Golf, in my opinion, is one of the most challenging mental sports ever played. We spend countless hours on the range practicing all the mechanics, shaping shots, chipping, pitching, putting, and more. Practice is great and a necessity to getting better. However, we forget that one of the most important parts of becoming a great player is the mental side. As an instructor for over 12 years and a player for over 40, I can’t stress enough how important mental preparation is to be successful.
A few weeks back, one of my favorite yoga teachers talked about how yoga is an inside job, one that we don’t take enough time to look at more closely. Like golf, yoga is a physical practice, and we often lose sight of the inner job going on in both; what we think about, how we compare ourselves to others, and the unrealistic expectations we put on ourselves.
Did you know that when you become stressed and anxious, during a round, that the rush of adrenalin can change the timing of your swing? Your heart rate increases, your breathing increases, and your overall physical state changes significantly. Our brain controls everything. If our thoughts are scattered, negative, or anxious, our bodies follow suit. I can think of many times when I first started teaching golf of how nervous I became when I would play with my students. My inner dialogue went something like this: what if I miss a shot? What if I embarrass myself? What if I can’t perform under pressure?
I still go there sometimes. But I have made a conscious choice to change my inner dialogue to something more re-affirming: I am a solid player. I am committed to the shot. Golf is NOT a game of perfection. All this is now part of my pre-shot, mental routine.
Time is a factor for all of us. Making the time to practice and play is essential to becoming a better player. Part of the inside job of golf is the time you spend working on the mental side of the game. Some of the best players on tour create routines to help them stay calm, focused, and present, all which comes from within. If you want to become a better player, be calmer and less stressed, and have more fun on the course, then make part of your practice an inside job!