Using A Performance Journal

Studies show that writing things down in a journal is a highly effective way to reflect and learn from an experience. It gives you the opportunity to make sense of what happened during your rounds and what you were feeling in different situations. This can help you identify what about your process is working, what areas of your game needs work, and it will allow you to reconcile with the round so you can move on.

Even though writing on paper is most effective, most of my students use an online performance journal that shares their entries with me. Entries can be written down on paper and uploaded as a photo or typed directly into the app. But most importantly, it’s about what you write down after a round. In this lesson, I’d like to share the template that my students use.

A Simple Post Round Review

“There’s no such thing as failure, you either succeed or you learn.”

Ask yourself these simple questions:

  • What was good?
  • What could have been better?
  • How are you going to do it better?

What was good?

Whenever I ask a golfer how they played, unless they played exceptionally well, the typical response has a negative slant, such as: “not great”, “my driving was awful”, “I couldn’t hole a putt today!”, or “It would have been great if I hadn’t double bogeyed the last hole!”.

Why do we tend to look at things through a negative lens?

Throughout human evolution, we’ve been conditioned to be more alert to (and remember) the things that are a threat to our survival over the “positive” things i.e. we have a better chance of survival by avoiding something that would kill us than we do finding food. In other words, being “negative” or having self-doubt is part of being human. Psychologists call this the “negativity bias”. However, thinking negatively is never going to be helpful in golf, so we need to avoid it whenever possible.

As I discuss in module 4 of my mental game training program, optimism, neutral thinking and seeking out the positives in any situation is a central part of mental toughness.

To help with this, the first step of a post round review, is to highlight the positives and determine what in your process helped you achieve them. i.e. areas of your game, such as putting, aspects of your mental game, such as commitment to shots or moving on from misses, or specific shots you were happy with. Let’s anchor those highlights in your memory and the process that you’d want to repeat. Celebrate your successes and remind yourself of all the things you are doing well. This will improve your self-image as a player.

What could have been better?

What were the top 1-2 things that held you back? Again, this could be areas of your game, mental game or specific situations you were faced with that you could have handled better. Were there situations that caused you fear and doubt?

How will you make those things better?

What are you going to do to improve those things? It is mental work, performance work, technical work? Write out a plan for your practice to work on these areas.

Here’s a post round review example:

Good

1. Driving was great – 75% of fairways – swing thought for tempo really helped
2. Hit 14 greens – strategy was solid and I had a really clear picture of each shot
3. My attitude and acceptance of bad shots very good – focused on breathing and smiling after a miss

Better

Scrambling could have been better today. I only got up and down twice out of 6 missed greens. Had too much fear and tension over my chip shots and found it hard to see the shot I wanted to play.

How?

3 hours of short game practice this week, with lots of pressure drills from 10-30-yards with different lies. I will work on feeling more confident as I prepare to play the shot, having a clear picture and being 100% committed.

Mental Scorecard Results

What was your process score? How well did you do the things you set as your mental goals for the round? Did you achieve your 4 process goals on each shot throughout your round? What was your process score?

Grade your overall mental performance: (A, B, C, etc.)

Score yourself (out of 10) on these performance factors:

  • Focus and commitment during Pre Shot Routines
  • Staying present
  • Self-talk
  • Body language
  • Acceptance of misses
  • Awareness of thinking
  • Course strategy
  • Pre round preparation
  • Nutrition and hydration

What makes a good score for these factors?

“Quality questions create a quality life. Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.”  – Tony Robbins

Focus and Commitment During Pre Shot Routines

  • How good was my focus on what I needed to do during my Pre Shot Routine?
  • How committed was I to each shot?
  • How good was my visualization and clarity on what I intended for my shots? Did I see the shape and trajectory of it and how it would bounce?
  • Did I rehearse my shots during my rehearsal swings or was I tinkering with my swing?

Self-talk

  • How well did I use my Self-talk to motivate me and guide me to success?
  • Did I voice anything negative in my head or out loud?

Body Language

  • Was I aware of my body language?
  • Did I walk like a champion and use my facial expressions to help diffuse difficult situations?

Staying present

  • For how much of my round was I in the moment?
  • Did I use my breathing, my senses and my environment to keep me present?

Course strategy

  • How good was my course strategy?
  • Did I choose the right target and the right shot? When did I not?

Acceptance

How well did I accept misses (Post Shot Routine) and put them behind me quickly? Did I respond calmly or react with emotion?

Awareness of my thinking

Was I mindful and aware of negative thinking? I.e. self-doubt, thinking about score, comparing myself to other players, etc.

Preparation

How prepared did I feel to play this golf course?

Nutrition and hydration

  • Did I eat and drink properly before the round?
  • Did I feel tired at any point in the round?
  • Did I remember to eat snacks and sip water?

Other Questions:

  • How did I handle the pressure and challenges the round threw at me? Did I embrace it or resist it?
  • How well did I manage tension?
  • How good was my attitude? Did I stay optimistic and positive? Did I give up when I started to play poorly?
  • Were there situations that caused fear and self-doubt?
  • What emotions surfaced in different situations and why did they?

By doing this simple post round review, you’ll be building confidence by highlighting positive behaviors and actions, which will encourage you to do more of them in the future. It will train you to seek positives and be optimistic, instead of defaulting to the brain’s negative bias. You’ll also be looking at your areas of improvement more objectively (and less emotionally) and know what you need to train during your upcoming practice sessions.

Self-reflection and not shying away from asking yourself important questions is huge factor in a player’s progress and success. From this process, you’ll learn what it is that’s blocking you from higher levels of performance.

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