We all want to improve; it’s the nature of the game. To go out and score as low as possible. If we hit 80 one week we think we’ve cracked it and want to shoot 79 or less the next week.
There’s a problem with that though as the game is a great leveller. It has its own way of bringing us back down to earth with a thump it seems, at will.
I recall years ago when I had only just started playing the game, I was on a society day out to a lovely course in the Kent countryside. The course was fairly new, but deceptive in its maturity.
It was a glorious day weather wise and like everyone else, was looking forward to a great day and ‘ripping’ it up. Oh, how easily lured into such thinking I was!
A wicked temptress golf can be.
The day was wonderful but my golf was unfortunately, a sad state of affairs. Even though I was fairly new to the game, I could still get break a hundred, but that day it just seemed nothing was going to go right.
On more than one hole I didn’t even manage to get past the ladies’ tee.
You can imagine the feeling of ineptitude, walking painfully to my ball only a few yards in front of where I teed off, with my playing partners standing to my side looking over at me with knowing smiles and the forfeit of not having made it past the ladies’ tee.
It didn’t get much better as the day went on, so I resigned myself to enjoy the evening meal and the social side of the day once the pain of the golf had finally ended.
Then it hit me. Whilst I was having a shower and trying to get myself into a better state of mind, I suddenly realised that I was due to be playing in a club competition the next morning!
A feeling of utter dread came over me and the thought process of whether I should actually face the embarrassment of playing again so soon and this time in front of others at the golf club, not just a social group of old school friends.
A glass or two of something cold soon eased the pain of a battered ego and by the time we had finished dinner I had made a decision, albeit a beer and wine induced decision, that I would play the following day and take it like a man!
Now here’s the crazy part in all this.
Turning up to play, with all the problems of the previous day’s golfing fiasco fresh in my mind, was not what you would expect to be a recipe for success and I recall walking to the first tee rather gingerly, wondering if I was doing the right thing.
However, and I still don’t recall how, I somehow managed to go out and shoot my lowest score ever by some 10 shots!
There is no logic in this great game and something that keeps us coming back for more whether we shoot 10 over our handicap or 5 under it.
So here are 5 things that may be stopping you from improving:
1. Lack of preparation. In anything we do if we aren’t prepared then we aren’t giving ourselves any real chance of performing at our best or do ourselves justice. Rushing to the first tee because you’re late is a recipe for disaster just as arriving at the first tee with the wrong mindset is too.
2. Language. The way we speak to ourselves is key. When starting to play poorly, it’s vital to be aware when we are about to start to berate ourselves, which only makes matters worse. Negativity will only bring more negativity ie poor results.
3. Focus. Focusing on what you can change and leaving the things you can’t. Your thoughts, your actions, the target, the shot in hand are things you can change and leaving things like the weather, the water, bunker or your opponents’ score.
4. Relax. Find out what suit you. Whatever floats your boat; if it’s meditation, listening to classical music, thinking of sandy beaches or far-away places, you decide what works for you.
5. Have fun. During the high scoring round, I realised I wasn’t having fun. Others seemed to be having fun, albeit at my expense, but in reality, I was taking it all too seriously, which affected my game more.
This article was supposed to be about 5 things but this one I feel is extremely important, so I had to include it in here.
6. Blame. It’s the clubs. I need new clubs, a new driver or 3 wood or whatever. It’s the weather… the greens, the rough blah blah. No it wasn’t the clubs, the greens, the weather or anything else.
It was me!
Looking for blame rather than owning up to the problems was part of the problem!
The quality of my thinking and mindset was holding me back. I needed to up-level myself and my thinking that was all. Once that was addressed, things changed.
Do any of these apply to you and your game?
Try them out to see and if nothing else, what’s the worst thing that can happen?
You may just have more fun in the process.
To your success.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a novice golfer, single figure club golfer or a seasoned touring pro, we all have set-backs in golf.
Whether it's a missed 2-footer in your Saturday swindle, the club championship or you've stuck one in the water on 17 in a professional event, it’s not the size of the problem, but how we handle that problem that matters.
Many golfers struggle with bounce-back-ability. Also known as resilience. The mental fortitude to be able to come back from setbacks is the difference between average and good, good and great golfers or sportspeople.
There’s been many instances over the years of golfers coming back from serious setbacks and challenges.
Greg Norman was leading Nick Faldo at the 1996 Master's by 6 shots going into the final day but somehow Faldo managed to play infallible golf and Norman stuttered and collapsed, leaving Faldo to pick up his 3rd Master's title by 5 shots.
Many would fallen to the wayside after such a devastating defeat with the whole world watching. Even Faldo felt deeply for his opponent that he whispered to him after it was all over "Don't let the b*astards get you down!", referring to the media onslaught that was inevitable after his collapse.
However, Norman is made of pretty stern stuff and won the Australian open later that year as well as $1m at the Andersen Consulting World Championship of Golf the following January and two other victories that year.
The European Ryder Cup team and the Miracle at Medinah in 2012 is another classic example. With Jose Maria Olazabal as captain, they were totally outclassed the first to days and going into the final day for the singles trailed the US by 10pts to 6.
