The "Other Side"
I have written this blog for four years now, and the body of content here is getting rather extensive. I get emails regularly from new readers who’ve taken time to go back and read various posts about equipment and technique and have told me they’ve found “pearls of wisdom” in the archives that have helped them improve their golf games. Those are the rewards for taking the time to write this every Tuesday and Friday morning.
One area I haven’t spent nearly as much time on is the mental side of this crazy game we all have chosen. That was brought to my attention by Chris M., who wrote in asking:
“Most of your articles provide valuable information with regards to the mechanics of golf swings and the equipment. But do you have any tips or help which have been passed on to you with regards to the mental side of golf? Pre-shot routines, confidence triggers, etc.?Well, Chris, you’ve touched on a whole other aspect to this crazy game. And I am happy to indulge in this side, as I think it is at least important as the technical prowess one achieves. I think the most important aspect of the mental side of golf is to develop a pre-shot routine that gives you the highest chances for your best performance on each swing. No matter how you look at this game, or what your skill level, it still boils down to a rather disconnected sequence of individual golf shots which are quite dissimilar from the one before. Think of that for a moment.
Your opening drive is followed by an approach shot with a club that is up to a foot shorter and has 3-5 times the loft – two very different swings and objectives. That is followed by either a putt or greenside recovery . . . again, very different from the immediately prior shot. The last swing before the next drive was a short putt most likely. This sequence of very dissimilar swings makes this game difficult. And the only way to achieve a measure of success is to “lose yourself” for a minute or so in each shot you face.
You can have all the fun with your buddies and playing companions you want. No one has to “concentrate” for 4 hours. But if playing well is important, you do need to block out all the distractions and focus on the shot at hand for a half-minute or so before each shot. And that is easiest to achieve if you have a set pre-shot routine that provides a “trigger” to get you into the right frame of mind before each shot. For some, it is pulling the club from the bag. Others use the tightening of the Velcro tab on their glove. There are many triggers to use to get you in the zone to allow your golf swing to “do it’s thing.” Find yours.
There are some very good books on this subject, and I certainly cannot even attempt to dive into details in this column, but I’m convinced that almost all bad shots are caused by a failure to put ourselves in position to do our best at that very moment. Most bad shots are the result of a disconnect between our mind and body. We didn’t have a clear picture of the shot we were trying to execute, so our learned swing didn’t have a chance. We didn’t focus on the details of our set-up, so the ball position was incorrect. We didn’t rehearse the swing required for the shot at hand. We still were fuming about the last shot we hit poorly, or a botched up hole. Or we had other things on our mind from home, work, etc.
Some of my favorite books on the mental side are “Golf’s Sacred Journey” by David Cook, and Tim Gallwey’s “The Inner Game of Golf”, but there are many that are great. One or two should be in your golf book library, for regular return and refreshment. I’m sure you readers have your favorites too, so share them with Chris and the rest of us, OK?
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"Golf is not a Game of Perfect" by Bob Rotella is my all-time favorite. Everyone one of his books on golf is helpful, though. "Your 15th Club" is his most recent. He has a few chapters about how Padraig Harrington went on that hot streak a few years ago (Padraig is one of Rotella's clients and friends). Awesome stuff.
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