When you’re a golfer, chances are, you’d like to see your skill (and your score) improve. In order to see that improvement, you may take lessons, visit the driving range, and play full rounds. You may use apps to check your swing and training devices to help you increase your skill and decrease your score. You might also do other physical activity and stretching to help you be in tip-top shape for golf.
But what happens when you’re putting in all of this work and you still don’t see your golf game improve? You’re likely to get frustrated and annoyed when you realize that any progress you made actually declined. Trying traditional ways to train and learn are great, but sometimes we need to think outside of the (tee) box.
Try these 5 unexpected tips and see if your game improves when all else fails.
Take a Break
This seems counter-intuitive, but sometimes when we want to see improvement, we actually need to take a step back (this is true off the course as well). When we’re really trying to improve, we may force things, overthink, and create more stress for ourselves. By taking a break, we can help our bodies and minds reset. The length of the break is up to you, but taking a few days to a few weeks away from the course can leave you excited and feeling positive about getting back to the game.
Use Your Mind
Research has shown time after time how the process of imagery can help to improve your skills. Imagery is creating or recreating an experience in your mind, using all of your senses. What that would look like for golf is practicing elements of your game using your imagination. You can mentally go through playing with your different clubs, envision a course that’s been challenging, or review what you’ve learned at your lesson. Imagery can help you improve with just a few minutes a day several times a week; consistency is key and try your best to see what you want to have happen rather than what you’re trying to avoid.
Listen to Music
Music can change our mood, so consider creating a pre-golf playlist to get you in the right frame of mind for playing. You can also use headphones at the driving range (or maybe even on the course if you want). Find music that matches the tempo of your swing or the mood you want to be in when you play. If you can’t listen to music while you play, then try to hear the song in your head, repeat the lyrics that are meaningful to you, or listen just before you hit the course.
Pick a Seemingly Meaningless Goal
You probably want to improve your score, elements of your swing, or other areas directly related to playing better. But what about setting a goal to breathe before each shot, a goal to enjoy your surroundings on the walk between each shot, or a goal to find something good after each shot or hole. These are goals that don’t seem to directly relate to how you physically play, but they can have a big impact. What you’re addressing here is the mental side of golf, and while these goals certainly aren’t meaningless, they ideally don’t create more stress because they seem easy to do. That’s the idea- pick a goal that doesn’t seem hard, but use it consistently to see the results.
Create a Pre-Shot Routine
What you do before the shot has a direct effect on how you play, so make sure that you have a pre-shot routine that works for you and that you can do consistently. Your pre-shot routine can consist of physical aspects (stretching, lining up your shot, etc.) and mental aspects (breathing, saying an affirmation, envisioning your shot, etc.) but no matter what you do, try to keep the routine the same each time. You can adjust slightly, for example, you have different imagery depending on the shot you’re about to take, and your affirmations might change, but the pre-shot routine becomes more effective when used consistently.
Professional golfers use these same ideas to further improve their play, but you don’t need to be a pro to use these strategies to improve your golf game. No matter if you try one or all of these ideas, keep in mind that you need to use the idea consistently to see results. Spending one day on the course breathing before each shot may help, but it also might not. In order to see the best results, consider how you can practice each of these ideas.
For example, add the breath or pre-shot routine before each shot at the range before you head to the course or create a playlist and listen to it in the car on days you’re not going to play to make sure that it puts you in the mood you want to be in.
Like all aspects of golf, these training strategies need to be focused on in order to experience the best results, but with these 5 unexpected strategies, you now have more tools in your bag to help you improve.
Sara is a Mental Skills Coach specializing in work with athletes. She received her M.A. in Sports Psychology from John F. Kennedy University and did her undergraduate work at New York University. Sara also helps support busy working moms to develop their mental skills and create more balance at getmombalanced.com.