But somehow, the European team managed to secure a 14 ½ - 13 ½ victory and perform one of the greatest comebacks in Ryder Cup history.
And just recently, Tiger Woods won his first tour event in five incredibly long years, after suffering marital and personal problems as well as serious spinal surgeries. Many of the world’s media and golfing fraternity alike, thought we had previously seen the best of Tiger and would no more.
Tiger obviously had other ideas and he proved everyone wrong.
So, how do we increase our ‘bounce-back-ability’?
Here's a few things to help.
1. Stay Calm. Staying calm is a key element to remaining in control.
2. Let Go. The ability to let go of what has been and not be attached to previous situations or negative outcomes. To be able to stay focused on ‘now’ and not live in the past or in the future, thereby not being affected by previous or future events or possibilities.
3. Have a Reason ‘why’. In 2012 at Medinah, it was not long after the great Seve Ballasteros has passed away, that the European Ryder Cup team captained by his fellow Spaniard and playing partner, Ollie, felt in their words that they wanted to do it for Seve. That was their "Why".
4. Grit. You can’t buy it or stow it in your bag. It’s that substance that causes those, when facing serious setback, to dig deep and find the wherewithal to pull something unknown together and somehow deliver what is required.
As we've seen, Tiger was to most, out for the count, but somewhere deep down, he was able to pull together what was required to bounce back, as were the others mentioned here and perform at their best, even when things were against them.
It may not be the Players Championship or the Ryder Cup that you’re playing for this month, but I hope these will help you when you’ve hit that ‘bogey’ hole or worse during your round and can find what's required for you to build your resilience and bounce back.
To Your Success
Golf is one of those games that entices you and sucks you in.
It doesn't take long for it to be all consuming.
I remember when I first started playing. I worked all the hours available in the week and when Saturday came around, rushed off to play golf with a group of friends, either at a local municipal course or with the ‘swindle’ at the golf club a few years later, when I had managed to get myself a handicap.
I’d arrive at the golf course not long before tee-off, grab a cold drink, hit a few rushed practice balls and then dash to the first tee minutes before tee off.
Once there, I’d scratch around for a few tees, a ball marker, hopefully find a pencil in the bag and a score card.
All set and then we were off.
Hardly the preparation for required to put me in the right frame of mind mentally or physically to play at my best!
If I managed a par on the first I was elated "This is the week" I'd be thinking.
A bogey and I'd console myself with something like "It was to be expected…. I’ve been working all week”.
A double bogey and it was “Oh *$#*> … the round’s ruined already”.
The first hole was the indicator for the rest of the round.
Or so I thought and led myself to believe for years.
I was doing exactly the same thing week in and week out, ‘hoping’ for some improvement, which was slow in coming to say the least.
It seemed almost impossible to shoot a lower score or get my handicap down, which was frustrating as hell. I'd spend all week in anticipation for Saturday's game thinking "This is the week!"
Then I'd be sat in the 19th mulling over where it all went wrong... again.
So why wasn’t it happening?
I simply didn't know.
So, like may people, I read a myriad of articles on trying to find 'the perfect swing', tips, drills and bought all the glossy golf mags with the lovely adverts for all the new 'shiny' go faster clubs that would make me a 'real golfer'.
They even had ad's for a set of brush tees that would help your golf!
I didn't buy any.
Einstein, one of the greatest minds in history, wasn’t a golfer I'm sure, but he may have had golfers in mind when he said “To keep doing the same thing over and over and expect to get a different result, is the sign of madness”.
That may seem quite harsh, but it certainly made sense in my case!.
The realisation was that we can all learn something from someone, somewhere along the way if we look at things a little differently. Even if they aren't involved directly in what we do.
I was doing exactly the same things, every week and getting the same results instead of looking at what I was doing and what I could be doing, to get a different result.
It took years of playing the game, of frustration, anxiety and an emotional roller coaster ride, before the penny finally dropped.
The players who improved quicker and became better players were those who did things a bit different.
More relaxed (or so it seemed on the outside!)
More in control
And they were less reactive to things when they went wrong.
In order to improve, meant something needed to change.
Me... my thinking.
Change or keep doing the same things and stay stuck.
However, the mind doesn't always welcome change, but with the right approach, tactics and tools, almost anything is possible.
My thinking improved and so did the golf. Not to Einstein's level but then he wasn't much of a golfer.
If you'd like a some ideas about changing your game, get a FREE copy of my 7 Keys to Improve Your Mental Golf Game by clicking this link and it will be sent to your inbox - Yes Please!
To Your Success
Golf is not the easiest of games.
To be honest, it's a difficult game and people often tend to overlook just how difficult it is. The very nature of the game when we start playing it however, is one that sucks us in and we can forget that all too easily and very often perfection tendencies tend to creep in, no matter what level we’re at.
Standing over a ball, whether on the tee or on the course, pondering what club to hit, racking our brains whether it's a 5 iron or a 6, maybe a 7. Struggling to come up with the right answer, with all sorts of possibilities and thoughts running through our heads.
How far is the pin?
Where’s the wind? .....is it helping or hindering? is it swirling?
