I felt compelled to write this article after a very interesting chat last night with one of the pioneers of mental coaching for golf (and a mentor of mine), Dr. Glen Albaugh.
Dr. Glen believes (and so do I), that golfers learn and improve most effectively through developing awareness, internal feedback and self-discovery.
A good coach should be guiding a student down the right path and helping them increase awareness of what drives their performance, but the player needs to discover the answers for themselves. This way they develop the necessary skills to consistently reach higher levels of performance. Coaches need to do less “teaching” and the student needs to do more “learning”.
For example, I work with a lot of players that play tournament golf under a lot of pressure. After a round or tournament, I might ask them questions, such as:
“So when you were playing well, what were you feeling and what were you focusing on?” and “When you started to play poorly towards the end of the round, where did your focus go and what were you feeling?”
This feedback is really important. The more aware a player becomes of their mental and physical states and how they affect performance, the more they can use that internal feedback to guide themselves towards the optimal mindset during play. With the right mental coaching, this can becomes a subconscious, self-regulating process, making “the zone” more possible and more frequent.
This skill is called awareness.
What is awareness?
When you reach a high state of awareness you are:
Truly in the present moment.
In that moment, there is no past, no future, the only thing that exists is NOW. There’s a loss of self-consciousness. Without such distractions your senses are heightened.
Not clouded by thoughts and emotions
Your mind is open to everything. You are able to notice things you don’t normally notice, but there’s no mood-changing judgement of what’s happening, it’s just happening.
In a state of calmness and a deeper level of concentration.
This is the quietest and most stress-free state of mind you can be in.
There are no impediments, your body and mind is in harmony and in “flow”
Being “in the zone” or “flow state” is synonymous with having a heightened state of awareness.
2 Phases of Awareness
1. Making yourself aware of what leads you to great performances
We are all different when it comes to what makes us play our best. To become “aware” of what these things are you need to ask quality questions and build your optimal mental game profile.
Here’s another example of a question I might ask a student:
“When you’re under pressure on the golf course, where do you feel tension in your swing?”
Different players feel tension in different places. Without being aware enough to notice where this tension is, you won’t know what you need to relax.
This kinesthetic and visual feedback is only possible with awareness. Awareness of how your body feels and where your focus is, when you are playing well, and not so well.
2. Awareness during play
With good, ongoing practice of awareness, you’ll be able to (subconsciously) use your internal feedback to make quick adjustments and “self-correct” to keep yourself in your optimal mindset. It’s like a mental form of homeostasis.
Without developing awareness, there will always be some sort of interference of internal feedback and self-discovery.
How do you improve awareness?
The brain is like a muscle, it needs to be trained. The more we practice, the stronger it becomes. Being able to quieten the mind and experience the moment, and not impede the flow state is a skill that can be learned.
With a good practice routine, it’s possible to increase your awareness and increase your ability to reach your optimal performance state more regularly.
Mediation is becoming more and more mainstream. Concentrating on nothing but your breathing for 5-10 mins per day is a great start for increasing your awareness and your ability to stay present. A recent study concluded that people who meditate are more likely to have lower levels of the stress hormone Cortisol, and experience less anxiety.
2. Journalling/Post round review
Ask yourself quality questions at the end of every round. Keep a mental game scorecard.
3. Suspend judgement
Stop judging every shot as good or bad. If you’re in the present moment, it’s as if that shot didn’t happen. Assess your play at the end of the round.
4. Mental coaching for golf
Work with me. Through my profiling system, structured post-round review and confidence building techniques, I can make you more “aware” of what drives your performance and how to reach the zone more often. Sign up here, for a free consultation.