Your reaction to the outcome of shots can be a major obstacle in getting better.
We all hit shots that we don’t intend. It’s part of the game. But to call a shot bad, you have to judge it as so, which will affect how you play, resulting in more bad shots. The way to get better is to get to a point where you don’t even acknowledge shots as bad – you accept that they are part of the game and quickly put them behind you and move on to the next. This lesson is going to show you some proven techniques to do this.
As Dr. Bob Rotella says “Golf is not a game of perfect.” Not even the best players in the world can hit every shot how they would like. When you watch the golf on the TV at the weekend, you’re seeing just the cherry-picked shots, the extra special ones that are not the norm. The reality is that even tour players miss the fairway and green with an average of 1 in 3 shots. The difference is that (when they do) they accept that: a. it’s part of the game and b. it’s pointless dwelling as it only takes a second to get mad and have it affect the next shot.
Responding poorly to shots by getting angry, even just a little, can affect your mood for and create tension ahead of the the next shot, which can then snowball into further negativity and loss of focus. When you’re thinking about the past (your last shot), you’re not in the present giving whatever you are doing (enjoying the walk in between shots or thinking about the next shot) your full attention.
The best thing we can do is give every shot our best intention and then manage our reactions (quickly).
I’m not saying that you should forget your mistakes. You need to be constructively critical about your performance in order to improve those areas of weakness. But save it until after the round! On the course, take a positive from EVERY shot and move on quickly. Try these techniques to calm your mind if you’re disappointed with a shot or bad hole:
- Try to immediately focus on what you did well. Did you stick to your routine? Was your club-selection and strategy good even if the ball was off line?
- Try having a “trigger” at the end of every shot, like a deep breath or using the action of putting the club back in the bag to signal acceptance and moving on quickly.
- Try laughing! A good way to have less than perfect shots roll off is to just laugh about it. Zach Johnson said “Realizing bad shots happen is the best way to deal with them. Take the drama out of the shank or top. Use humor or laughter to make it go away, and then move on.”
- Strike up a conversation with your playing partners
- Remind yourself that hitting bad shots tell you about your swing and you can use that feedback to become a better player (after the round though!)
- Have a “go-to” subject you can take your mind after a shot you consider “bad”. This could be anything such as the number of trees you can name, the different types of birds you can hear, another hobby outside of golf, whatever it is, take your mind away from the game for a little while
- In your pre-shot routine: Tell yourself: “although I have a very positive intention for this shot, I will accept the result, good or bad and not have a negative reaction.”
- Look up to the sky: the sheer magnitude of the open space above will quickly make you realize the insignificance of what just happened
- Tiger Woods has a “ten pace” rule where after he hits a shot that he did not intend, he gives himself ten paces in which to get over it. Just making that decision to do this will help you.
- Have the shot be forgotten by a physical action that represents it, like putting the club back in the bag
- Try a “Power 10” breathing exercise. Inhale to the count of 6 and exhale to the count of 4. The breathing will calm you down and the counting occupies the area of the brain that could also be consumed with worry and frustration.
In golf, there really aren’t any bad shots, just shots that you can react badly to. Just as in life, getting angry or upset at something that is now out of your control (the past) is only counter productive and can affect You actually learn more from playing badly than by playing well, which is a good thing to remember when it’s not going so well out there. After every round, you are a more experienced player, no matter how you play. Play with these things in mind and you’ll more easily deal with the adversities that a round of golf throws at you.