I remember presenting a workshop a while ago, talking about the importance of developing routines to help build healthy habits and processes so that we can rely up the same thing to happen each time we do something.
A guy sitting in the front row was looking distinctly puzzled and I asked him if there was a problem.
He said he couldn’t get his head round doing everything in a special order and that he “wasn’t a robot”.
I must admit years ago when I first started playing golf, I would have agreed with him as it is very challenging putting all the swing mechanics, thoughts and processes into a smooth rhythmic motion when we first start playing.
We just want to get out and hit it, then hit it again and again then hopefully two putt. That was the theory.
However, when I asked him what his biggest challenge was, he said it was having too many thoughts when approaching his ball.
And that’s exactly what we’re aiming to avoid I explained and why we want to have these routines, to go on autopilot, so we avoid all these swing thoughts. Or in other terms, interference.
Whether that’s a pre-shot routine, a putting routine or moving on from a setback, the idea is to automate each process rather than each time having something different to think about and something different happening.
At first, trying something new isn’t easy and the tendency is to ‘think’ about what we want to do. Thinking about all the mechanics of the swing, the sequence, where what goes where and when. A good teaching pro will help make that a lot easier but we need to be aware mentally what’s happening, but not overthink it all.
And that takes time.
It’s the same when we first start out driving a car. We have a lot to take in and think about: from putting the key in the ignition, make sure the clutch is in, car is in neutral, check mirrors, signal, manoeuvre, oh and don’t forget the handbrake etc etc.
It can be mentally challenging and frustrating getting all that information to work in a seem-less fashion. It takes time for it to become fluid and natural, by making adjustments along the way using our senses and our feelings.
I remember kangarooing down the high street when I first started driving and it's no different in golf when we start out playing. It's not all smooth and rhythmic.
After a while of repetition, it becomes automatic, as we take the thinking part out of the whole process, just the same when you’ve driven somewhere, you've got there but don’t remember actually doing it. In other words 'autopilot'.
Your subconscious is running the show as it has gotten used to the whole process and doesn’t need your conscious thought processes to actually drive the vehicle.
In golf though, all too often our thought processes get in the way depending on what’s happening during the round, which brings in emotions and at times the real killer, doubts.
Learning to build automation or becoming a little ‘robotic’ in your thinking will go a long way to improving your mental strategies around the course and removing some of the unnecessary thoughts at the wrong times.
Try it out and see for yourself if you’re not already doing so.
It will take some time getting used to but with some commitment I'm sure you'll get great results.
Performance Coach & Trainer at Golfing minds