Attention golfers, did you know that your believed handicap is actually handicapping your ability to bring out your full potential on the course? In this article, I will explain 3 reasons why your handicap is holding you back on the course and why it is essential to eliminate the internal belief in the idea of a handicap index in your golf game forever. The time has come to end the negative programming that the idea of a handicap index has created in your golf game so you can play your best on golf course and lower your score.
The first way your handicap is limiting your performance is because the word handicap is actually a negative programming word to your subconscious mind. Let’s take the word handicap out of a golf context for a moment. When you hear the word handicap what types of thoughts get conjured up in your mind? If you are like most people when you think about the word “handicap” you probably think about things like a physical or mental disability, or restrictions and limitations to do certain things in life. The next question to ask yourself is, when you hear the word handicap does it make you feel positive or negative inside? I have no doubt that the word “handicap” evokes negative feelings inside of you that are linked to that word at the subconscious level.
My background is in the areas of hypnosis and maximizing human potential. One of my jobs is to help my clients identify negative programming words they are using that are holding them back in life and to then help them to make a shift in their language so they can begin producing a new result. An acronym that can be used to explain how a seemingly simple word or a thought can effect results in life as well as on the golf course is T.F.A.R. T.F.A.R. stands for Thoughts, Feelings, Actions, and Results. This acronym provides a simple framework that shows the chain reaction that occurs in us with every thought we have.
Your thoughts about something create feelings. Your feeling towards something will determine your actions and your actions will determine your results. Positive thoughts create positive feelings. When we feel positive then we take positive actions. Positive actions lead to the results we desire. The opposite is also true. If you insert the word or idea of having a “handicap” in any area of life (including your golf game) into the beginning of this formula, then you will become aware, at the simplest level, how the word “handicap” is affecting your performance, score, and abilities on the course. When you think about the word handicap it creates negative images in the mind. These images then conjure up negative feelings and emotions. When we are in a negative state we tend to take no action, or wrong actions that are in alignment with the negative thought. No action or wrong action produce results that are less than what we are capable of.
Don’t underestimate the power of the words you use and their impact on your subconscious mind. It is important to know the subconscious mind always moves towards our dominate thought, but it doesn’t discern the difference between good or bad thoughts, it just supports the compelling and powerful thoughts. It is your job to program your inner mind to work for you instead of against you. The starting point is making shifts in your language.
Let’s now take it to the next level. The words that we consistently use form our internal belief systems and these belief systems govern our behaviors. Belief systems are much more powerful than words because they are things that we belief to be true about ourselves and ideas from others that have been accepted by the subconscious mind. These accepted ideas then become mental programs that direct our behaviors, thoughts, and feelings.
Unfortunately for most golfers, the consistent use of the word handicap in their language and in their thoughts has formed negative and limiting beliefs that holds the golfer back from tapping into their best more often.
The subconscious mind is nothing more than a bio-computer and can only operate on the programs that have been installed. It must follow the belief systems that are in place because that is all the inner mind knows to be true and its job is to make sure that these beliefs come into fruition. When we have accepted limiting beliefs as what is true for our experience on the golf course, then we tend to find and create situations that validate our beliefs and reinforce the negative thoughts in the mind, which only makes the belief system stronger. The words we use on a consistent basis form our belief systems. In the same way, the belief systems we maintain on a consistent basis reinforce our thoughts and behaviors which form the next level, our self-image.
Your self-image, or the internal picture of yourself, is a combination of all your belief systems that form the framework in your subconscious mind of who you are. The self-image, in my opinion, is a greater determiner of success and performance on the course, much more than your swing or physical mechanics. Physical ability will only take you so far and, at the level of the PGA Tour players, very little separates them in regards to their golf swing and physical skill level. What separates the champions from the rest of the pack is the self-image.
Trust, belief, confidence, focus, and all the intangible qualities of a champion can only be developed so much at the range and from lessons. The pros all work on their minds and their internal picture of themselves in order to bring forth and develop these mental qualities so they can perform at the highest level on the course. However, most amateur golfers never take into consideration that how they are thinking, the words they use, and the way they view themselves internally are just as important, if not more important than what they are doing with their physical body or with their swing.
Why is the self-image so crucial and how does this relate to a golfer’s handicap? As mentioned earlier, the word handicap conjures up negative feelings and thoughts. These thoughts over time form our belief systems and these belief systems form our self-image. The idea of having a handicap is a direct mental program to the subconscious mind that sets limitations on performance to match that number. It is important to know that your subconscious MUST fulfill the self-image and make it right. The subconscious mind only supports what it knows. If you have been consistently telling yourself “I am a 10 handicap golfer” then it is your subconscious mind’s job to make that right every single time. In other words, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
How can you trust that what I am saying is true? Let me answer this question by providing you three examples. Chances are you have experienced all of them.
The first validation can come by asking yourself the question, “How long have I been at this handicap even though I play golf all the time and put in lots of work at the range?” If physical practice was enough, then more golfers would break through their handicaps and make consistent improvements in their golf game. However, since most golfer maintain a self-image that is capped by the idea of a handicap, it makes it very difficult to break through the ceiling that’s created in the inner mind.
Next, how many times on the course have you performed at a high level through the first nine holes only to find yourself falling apart on a hole or two which resulted in you scoring right at your handicap? Have you ever wondered why this happens? Now you know it is a result of the subconscious mind fulfilling the self-image. Your score will reflect what your mind believes to be true.
Finally, I know there have been times that you scored better than your handicap in a round of golf and you leave the course scratching your head wondering why you can’t play golf like this all the time. The next time you go out on the course, you expect yourself to continue the success and play golf at that high level, only to find the opposite occurs, and you end up shooting a round higher than your handicap. If you look at the two scores and take the average you will amaze yourself when you discover that you indeed still shot your handicap. This is a powerful example of how the handicap limits performance and more validation that the subconscious mind always supports the self-image.
To transform your golf game and consistently make improvements it is absolutely vital you understand that success in golf is an “inside out” process. Most approach golf improvement in the wrong way and with an “outside in” mentality, meaning they try to change external things to change their results. Golfers can work on the physical side of the game all they want but it won’t make a big difference on the course if they neglect their thoughts and self-image. They will stay limited, always score right near their handicap, and never breakthrough due to the self-image and the limits of this idea.
Your self-image is a major determiner of success on the golf course. When you understand this and work on releasing your old limiting beliefs then will you start seeing the breakthroughs you have been waiting for in your golf game.
John Weir is the director and founder of the Mental Golf Academy in Orlando, Florida. He is an award winning board certified hypnotist who specializes in helping golfers improve their game through golf hypnosis, nlp, and the latest golf psychology techniques. Follow John on Twitter and join in the conversation on the mental side of golf @mentalcaddie. Want to learn more ways to improve your mental game? Check out John's new book the Golfer's Guide to Mental Fitness.