1. Incorporate Visualization Into Your Practice and On The Course:
Visualization has been thoroughly tested by many research facilities including Harvard University and Stanford University, and virtually all studies report improvements in performance. A study that was done in the 80’s with the Soviet Olympic Team preparing for the Games showed that the athletes that made the greatest improvements spent up to 75% of their time working on the mental aspects of their sports. The least progress came from athletes that just focused on physical training.
The researchers at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado put visualization to the test with 30 college aged golfers. The 30 golfers were divided into 3 groups and were asked to practice their putting each day for a week. One group was instructed to practice physically putting the ball but without any visualization. The second group was instructed to visualize sinking each putt just before putting. This visualization process included mentally rehearsing the entire putt. They visualized the backswing, the stroke through the ball, and the ball rolling in the center of the cup. The third group was instructed to visualize before each shot, but instead of visualizing the ball going in the cup they were told to imagine the ball going left, right, and stopping before the hole. The results after the week were incredible. The physical practice group improved by 11%. The visualization group that imagined the ball going in to the cup improved accuracy by 30%. And for the group that visualized the ball coming up short, their accuracy declined 21%.
If you want to immediately perform better on the course then visualization is a must. Master it and watch your performance take off to new levels.
2. When Facing a “Big Shot” Recall Past Successes in Similar Situations:
When faced with pressure situations, the pros recall memories of success to stay positive and fuel their confidence to perform when it counts. A recent example of this point comes from Bill Haas after his victory at the 2012 Northern Trust Open. After the victory Haas was quoted saying, “I’ve done this once, let’s do it again.” When you approach a pressure shot, think back to all the times you succeeded in similar situations. This will direct your mind to be focused on success and the outcome you want to achieve. It will also increase your ability to execute through mentally rehearsing previous successes. Just like visualization, positive memory recall prepares the subconscious mind for success before performance. Take some time to think back to some of your best shots now. That way when the time comes to bring it up your mind, you will have some easy reference points. Put this strategy to the test...I know you will like the results.
3. Expect To Make Some Mistakes:
Many amateurs golf with perfectionist mindsets and the problem with this mental attitude is when a poor shot is made it causes the golfer to lose confidence in their swing and evokes negative feelings and thoughts. Walter Hagan said that his greatest skill was his ability to forget the bad shots. Hagan’s strategy was simple; he gave himself permission to make 7 poor shots a round. If he hit a bad one, he didn’t stress about it because it was just one of the 7. Walter Hagan won 11 majors, 45 PGA tour victories, as well as other milestones, and if he didn’t expect to be perfect than perhaps it is time to release the idea of it from your game too. Releasing the idea of perfection will keep you more relaxed on the course, keep you more in the present moment, and help you maintain a positive mental attitude. If you are a golfer that is plagued with negative thinking on the course, then definitely put this idea to the test...your golf game with thank you.
4. Smile More on the Course...Even if you must Force It:
Believe it or not smiling more on the golf course can actually boost your performance here’s how. When you smile, your body immediately releases endorphins that cause an elevation in your mood and reduction in all forms of stress. Psychologists have also discovered that even if you force a smile it can instantly lift your spirits and break negative moods so as the old saying goes “fake it till you make it.” How does this translate to the course? Smiling serves golfers in three big ways. First, It is an instant stress reducer which can be used before big shots and in pressure situations. Also, stress creates tension and tension inhibits swing performance. Smiling more often is a natural swing enhancer since it will keep us physically and mentally relaxed. Only in this state will our best performance be consistently executed. Second, smiling can be used to break patterns of negative thoughts or emotions. In NLP, there is a technique called pattern interruption. A pattern interruption is when a person does a behavior outside their normal actions to interrupt the flow of habitual negative thoughts or emotions. Smiling is a great pattern interruption because when we are smiling it is impossible for negative emotions to exist in us. This is due to a principle of congruency. So next time negativity is creeping into your golf game eliminate it by smiling. Finally, smiling more will increase your enjoyment of the round. When you are having fun you typically perform better. Plus, researchers in Sweden say that smiling is contagious. By smiling more you will be boosting the mood of your entire foursome. Positive people produce positive results so share a smile.
5. Eliminate Thoughts of Mechanics While Addressing the Ball:
Many amateur golfers and those who are struggling with their swing tend to have their minds focused on mechanics when addressing the ball. While this may be good to do on the practice range while your grooving your swing, on the course it is something that can actually inhibit performance. To perform at your highest level you must learn how to get out of your own way and simply execute the swing you have practiced. This cannot be done when you are thinking about your mechanics. Your golf swing has been done so many times that your subconscious mind can perform it without you having to think about it. How often do you consciously think about how to turn on your car or lock your doors? You never do, you just do it and the same thing can be done with your golf swing. A way to perform your best more consistently is by training your mind to focus on one thought over the ball. In my opinion, the most powerful thought you can focus on is the picture of your outcome. When you can do this I call it performance without conscious effort and it is a supremely confident state. Practice holding the image of your outcome firmly in mind when addressing the ball and then let it rip. You will amaze yourself at how well you will execute your swing and produce the results you want.