Fear in golf is simply considering the consequences. Nothing more, nothing less. When you are afraid of hitting a shot into the water, you are no longer in the moment, you are considering the negatives of hitting a ball into the water.
a.) Your subconscious mind does not understand “not” or “don’t”. So as you tell yourself “Don’t hit it in the water” your subconscious only understands “Hit it into the water.” When elite golfers play their best, their mental focus is simply where they want to hit it, not where they don’t. They often times won’t even notice the other hazards as they are only concerned with where the ball is going, not where it is not going.
b.) Worrying about the consequences is like paying interest only on a loan. You have no control over the outcome of the golf shot. It can take a bad bounce, the wind can gust or any other outside force can influence where your ball ends up. In golf, you simply must take the good with the bad and learn that it is not a game of perfect.
A fearless golfer is not a reckless golfer; he is simply one who is not concerned with things outside his control. He is wrapped up in the moment of hitting the ball where he wants it to go.
Confidence is the antithesis of fear. They cannot coexist. If you are confident in your ability, you will have no fear of sending the ball where you want it to go. Confidence is simply knowing the ball is going at its target.
Focus in golf is critical to successfully executing a golf shot to your ability. The mind works best when a golfer narrows his focus to the smallest point possible. For instance, when putting elite golfers will often focus on only a small blade of grass around the cup where they want the ball to roll over.
This is their focal point. If the putt is struck well, often it will hit the exact target. However, by narrowing his focus to such a small point, the hole all of a sudden becomes huge. If you are simply trying to putt a large hole you may miss that large target, but if you are trying to putt to a blade of grass and miss that target, it still has a great chance in hitting the much bigger target-the hole.
Often times people will freeze up and get tense when trying to narrow their focus to such a specific point and say they can’t do it. I then simply hold up my finger in front of their face and say “Focus on my finger.” Immediately, they realize that they’re simply trying too hard to concentrate and must simply allow the mind to lock on to it’s target.
Trusting in your swing and your ability is one of the most important principles in golf. Without trust, their can be no confidence and fear is the first thing to replace trust.
Trust is believing in your ability to hit the shot. Trusting in yourself requires that you block out the past negative thoughts of swings that had poor results and believe in yourself now, in this moment. If you’ve ever hit one good shot with the club in your hands, you are capable of hitting a thousand more.
Trust is something that must be built and nurtured through both mental and physical practice in golf.
5) Positive Attitude
Your attitude will have more to determine your experience that day than any other single factor. Attitude is like your golf bag, it holds everything together. You could carry all your clubs and balls in your hands without it, but it’s much easier to use the bag.
Your attitude is a filter that can allow both good and bad in. A positive attitude looks at a bad shot and says that was an anomaly. A bad attitude sees a bad shot and says that “I am a horrible golfer”, “I can never get off this tee”, and “I can’t hit this club.” A positive attitude will allow you to enjoy the game and have fun again.
A positive attitude creates emotional stability. Golf is one of the few sports where an unstable athlete can go from pure joy to absolute destitution with one swing.
A golfer with a positive attitude living in the moment takes the great shots with the bad, knowing that everyone hits horrible and great shots everyday. PGA Tour pros will only hit 12 or 13 greens per round on average, and of those their on average 7% off their mark.
On a 200 yard shot with a 5 iron, this means that on average the best in the world will be 14 yards away from the pin, or 42 feet away facing a long putt. So the next time you shoot at a tough pin from 200 yards and miss the green, remember that the best are going to be 14 yards offline too. In other words, cut yourself some slack.
A golfer must stay in the present moment at all times. He must never get ahead of himself, adding up his score or thinking about the next shot. How many times have you seen a golfer add up his score after 9 holes and say well, I shot 39 on the front so I’m looking at a 78?
The score you shot on the front has absolutely nothing to do with what you can or will shoot on the back. Staying in the moment keeps the golfer from fearing the consequences of this shot or the next or remembering the last time he double bogeyed this hole. He is only concerned with what he control in this very instant, freeing his mind from doubt and fear.
