Many golfers have an incredible ability to analyse situations, but many use their analytic skills for evil rather than good. I see this phenomenon over and over again with golfers who come to see me. When they have performed below their potential and shot a high score they can tell me in excruciating detail, shot by shot, hole by hole, everything that happened and everything they did wrong. However, when they shoot a great score, feel good about their round and have a great day on course, the conversation is very different and contains a lot less detail with seemingly little recollection of why things went well and how they got to the great outcome.
Our brains are clever and complex but incredibly lazy and like to create patterns of thoughts and behaviour that become like programmed reactions to increase efficiency. One of the principles of programmed patterns of thought is that you find what you look for. If you are used to finding errors in your game, you will always find something wrong, even if you hit the most beautiful shot, and consequently can develop a bias to make sure that information holds more weight than any other information. While it is helpful to understand what needs improvement and to be able to analyse your mistakes, a more balanced approach will lead to better results.
Here’s how to develop a great mindset.
What is it in your golf game that you do well? Can you read the green well, do you have a beautiful swing, is your ball striking great or is it your putting, chipping or long game what you do well? These do not have to be chosen in comparison to others but rather are they a strength compared to the rest of your game. It can be useful to incorporate a positive about your shot as part of your post-shot routine.
Recognise great shots and savour them. Aim for a perfect shot not a perfect round. Adam Scott once said, “You can hit a perfect shot. And that’s the one that brings you back every time. You know, even if it’s just one shot in a round. You’ve had a horrible day playing and on the 17th you hit that perfect 6 iron and that’s the one that you’ll remember and that’s the one you’ve got to appreciate. You have to…Perfect shots are certainly more satisfying than they were in the past. They were almost expected (in the past). But you (learn) a bit more perspective about what perfect is.” In this quote, Scott redefines the search for perfection as the search for the perfect shot instead of the perfect round. Aiming for a perfect round creates an expectation that anything less than perfection is a failure, leading to fear of failure and setting yourself up to fail. If you think you should be perfect, you increase the pressure on yourself, increasing tension and the likelihood of mishitting the ball. “Should” is another word to get rid of. It can do a lot of damage by reinforcing unrealistic expectations.
Recognising what makes you great, adding positive feedback (after EVERY shot!) and looking for perfect shots instead of the perfect round are important steps on the pathway to greatness. The goal is not to forget about what you need to improve but to multiply the information you receive and build on what you do well as well as fixing what you are not doing well.
NB This article featured in Ladies GOLF Magazine Summer/Autumn Issue 22