There are two mindsets that you need to be aware of and when each one should be applied to maximise performance.
The range/practice mind-set – This is where you try out new things. Try draw and fade the ball, hit the ball low and high but you are not target orientated, you are just trying to make the ball do what you want it to. If you pick a target you switch to the second mind-set.
The playing/trusting mind-set (bob Rotella) – you have done your practice now it is time to switch from the trying, to the letting it happen mind set. This is achieved by trusting that what you have practiced will hold up on the course. Never use a practice mind-set in competition.
Next time you play, implement one or more of the below and compare to how you were previously performing:
- 5-yard rule: If you do not hit the ball as solid as you wanted to, you have 5 yards to give out about it but after the 5 yards you must forget about it and start mentally preparing for the next shot. You must limit the anger/doubt/frustration as there is nothing you can do that can take it back so do not dwell on something that is outside of your control.
- Love the challenge: next time your ball has gone into the trees, gets stuck in a bunker or you are blocked out behind a solid object like a tree, say to yourself as you are walking up to the ball “got to love the game” or “I love a challenge”. Turn the negative into a positive after all, you could be stuck in work.
- Care less: you must be relaxed to swing as good as you can and if you are trying to finish with a particular score or have had a good front 9 and are protecting a score you generally tense up. A relaxed muscle moves quicker than a tensed muscle so any bit of tension can throw off your timing and restrict your ability to move and square the club face. You generally hit well on the range because you are swinging freely and more frequent. Try not to count your score but instead focus on adding more detail in the pre-shot routine for the next shot to build your confidence.
- As you walk to the ball enjoy where you are, look around your surroundings and pick out 2 things that takes your mind off any self-induced pressure or bad shots that are in the past. Birds flying around, swans in the lakes, rabbits, anything that you can look at and focus on for a few seconds that gives you a sense of relaxation. (Not a bird robbing a bar from your bag).
- Immediately after a shot try to say a neutral comment. E.g., The ball flew in the air. Avoid the negative reaction and self-talk that is going to chip away at your confidence.
- Visualise the shot you want to make by closing your eyes and seeing the shot from the point of contact to when it comes to rest.
Some breathing exercises can reduce your anxiety and bring calmness to an over reacting mind/body.
- One to try the next time you are on the course, and you feel your frustration rising is to close your eyes and take 3 deep breathes counting to 6 on the inhale and 6 on the exhale. Breath through your nose. All your attention goes on the matching your breath to the count. See how you feel after doing this.
- Take a deep breath in for 6 seconds and exhale as quick as you can, focusing on the area you are feeling the frustration in your body. The frustration exits the area with your breath until you are relaxed.
- Think of a happy thought which makes you smile every time you think of it – this with long deep breaths will help relax and lighten your mood.
The above are a few tools to use the next time you are out on the course or in a competition. They can be used in Combinations, but you must find what works for you. Keep a note of what you noticed and how your performance differs from when you were playing previously.