The Mental Game of Golf – Achieving Peak Performance
Peak performance in golf is a combination of 4 factors – technical, physical, tactical and mental preparation. Weakness in any of the four minimizes the golfer’s chance of success. This is especially true in competitions where little separates the winner from the also ran. In competitions, it is usually the mental strength of the golfer that determines the outcome.
Although there are several areas linked to training golfers for peak performance, the fundamental area to develop is the golfer’s focus – in particular his ability to “stay in the now” and to “think process.”
“Staying in the Now”. To perform to his potential a golfer must mentally stay in the here and now of his performance. Time traveling is frequently the cause of poor performance during competitions. This occurs when the golfer shifts his focus from the present to either the past or the future. Golfers periodically lose their focus and travel to the past where they relive a mistake and begin to second-guess their ability; or to the future where they think about the consequence of not sinking the next put. Either way, the end result is that the golfer’s focus is no longer in the now and this prevents him from “automatically” responding to the cues in the environment. In the short term, these distractions will result in the golfer under performing. In the longer term, it may lower the golfer’s self-confidence and send him into a slump.
“Thinking Process”. As the name implies, being process-focused means focusing on the technique of executing the shot i.e. the grip, the stance and the swing. By focusing on the process, the golfer frees his mind from worrying about the outcome. As the outcome of the shot is beyond his control, focusing on such uncontrollable is futile. It is far better to focus on what we can control (the process) and let the outcome take care of itself. The golfer must trust that if he executes the process “perfectly,” he will get the outcome he wants.
Training the mind of the golfer involves two steps. The first step is the awareness of the problems associated with losing focus and the acceptance of the beliefs that it is the “now” that truly matters and that the outcome is determined by the process.
Inevitably a golfer’s focus may drift. In step two, the golfer must be taught to recognize that his focus has drifted and to refocus. This is done by via the following drill:
– Step 1: Recognize that his focus has shifted
– Step 2: Tell himself to “STOP”
– Step 3: Center him by taking a few deep breadths
– Step 4: Re-focus on the process
“Choking” or getting the “yips” when the stakes are high is a well-known occurrence in competition. This is often the direct result of future traveling i.e. where the competitor focuses on the outcome and its consequences. As the outcome of any event is beyond the golfer’s control, focusing on such uncontrollable is useless. The golfer can eliminate the “yips” by bringing his mind to the present and becoming process-focused once again.
The inclusion of proper mental training in golf, complements the golfers physical, technical and tactical training. This fourth dimension gives them the additional edge needed in competitions.
Written by CWFong