Negative Self Talk Golf

Who’s Your “Inner Caddy”?

I had a very interesting conversation with one my elite players last week. She’s one of the best amateur golfers in the UK and plays a lot of competitive golf.

We were talking about the quality of her “self-talk” during her rounds and she proceeded to tell me about something that’s really helped her this season…the concept of having an “inner caddy”. Not having a real caddy (as most amateurs don’t), my student had used her imagination to create her own, and made him the sort of person that would say the right things at the right time and keep her mind-set positive and confident. She told me how much it was helping to verbalize her thoughts during her round, and get immediate reflection on the quality of those thoughts.

This caddy even had a name, an appearance a – full character. It was like she had imagined that Shivas Irons or Bagger Vance was with her throughout the round. I asked her to describe him and she said…’he was wise, stoic, optimistic and very patient. He was very good with course strategy and stayed positive throughout the round. He talked me through my intention for every shot (in detail) and always confirmed “yes, that’s the perfect shot”. He was great at helping me put bad shots behind me quickly.”

I like the idea of personifying your “inner caddy” as, even though it’s an imaginary person, it can help make you more “self-aware” of what you are thinking throughout the round. Would your inner caddy criticize your last shot or tell you how badly you are playing? No, he/she wouldn’t. Tour player’s are fortunate to have their caddies to help stop the negative self talk cycle before it starts. For us amateur players, it’s easy to let negativity spiral out of control if we don’t have a process to stop it. An inner caddy can help you do this.

Negative self talk in golf = Under performance

Studies show a strong correlation between what a player says to themselves either in preparation for a shot or after a shot, and how they perform. If there’s no clear plan for a shot and focus on that plan up until the start of the swing, there’s room for doubt. And if there’s an immediately poor reaction to missing a target, which continues throughout the round, there will be increased muscle tension, shorter and quicker breathing, and less mental clarity. In other words negative self talk in golf = under performance.

So why not create the persona of someone who can help you with this? An inner caddy who knows better than to make such mental mistakes and help you stay composed, patient and confident throughout a round?

Think about the responses to these questions:

What would your inner caddy say after a bad shot?

How would they talk you through your intention for a shot?

What would they say when you get a bad bounce?

What would they say when you get too score-focused or start analysing your swing?

What would they say when you’re playing with someone who’s irritating you?

Your inner caddy is the keeper of your mental scorecard, which is the scorecard you need to focus on if you are going to play your best. Download it for free by clicking below. Introduce yourself to your new inner caddy, and get the support you need to improve your mental game of golf and you’ll see better scores as a result.

Photo courtesy of Keith Allison

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David MacKenzie

is a golf coach and golf publisher and lives in Washington DC. He is the founder of Golf State of Mind a teaching program designed to help golfers eliminate negative mental interference and play with confidence.

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