aspects of your game like shot preparation and routines that enable you to play at your peak.
- Non-Productive Emotions – Negative emotions (anger, fear, frustration, worry, etc.) prevent optimal performance. Intense emotions can linger for prolonged periods of time affecting not only your current shot but several holes afterwards. Negative emotions adversely affect your physiology (increased muscle tension, breathing difficulties, loss of coordination, energy depletion, fatigue) and move you entirely out of your optimal mental performance state.
Optimal State for Peak Performance
Researchers Ruth Anderson et al. set out to identify the optimal mental state for peak performance in their study, Investigating the Optimal Psychological State for Peak Performance in Australian Elite Athletes, (Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 2015). The aim of the study was: (1) to gain an understanding of how elite athletes experience peak performance and (2) to propose strategies that may assist athletes in achieving the optimal psychological state needed for peak performance.
Anderson concluded that peak performers have a mindset characterized by a sense of calm, relaxed, effortless and automatic execution. Peak performance requires that an athlete “gets into” this optimal psychological state where the athlete is confident, focused and has full trust in their ability.
The researchers listed a number of characteristics common to peak performance. These characteristics are the core to golfing with an optimal mindset or mental state:
- Performing on autopilot – Athletes perform at their peak when they are fully absorbed in what they are doing with little or no conscious thought during performance. Performance should feel “effortless” instead of trying to overpower and force shots.
- Focused in the moment – Athletes perform their best when they are NOT overanalyzing how they are playing, overthinking their technique, worrying about outcomes and mentally replaying every mistake they have made during that round. This requires a golfer to be present in the moment, have full trust in their ability to make quality shots and be blind to all the potential distractions that can interfere with play.
- Being in control – Athlete perform optimally when they are in charge of their emotions, instead allowing their emotions dictate their level of play. For a golfer to perform at their peak, he or she needs to have a clear, non judgmental mind. This type of “quiet” mind keeps you off that emotional roller coaster. Golfers need to keep an even keel and stay poised and calm as they approach each shot. Managing your emotions can be a real “game changer” that results in lower and more consistent scoring.
- Enjoying the experiencing – Peak performers love competition. Too often, golfers view playing tournaments as a chore and look as if they are having a painful mental experience on the course. Your attitude toward an event will shape how you feel about the event.
- Having high confidence – Peak performers know they have the ability to produce optimal results across a wide range of competitive circumstances. It is essential for a golfer to maintain positive beliefs and thoughts during a round of golf no matter what happened during the shots leading up to the current shot. The time to grade your performance is after a tournament has finished.
Anderson et al. say that the key to peak performance is the ability to execute performance automatically, with little or no conscious thought. Thus, an athlete’s mindset prior to and during performance will be the determining factor in the level of an athlete’s performance.
Peak Performance in Golf
Golf is a sport where players can get consumed by emotions, distractions and negative thoughts. These factors can make a golfer feel “out of control” resulting in two reactions: giving up (going through the motions to just finish the round) or forced play (trying harder by adjusting mechanics or over-analyzing their play.
The most optimal mindset for peak performance requires that you avoid engaging in over-thinking and over-analyzing while playing. Easier said than done, right? The answer is yes and no. In the heat of the moment, pressure and mistakes can seem overwhelming but if you can commit to adopting the right mindset and spend the time to train your mind, you golf game will soar. Always remember, your emotional reaction, the thoughts you choose to grab on to and your focus are 100% within your control… You just need to learn how to do it.
ACTION DRILL: 4 Strategies To Develop The Optimal Mindset + Improve Your Golf Game
Strategy #1: Competitive Routine
Your pre-shot routine is the key to calm your mind and body. The last part of your routine should signal your mind and body that you are fully ready and committed to THIS shot. Try including the word “Ready!” at the end of your routine for emphasis.
Strategy #2: Focus on Task
Always focus on the process of performing a task… not the outcome. Ask yourself, “What exactly do I need to do in this moment?” Choose you strategy for the shot, align your shot, perform your pre-shot routine, trust and swing. Anything more than that is useless noise.
Strategy #3: Thought Control
You need to be the director of your thoughts. You will have thousands of positive, negative and neutral thoughts throughout a round of golf. You may not be able to control which thoughts come into your mind but you can control what thoughts you grab on to and buy in to. I like this analogy.
Imagine you mind is like a big tropical fish tank full of many different types of fish. Different fish swim into your awareness like thoughts. its up to you to decide which ones you want to focus on. The cute small blue and yellow spotted one or the ugly grey and black fish. Tell yourself that just because a thought comes through your mind,, it doesn’t mean it is true and it is your choice whether you stay with this thought or not. Let go of self-defeating thoughts and choose self-enhancing thoughts. Try to do this in your next 9 or 18 hole practice round.
Strategy #4: Anxiety Management
Begin to recognise your troublesome thoughts that lead to worrying before and during your performances. Train yourself in 1-2 relaxation techniques (ex. deep breathing, imagery) to reduce your stress levels and produce a degree of calmness and focus. A relaxed mind and body result in a smooth, fluid and effective stroke.
It is important for you to equip yourself with diverse strategies to regain the calm, clear mind and automatic execution required for peak performance, especially in critical moments during a tournament. You wouldn’t just bring one golf club to a tournament because you know you will face many different shot situations… You bring a variety of clubs to best attack each shot. The same should be true for your mental game. Having a selection of optimal mindset tools and strategies at your disposal prepares and arms you to face the various challenges that you will come across during a round of golf.
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