Since you have chosen to read this article it probably means you are serious about your golf game. There are many self-help books you can consider reading and they will more than likely tell you some of the mind mechanics necessary to play the game well. I would like to share some specifics about high-level performance in a Do and Don’t Do style.
Initially, I was not inclined to mention what not to do because as soon as you tell someone not to do something they are influenced by the suggestion. “Don’t hit the ball in the water…” is one of the most frequently used examples. I also like the suggestion, “Don’t think about pink elephants…” and straight away, you cannot yourself thinking about elephants.
The suggestion of not to do something immediately shifts your attention and you begin to defend against it. This is manifested in muscle tension when playing golf. I will use the suggestion of what not to do only to demonstrate the context of what to do.
1WATCH YOUR SELF-TALK
2CHECK YOUR PRE-SHOT ROUTINE
Don’t just go through a pre-shot routine without being able to identify that you are at a high level of focus but do evaluate your Focused Effort of a scale of 1-10 and only hit the shot when you are at least a 7.
Don’t just “see the ball” and “hit the ball”. Do use a pre-shot routine that includes deep, deliberate and dedication to the process of breathing, relaxing and imaging before each shot.
Don’t putt the ball after looking at the hole and bringing your attention back to it immediately. Do take at least 2 seconds but no more than 3 with your eyes fixated on a dimple at the back of the ball where you intend the putter to strike it.
Don’t get ready to hit the ball without taking a body scan to make sure you are relaxed. In addition to the square breathing technique, do relax your jaw. Most golfers are unaware of this important element in performance as they mostly focus on shoulders, arms, and legs.
3HAVE SPECIFIC GOALS WHEN YOU PLAY OR PRACTICE
4FOCUS ON THE PROCESS
5TREAT EACH SHOT AS AN OPPORTUNITY
Don’t play each shot as if it will be the one that makes the difference in the round. Do play each shot as an individual opportunity to perform it with excellence.
Don’t focus on how you feel before or after the shot and do focus on how well you executed it. Ask yourself, “Did I get it done…yes or no…and what did I learn.
Remember as always: Do as many of these things as possible while the other players in your group are playing their shots and do everything you can to keep up with the group ahead – play fast.
Our contributing writer in Sport Psychology, Dr. Nick Molinaro is a licensed psychologist with specialties in Counseling, Human Development, and Sport Psychology.
Although his clients have ranged from the NASCAR, NBA, NFL, USA Ski and Gymnastic Team members, he is mostly known for his work with golfers. Dr. Nick has worked with players on PGA, LPGA, Symetra, LET tours as well as collegiate players at some of America’s most prestigious colleges including Oregon, Notre Dame, U Arizona, and U Texas,
Dr. Nick is the Mental Coach for the Michael Breed Golf Academy at Trump Golf Links, Fiddler’s Elbow Golf Academy, NJ and is an Advisory Board Member on WorldJuniorGolf.com and the Fellowship for Christian Athletes. He is frequently a guest on The Golf Fix on The Golf Channel and the 19th Hole Weekend Edition on CBS Sport Radio.
Feature photo is of Ai Miyazato at the 2017 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. All photos by Ben Harpring for Women’s Golf.