How To Practice A Better Mental Game
Tomorrow I’m giving a mental skills clinic at a golf course in Maryland. As I review my clinic itinerary in preparation, it occurred to me that you would benefit from a few of these mental game practice drills, and hence I’m sharing them with you now.
A common myth is that you are either blessed with a strong mental game, or you’re not. You can’t improve upon what you have. But as I’ve proven to all the students I’ve worked with in the 10+ years I’ve been coaching the mental game, mental training is just the same as physical training. In the same way you can train yourself to build a better golf swing, you can train to improve your:
- Ability to focus
- Ability to control performance anxiety
- Ability to keep your swing athletic swing under pressure
- Confidence and self-belief
Here are a few of the mental game practice drills I’ll be working on with the attendees of tomorrow’s clinic. Regular practice of these drills, will strengthen your mental game.
Mental Game Practice
The “breathe and go” drill
This drill is designed to help you keep your mind focused and quiet before you start your swing. A calm mind is key to a free swing.
- Take a 7 iron, go through your pre-shot routine and address the ball
- As you look at the target, inhale through your nose and feel your abdomen go out
- As you start bringing your eyes back to the ball, start your your exhale (also through your nose)
- When your eyes are back at the ball and you’ve finished your exhale, start your backswing
What are the benefits?
This might take a few shots to get the timing right, but there are plenty of benefits. Firstly, if you are able to focus on your breathing, it means you are centered in the present moment, which means your mind is quiet (you’re not thinking about the “what ifs” or what’s happened). You’re in the now. Secondly, good breathing is key for lowering tension. Thirdly, if you’re focus is on your breath being the trigger to your swing, you’re not thinking about anything negative or focusing too much on your swing mechanics. Your senses are fully engaged, which is what we want at this time in the pre-shot routine. As psychologist Fritz Perls said, “It’s time to stop thinking and come to your senses”.
Tempo Awareness Drills
When you’re under pressure or struggling during a round, one thing that will likely change (if you’re not aware of it) is Tempo. In fact, tempo and tension are the things that change swing mechanics the most from round to round. For this reason, it’s important that you become aware of tempo and learn how to control it. Here’s how to do it. The % numbers below represent the % speed of your normal swing e.g. 50% is half your normal swing speed.
- Line up 4 balls and with your 7 iron, hit shots with these four tempos: 25%, 50%, 75% and 100%. Do the same and start at 100% and go down to 25%.
- Alternate shots between your driver and your PW.
- Hit a full 8 iron and see where it landed. Now try to hit 7, 6, 5 and 4 iron the same distance with full swings
The idea here isn’t that you are learning how to hit shots with a different tempo (you wouldn’t hit a 25% tempo shot on the course), but rather that you are becoming more aware of your tempo in the golf swing so you can make adjustments if needed on the course.
Tension Awareness Drills
When you’re under pressure on the course, it’s likely that you’ll experience an increase in tension. Tension is the killer of a good golf swing, and in this drill we’ll demonstrate why. The purpose of this drill is that you notice when and where you are tense, so you can do something about it and play more relaxed golf.
- Hit 10 balls with your 7 iron and start with your tightest grip pressure and then work your way down to your lightest.
- Play 5 shots tensing your muscles in your legs
- Play 5 shots tensing your muscles in your chest and shoulders
- Play 5 shots clenching your jaw
- Play 5 shots with your tongue in between your teeth, light grip pressure and your body feeling loose.
Number 5 should produce your best shots.
And there’s plenty more of these drills to improve your mental game! If you can make it one of my clinics, it would be great to meet you, but if not, you can find them all my mental game practice drills in the Ultimate Mental Game Training System.