Thinking Your Way To Better Golf
Here’s the point I was trying to make with last Friday’s post – Your mind is the most powerful route to playing your best golf ever.
But that takes many aspects of the mental side of the game. There are volumes written about getting your mind right when you are playing a round of golf, and nearly every tour player these days has a “mental coach” to help them optimize their attitude and focus, stay out of their own way, etc. Certainly, that’s all very important, but what I’m trying to share with you are the other aspects of the mental game.
- Truly understand your objective. That’s where I was trying to go with Friday’s column. Your body can’t do what your mind can’t process. If you don’t have a solid understanding of the basic physical movements of a solid golf swing, you have zero chance of executing one. The first building block of better golf is to REALLY UNDERSTAND swing fundamentals and embrace them as your own. It starts with a good grip on the club, and you can learn that in your office or home. Keep a golf club, or even the grip end of one, handy to your desk and sofa or favorite chair. While you are on the phone, or watching TV, practice a solid grip until you learn it. From there you can practice proper posture, the positions of the backswing and follow through. Do this by posing in front of a mirror if you have to. All these things can be learned at home, away from a golf ball. In fact, they are better learned away from a golf ball. Once you have them figured out, committed to muscle memory and clear in your mind, then you can put a golf ball in front of them.
- Play The Game. Sounds simple, but it really isn’t. When you are on the course, with your newly rebuilt golf swing, lose yourself in the moment. In the book and movie “Seven Days In Utopia”, the young pro is encouraged to “See It. Feel It. Trust It.” To play well, you have to see the golf shots you are facing. If you normally hit a draw, don’t try to see a fade. Around the greens, try to clearly visualize all the options of how you can get the ball close to the hole. There are always several different chips or pitches that will do that . . . find the one that seems to be your best choice. Then you can rehearse the right practice swings to feel the one that will produce that visualized result. Once that is accomplished, you really have no choice but to trust that you can produce that practice swing for real. That gets you out of your own way, and you know, if you don’t pull it off . . . it’s just golf.
- Enjoy Yourself. That is the final element of the mental game, to me. You have taken time away from work, family or something else. You’ve given yourself a few hours on the course for the sole purpose of enjoyment, so make sure it gives you that! That’s where I was going last week with the whole idea of managing your expectations. Tour pros practice incessantly. They devote countless hours to short putts, more to bunker play, and hit thousands of balls every week. They have a right to expect top-level results, but still hit some “uglies” every week. So, what can you expect out there? How many hundreds of practice balls did you hit last week, last month, last year? How many hours did you spend on the putting green, grooving a stroke on 5-6 foot putts? How many thousand chips, pitches and bunker shots are you hitting each week?
So, my point here is to be realistic. You CAN build a very solid golf swing, from the grip upward, if you will just spend the time to understand exactly what that looks like, feels like and works like. And you can manage your way around a golf course with little damage and lots of thrills if you will keep your mind engaged. And you can . . . and should . . . have FUN every time you play, regardless of the outcome of your round.
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf
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