If you’ve been reading my lessons for any length of time, you’ll know that to consistently play your best golf, your mental game needs to be practiced, just like any other area of your game.
If the only time you get to practice getting control of your thoughts and focusing properly is in competition, you’ll struggle to get the most out of your game under pressure.
Practicing your mental game of golf daily will increase your mental toughness and help you develop the skills necessary for controlling your arousal state and thinking clearly in the heat of competition.
In this lesson, I’m going to give you a 10 minute daily mental game workout that will elevate your confidence and get you in the mood for better performance. This workout is a variation of the one described by Jason Selk, in his book “10 Minute Mental Toughness”.
I recommend doing this before you go out to practice or play, although some students like to do it before going to sleep.
Breathing: One of the most powerful tools in competitive golf (5 mins)
Firstly, I’d like you to spend 5 minutes focusing on nothing else but your breathing. This is great practice for the course. The best way to remain calm and maintain your focus when you’re nervous is using your breathing. This exercise will help you stay in the present and lower your heart rate, so your thinking is not affected when the pressure is on.
- Find a comfortable place where you won’t be bothered for 5 minutes.
- Either close your eyes or keep them open with soft focus.
- Start paying attention to your breathing. It’s not important how many seconds it takes to inhale vs exhale, it’s more important more how rhythmical your breathing is. So if it’s 5 seconds to inhale, hold for 3 and 7 seconds to exhale, repeat that pattern for 5 minutes (don’t worry, the time goes pretty quickly). It’s been proven that it’s the rhythm of the breathing that is most effective in controlling the stress response, not the ratio of inhale to exhale time.
What you’re doing here, is your training your mind to focus – like taking your mind to the gym. If you find yourself distracted by other thoughts, don’t worry, just bring your focus back to your breathing (it will get easier to focus for longer the more you practice it). On the golf course, this breathing exercise is going to help you remain present and connected to the moment i.e. exactly what you need to do. It will help reduce tension and calm you down. The more you practice this, the easier it becomes to do when you’re on the course.
Your personal highlight reel (3 mins)
Getting in the right mood and having a high self-image is key to playing your best. One of the easiest ways to do this is to take a look at your “personal highlight reel”.
I’d like you to think of your 3 best performances in golf. Spend 1 minute thinking about each round.
Take yourself back there and relive the experiences as best you can. See the colors, feel the shots and most importantly, relive how you FELT.
Using past experiences to create a mood for success is a common sports psychology technique. Jordan Spieth’s coach, Cameron McCormick has talked about the work they do on Jordan’s personal “image reel” – some of his best ever shots, which he can access in competition and stay confident.
Remembering how successful you’ve been in the past and how good you can play, can trigger a more confident mind-set for golf before and during a round.
Your performance statement(s) (~30 seconds)
If you read or listened to my last lesson, you’ll know about the importance of your performance statement, which is a statement (or “mantra”) you can use before a shot to remind yourself how you feel when you play well. You might have a different statement for a drive, iron, chip and putt. E.g. for a drive it might be “Slow back and powerful through”. Go through all your performance statements and imagine (successfully) hitting each type of shot.
Your identity statement (~30 seconds)
What is the best part of your game and where do you want to go? Is the best part of your game your desire to compete? Is your goal to be a Tour player or win the club championship? Combine these (in the present tense) into your “Identity Statement” E.g. “I am a tough competitor. I am a PGA Tour player.”
An attitude of gratitude
Spend one minute thinking about the upcoming round and how fortunate you are to be going to play the game you love. There are far worse things you could be doing, so be humble and have an attitude of gratitude not entitlement.
This whole workout takes no more than 10 mins and will get you ready for performing your best on the course. Get into the habit of doing it daily and you’ll be able to more easily access these mental skills when you’re under pressure, before or during a tournament.