Whatever your level of play, you have to perform when the pressure’s on to make it count. Here are seven of my top mental game tips to help your keep nerves under control and use the pressure to take your performance to a whole new level.
1. Be prepared
Before every competition, be prepared. I’m not referring to your practice regimen, I mean getting prepared with new balls, clean clubs, nutritious snacks, tees, pitch-mark repairers, sunscreen, shoes and clothing. Go through your mental check-list and make sure you have everything ready the evening before a big competition. Feeling unprepared and forgetting something can cause unnecessary stress and tension.
2. Stick to your routine
Before a competition, don’t change anything you would normally do before a round. Your routine should not change. A lot of golfer go through a more extensive warm-up and get to the course a couple of hours before to make sure everything is fine-tuned. Eat your same pre-round meal or breakfast and do the same warm up for putting, short game and long game. Every pre-round warm-up should feel the same no matter whether it’s a friendly game or the club championship.
3. Visualize success
To play your best golf, you can’t expect to shoot a good score, but you can visualize success before your round. When you’re on the way to the course, imagine shooting a great round on the course you’re about to play. This isn’t going to change your approach to every shot, which will certainly not be score-focused, but the brain has a funny way of manifesting your goals and dreams when you visualize them.
Take the example of Jack Canfield, best-selling author and one of the earliest peak performance coaches. At the beginning of his career as an author he had never earned more than $8,000 in a year. After beginning daily visualization of his goal of earning $100,000 per year, ideas began to surface quickly. In other words, when he began to program his mind on his goal, his brain subconsciously found the answers and he reached the $100,000 target within a year.
Visualizing success can be applied to anything you do, especially golf. Get into the habit of daily visualization of your short and long-term success in the game and you’ve got a better chance of making it happen.
4. Suppress your emotions
In golf, the better you can get at suppressing your emotions the better you’ll play. Golf can be an incredibly up and down game if you let your emotions run wild. It’s easy to get carried away when you’re playing well and start catering to your ego and thinking of what might happen if you keep up the good run, only to see your good form disappear. Alternatively, (and just as debilitating) fear of embarrassment or being the worse player in the tournament can appear out of nowhere. Your playing partners can also make you feel inferior by longer driving or better putting. Learn how to ignore these emotions and get back to the job of hitting one shot at a time. An anchor is a good way to do this.
5. Find peaceful places
Peaceful places can be physical or mental spaces where you go when the pressure is on. It’s important to be able to switch your golfing brain off and relax it, before and during a round. In the ten minutes before you tee off, it might be best for you to listen to music or find a quiet place and read a book, anything to take your mind off your performance. During a round, you need to have your “anchors”. This could be the trees or the sky or any place you can distract yourself from your performance and your game. There’s plenty of time to think about the game during your routine and relaxing before it makes it a lot more effective.
6. Go onto “Autopilot” and trust your swing
You’ve done the practice and you’ve hit all the shots before. Trying to force good golf results in the opposite. Let it go and stay loose. Never try to correct or consciously think about your swing while swinging – that’s mental game 101. You can make sure you’ve got everything like your club/shot selection, set-up and alignment all figured out before you have to swing. One of the best mental game triggers I like before every shot is “Stay relaxed, balanced and trust it.”
7. Stay positive
This tip sounds ridiculously obvious, but even you’re having what you think is a terrible round, you’re only one shot away from getting it going again. But few of us think that way. Even bad rounds can be seen through positive eyes. Every shot is an opportunity to excel and take your game forward by adding more great shots to the memory bank no matter how you’re playing. You have to keep believing right through to the end, no matter what happens.
Photo courtesy of Flash and Mel