Being tense is the perfect way to ruin a great swing. Tension in the muscles removes their coordination, suppleness and flexibility; all of which the golf swings places high demands on.
Tension in most cases is caused by fear, doubt, poor mechanics or all the above. But the greatest issue with tension is that it is controlled by the conscious mind, whom happens to be a horrible golfer. Your muscles can fire a thousand electrical signals per second to your brain as feed back.
Unfortunately, your conscious mind cannot respond quickly enough to manage them all so your subconscious reacts on your behalf. If the conscious mind was responsible for dealing with controlling all aspects of your body, you’d be a pretty busy guy, controlling your heart rate, reflexes, breathing. It wouldn’t leave much time for anything else.
But your subconscious is amazingly capable of handling the demands of such things as complicated athletic movements, which a golf swing happens to be. On average the golf swing is said and done with in less than 2 seconds. During that time, how many thoughts do you really think you can process and communicate to your body what to do?
How do these sound: Take the club back low and slow, shift your weight to the back foot, set the wrists early, toe pointing up and down the target line, club forms a 90 degree angle with forearm at 9 o’clock, etc., etc., etc... And we’re only halfway back. This is simply an impossible task to ask of your mind and body, you’re not wired that way, no one is. Swinging the club is not about getting the club and body into certain positions, it’s about swinging the club. That’s it, swinging the club.
8) Visualize - Goals - Drive
One of the most important processes in a golf shot is visualizing the shot. For many, this seems difficult or they don’t believe that it’s necessary, but it is. Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus visualize their shots, are you so much better than them that you don’t need to?
Visualization is like programming a computer to perform a task. In this case, the computer is your subconscious and the most efficient programming language for this computer is imagery.
Many people say that the reason the pros can visualize their shots is because they have such great physical control over the ball. But the truth is that the reason they have such great physical control is because they visualize their shots.
If you don’t have an image of what you want the ball to do, what do you expect the ball to do? This is the same thing as being stranded in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean with no map and no compass and you just start paddling. You may want to end up in the Bahamas but may be paddling to Antarctica.
You must know where you want to go and the path of how to get there. In golf, the where is the target and the path is the flight of the ball or the “how” of getting there. You know where you want to end up and there are many ways to get there. You need to consider the best way for you to get to your destination given your abilities and the conditions.
If we were paddling to the Bahamas and there was a hurricane in our path, we may not want to paddle straight. On the golf course, we may be best leaving the driver in the bag and hitting a long iron off the tee. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hit a long or even mid iron off the tee and made birdie while watching my competitor pull out a driver and hit into bunker, miss the green and make bogey. The journey is just as important as the destination.
Visualizing goals gives us direction, motivates us and creates an internal drive that gives the momentum to achieve them. A goal is just like the Bahamas, we’re trying to get to a destination and we must visualize that destination. Visualize what it will be like when you break 80 or 70 for the first time. Whatever your goals are they must be something that drives us to achieve.
Speaking positively about oneself is a method to creating your own reality. It is the self-fulfilling prophecy that we have all seen fulfilled in life and on the course. Tell yourself you are a horrible putter or you never get off this tee well and before long it will become a real truth.
If you realize you have the power to create this reality through negative thinking, then you should easily see that you have the same power through positive thinking. The way to accomplish this is through self affirmations. Tell yourself you are a great putter and you are a great ball striker. These affirmations have just as much power as the negative ones and are a key to a sound golf game.
10) Mental Workouts
It’s easy to see that for an athlete to excel in any sport he must continuously train his physical body and mold it over time to perform at its peak. I can assure you that no champion Olympic sprinter came out of the womb built like that. Your body has an amazing ability to adapt and change by applying constant stimulus.
You can’t work out one day and expect to look like a body builder. You can’t expect to read a book on calculus one day and be proficient. In the same way you cannot expect to go through one mental workshop or practice using these mental tools once and expect to be proficient.
It takes time and constant work just like any other worthwhile endeavor. You must be as disciplined with your mental training as you would be for physical training for any sport.