When you’ve played golf for a while, you get into a groove with your habits, both physically and mentally. However, in addition to the positive habits you develop, you can also create negative ones like believing that we only do well in certain situations, with specific clubs.
It’s normal to have habits in the way that you think. As a golfer, some of these thought habits likely come from how you approach challenging situations in your daily life. One thing that many of us do, without realizing it, is that we create self-fulfilling prophecies. Essentially, we cause something to happen because we believe it will; we set ourselves up for it to become true.
For example, if you wake up and think it will be a bad day, you probably create that: you’re in a bad mood, so you might be more sensitive about how others are driving, which increases your frustration; you’re then moving too quickly and you spill your coffee . . . all of this confirms your assumption that it will be a bad day and the cycle continues. By recognizing the negative thinking that can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy, we can shift those thoughts to something helpful and ultimately make friends with all our clubs.
When you have thoughts as a golfer such as, “I’m not good with my putter,” or “I can’t hit well with my 9-iron,” you’re essentially creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Though it might be true those aren’t your strongest shots, you’re increasing the changes that they stay your weakest. You can work on changing your negative thinking to have “friendlier feelings” about your clubs.
As a Mental Skills Coach, I regularly remind golfers to shift away from negative thinking by focusing on something that is helpful for the situation, such as the mechanics you need to do well in that moment, or to think about times you’ve done well with that club. They certainly all can’t be bad!
In addition to monitoring the way you think about your skills with certain clubs and shifting to more positive thinking, you can also use imagery to help you get more comfortable with the parts of your game you find challenging. For example, take an extra 10 minutes whenever you’re on the course to imagine successful puts or great shots with your 9-iron. If it’s more than negative thinking getting in the way, and you need more skill with certain parts of your game, this might be a good time to work with a pro. Getting more practice and support for areas of your game where you’re less confident can also change the way you think about your skills and the clubs you play with.
It’s normal to have strengths and areas you’re looking to improve in your game but if you start a pattern of thinking negatively about a certain club and your ability to use it well, you’ll create a cycle that’s hard to get out of. But, that habit can be broken with the ideas discussed above. Remember that research says it takes at least 21 days to create a new habit, so have patience as you learn to become better friends with your clubs.