The mental game has been one of the biggest topics in golf for over 30 years.
I’ve coached golf for decades. I have read all the books, watched the videos and have even been trained and certified as an instructor to teach the mental aspects of playing golf. After years of observation and study, it seems to me that the entire golf community—instructors and golfers alike—tend to over-complicate the issue. I like keeping things simple so I’ve reduced all that information into a 12-word question that you can ask yourself before you hit a shot: “Do you feel something good is going to happen, or something bad?” If you believe something good will happen, then you’re in great shape. Most likely you’ll play good golf. But if you don’t feel confident over a shot, obviously there is work to do. While technical problems can be addressed with drills on the practice areas, negative attitudes require discussion and introspection.
You’ve got to make your brain your best friend, not your worst enemy.
To create an environment in which you feel confident and believe in yourself, you need to get to the bottom of the hows and whys of the negativity between your ears. Changing negative attitudes and the scar tissue that builds up takes time. The brain like a computer runs on data that is programmed into it. If you think negatively or believe you will ultimately fail, you will. Your good thoughts need to outweigh the bad ones if you have any hope to improve.
Here are two of examples of how I’ve successfully coached golfers to overcome the demons in their heads.
1. The Worst Putter in the World
A player who was new to my team told me he was the worst putter in the world. His dad even echoed those same words about his son. I said, “The first thing that is going to happen is neither of you are ever going to let those words come out of your mouth again.”
During the course of his first year with me we would constantly speak about attitudes and his own belief in himself while working on his technique. As his mindset changed his confidence soared. The story had a happy end: his senior year, he was named All-America.
2. Paralyzed with Fear
One of the most talented young men I’ve ever coached became terrified of chipping and pitching as he entered college. During his freshman season his fear of chipping was so bad that he would use his putter from well off the green and even from long grass, which was useless. So, we got to work. During practices over the next few months we would pitch and chip ball after ball with his wedges. I forced him to say out loud after each shot that he hit well, “I’m awesome!” It was hard for him at first. He felt silly but I would not let him off the hook, I thought it was important for him to speak positively about his chipping. I strongly believe that what you hear goes directly into your brain and will ultimately determine what you believe and/or become. Over time, he saw that he actually had become awesome. He was so good, in fact, that in his sophomore season he was named 1st team All-America.
In both instances, the golfer’s brain had to be re-wired. I’m a big believer that Thoughts Become Things. Negative thoughts breed negative results, positive thoughts breed positive results. The mind is powerful weapon – for good or for evil.