One of the biggest golf psychology problems I come across in my consulting rooms is people who spend all their time on the golf course telling themselves what not to do. I’m talking here about saying or thinking to yourself something like, “Now, don’t hit it into the water”. If it wasn’t the water, it could have been the bunker, the trees or the wrong side of the green that they were trying to avoid. If it wasn’t one of those, it could have been about not slicing, hooking, topping, shanking or yipping, for all I know.
I worked recently with a client who had a major problem playing the third hole on his home course, a long par 4. When I asked him to describe what he thinks about when he plays that hole, he started by telling me about all the trouble off the tee. He explained about the out of bounds on the left, the ditch and bushes on the right and the awkward slopes in the fairway. When I asked him about how he’d play his approach to the green, if he’d actually managed to get one on the fairway, he told me all about the difficulty of avoiding the bunker just short of the green and all the other ways to drop yet another shot on that hole.
What’s interesting is that later in the session, when he was much more relaxed, I asked him to imagine that I was playing his course for the first time and he was caddying for me. He talked me through the first hole, telling me exactly where to land my tee shots, how that would open up the green for me and where to land my approach shots to get the best run in to the pin position. He continued in much the same way through the second hole and, most interestingly, the third hole, his nemesis hole. He never once mentioned the bunkers, the out of bounds, the ditches and the bushes.
Now, I suspect that I would probably have played quite well with him as my caddy. At least I would have had a chance to play positively, even on the dreaded third hole. In fact, it would be just like an experience I had many years ago, when I was selected to play with a good friend of mine as my partner in a County Foursomes team event a course I had never played before. When I got there, there were no yardage charts available and no distance yardage markers on the course, so my foursomes partner, who had played there several times and knew the course well, suggested that he would have to tell me exactly what to do, when it was my turn to hit our ball. In other words, he acted as my inner caddy, in just the way my client imagined he was doing.
It helped that my friend knew my game well and we played off similar handicaps. So, on every shot I had to play, my partner would tell me the length and style of shot I needed to play and give me a specific target to aim at – a particular tree, bunker or part of a building. And that was all I had to think about. He never told me about any of the hazards to avoid. As a result, I was the perfect partner, hit the ball where and how he told me. You won’t be surprised to hear that we scored far better than we could have possibly expected.
So what happened to my client, the one with the nemesis hole, I hear you ask? Well, I used hypnosis for golf to help him to play like he was his own virtual caddy, advising and guiding himself on the course. The next time out he parred the third hole.
Photo by Pablo Herrero