How far will the ball travel as it’s a bit cooler than usual?
It’s a fluffy lie so will the ball take a flyer and go through the back?
Is the green receptive?
The mind goes into overdrive.
Very quickly doubt and uncertainty start to creep in. The kiss of death for anyone standing over a ball about to take a shot.
The mind is going at what seems like 100 mph, which causes certain chemicals to flow through the body, raising the heart rate, anxiety and our emotions. Concentrating is a challenge and the mind flips from 7 iron to 6 to 5 and then back to 7 more times than you are remember.
Eventually, having blindly opted for the 6, you swing as best you can under the conditions, only to see the ball come up perilously short of its target and into the drink.
Cue a tirade of self-abuse.
I’m sure it does, but what can we learn from it?
As I have already eluded to, the game of golf is incredibly difficult, and we tend to take that for granted at times, no matter if we are a mid teens handicap or a single figure golfer.
The game isn't, as has been stated many times, a game of perfection, the same as we aren't.
Golf is a game of judgement.
It's a game of continuous judgement. The problem is we tend to judge ourselves too much, rather than keeping our focus on the course and the judgement challenges we face there.
We may think blasting a tirade of abuse at ourselves will cajole us into not doing it again, but the reality is, that doesn't do what we think it does. It just causes more anxiety within the mind, causing more problems.
The great part of the game is I believe, taking time now and again to reflect on this simple statement, it will hopefully remind us all, that the game is not one of perfection and can never be mastered.
It's about mastering ourselves and our minds. The more we allow ourselves to be affected by the challenges and events, will affect our results in the end.
Keeping an open mind on bad judgement can help us become better judges and I believe more in control and better players.
If you'd like to get started on improving the mental side of your game, click here to get a copy of my
7 Keys to Improve Your mental Golf Game.
To your success!
Golf is both a physical and a mental game.
Jack Nicklaus once said “Golf is 80 pct mental, 10 pct physical and 10 pct luck!”
Other have said it’s as much as 90 or even 95 pct mental. I’m not sure if anyone has ever done or will do the studies on it to find out and don’t see the real need.
What I do understand is that it’s an area few golfers spend any time focusing or working on.
Looking at Jack Nicklaus’ statement about the luck part. If we think about it, golf is a game of skill no doubt, incredible skill. It’s also a difficult game, and the idea is to control the ball around the course in as few shots as possible.
Put another way, to be able to hit a small ball of approx. 1.7 inches (42 mm) with a metal rod and club head 36-42 inches long (91-105cm) over several hundred yards into a hole that is just over 4 inches (10cm) wide is quite a feat.
To do it in 4 or even 3 strokes is quite remarkable, given some of the conditions the game is played in.
The word is ‘control’ but in reality, the golfer is only controlling the ball for a fraction of a second when swinging the club and the club head makes contact with the ball. Here’s the kicker…. once it has left the club face it is in the lap of the Gods what happens to the ball. Luck as Jack referred to.
I agree, we all take into account the wind, terrain, weather, damp, ball etc., but think of a time when you’ve hit what you feel is the ‘perfect’ shot. It felt incredible as it left the club exactly as you had imagined. You couldn’t have hit it any better.
Walking towards your ball you believe to be smack in the middle of the fairway, you discover it’s not there.
A couple of minutes go by and you start to wonder “what is this game all about?... I hit a great shot and now the darn ball’s nowhere to be found”.
As the five-minute looking time is nearing, you start to worry that you’ll have to go back and play another ball. Your emotions go from being chuffed at such a great tee shot to frustration in a very short time.
The feeling of relief when you discover your ball on the edge of the first cut of grass, nestling against an autumn leaf and then mixed emotions come at you all at once it seems, when your mind is racing and demanding to know “How the heck can my ball end up there and I’ve now got no shot! This game just isn’t fair”.
Golf isn’t about being fair, it is a true test of character and mental strength and one of the great mental challenges a golfer faces is in addition to the situation I just described, is the amount of time a golfer spends not actually playing golf; between holes, waiting to play, walking to/from the tees.
When you break it down the actual time spent hitting the golf ball is for the average golfer is around two minutes. A mere two minutes out of a four-hour round.
Hence, it is such a mentally challenging game. Even the most physically fit and athletic of golfers can come unstuck when faced with that amount of non-playing time to reflect and tussle with self-analysis, self-judgement about their performance and the missed putt or the next hole.
It can also be a lonesome sport. You don’t have a group of team mates or pit-crew to help guide you through the problems, with the exception of touring pro’s who have the luxury of a caddie to assist them, or facing a potential meltdown when things go wrong.
There is no hiding place and the scorecard tells all, even if it doesn’t have pictures. A 7 or an 8 still paints a grim picture by itself.
The very nature of the game induces perfection tendencies, which aren’t achievable.
Which is why I feel it’s so important to get an understanding and better feel for the mental side of the game as early as possible, if you are to at least achieve your potential in this perfectly imperfect game.
If you'd like to know more about how to improve the mental side of your game, click here to get your copy of my 7 keys to Improve Your Mental Golf Game.
To Your Success.
Performance Coach & Trainer at Golfing minds