Positive Mental Imagery
 
 

Use A Consistent Routine for Consistent Golf:

Use A Consistent Routine for Consistent Golf
Joan A. King, C.Ht., P.NLP

Golf is 90% mental. At the professional level, golf is closer to 100% mental. You have heard these statements said over and over. What exactly does that mean?

In any sport you must train your mind as well as your body. All movement in the body occurs as the result of a thought in your mind first. Then you translate this thought using your senses, (seeing, hearing, and feeling) by picturing it in your mind or imagining how it would feel. Then you practice physically.

The best way to learn a skill is to practice at first without looking for a result. The best way to learn the golf swing or a swing change is to practice the movement by itself, without hitting balls. Too often, golfers take a lesson, and expecting a miracle, go right out on the golf course to play. As soon as there is a miss-hit, the golfer begins to "fix" his swing.

Every golf swing is the result of the information you put into your mind. When a golf swing results in a missed shot, it is the preparation that needs to be corrected, not the swing itself.

Once the swing motion has been learned, the golfer must learn to trust that he knows how to swing the club. Trusting in this knowledge will allow the golfer to move to the next level. If you are always looking for the "perfect swing" or the "secret" to the golf swing while you are on the golf course, you will always be rehearsing and won’t get into the game. If people in show business didn’t trust their ability to perform, there wouldn’t be any opening nights. Every time you play golf, rehearsal is over and it is time to play on "the golf course stage".

Golfers always ask why they can’t take their golf swings from the practice range to the golf course. They hit the ball so well when they are practicing on the range, and then play terribly on the golf course.

For your swing to be the same, your routine prior to swinging must be the same. Preparation is the only part of the swing over which you have 100% control.

In every sport it is necessary to prepare your mind as well as your body for consistent performance.

When you are standing behind the ball, looking down the fairway, that is the time to take a few extra seconds to prepare your mind for the results you want. Most golfers seem to take a cursory look down the fairway, line up with the ball, and then appear frozen over the ball trying to remember what they want to do. Instead of taking this time over the ball struggling with your thoughts, take those few seconds behind the ball to prepare your mind first.

When you watch an engrossing movie or a play, your attention is focused on the drama. In the same way, planning for your next golf shot can be just as engrossing. Consistency is accomplished by focusing on the strategy that will get you ready. The shot will hold your attention if you lead up to it with a consistent pre-shot routine. When you are this focused, you are not distracted by outside noises and your mind is too busy to listen to negative thoughts. As you approach the end of the routine you will have built up a rapt desire of wanting to swing the golf club toward your target.

A mental and physical routine is used in every sport to prepare the athlete for his performance. It keeps the athlete engrossed in the moment and his thoughts away from the pressure of the results. It is a signal to the unconscious mind to get ready to perform.

When you watch gymnasts, ice skaters or divers perform intricate maneuvers of their bodies in mid air, you know that they do not have time to think about what they are doing. What they do have is a strategy to activate those maneuvers.

Athletes train their minds to do the same thing in sequence over and over until it becomes a habit. They then activate the sequence by a trigger thought to start the process.

Basketball players bounce the ball on the foul line. Baseball pitchers go through the same "touching" ritual every time they throw a pitch – first the cap, then the shirt, and finally a shrug of the shoulders.

These "routines" are the maps that give direction to your brain about where you want to go.

When you "lose your swing" on the golf course, you need to go back to the routine because you have deviated from your map and are going in a different direction and getting a different result. Some of these deviations are fear thoughts of avoiding hazards, fear of embarrassment, fear of failure, frustration at slow play, annoyances with other players, weather conditions and anxiety about your performance or your score. Your focus is then on yourself and not on the directions to get you to your destination.

I like to think of the pre-shot routine as a dance that moves you from behind the ball to the place over the ball where you are eager to swing. When you are concentrating well you are not thinking…. You are totally absorbed in the routine process.

The first step in your dance is done with the conscious mind while you are standing behind the ball looking at your target. Your conscious mind can think, judge, analyze and solve the problem of what club to use. Once you have decided on the club, it is mandatory that you believe that it is the perfect club for the distance and shot you want to hit. Indecision is the enemy of golfers.

From behind the ball, looking at your target you make a mental picture of the shot, or recall a shot from your past performance. (SEE IT!)

Then, feel the swing either by taking a practice swing or sense how it would feel in your mind. (FEEL IT!)

Make these images clear and vivid in every detail as you experience the ball flying to your target. The clearer the image the more powerful directions you send to your brain.

Once you have decisively prepared your mind, you take the second dance step and prepare your physical body. Next to mental preparation, alignment is the next most important step. You can have the most perfect swing in the world, but if you aren’t properly aligned to your target you will get poor results.

This step includes your golf fundamentals; grip, stance, posture and body alignment. Perfect alignment is attained by selecting an intermediate target in front of your ball to line up the grooves on your club perpendicular to your target line. Then…..

IN ORDER TO GAIN CONTROL… YOU HAVE TO LET GO OF CONTROL …

The third step of the pre-shot routine involves switching into the automatic habit function of your brain.

It is now time to switch off your analytical, logical, thinking part of your brain, and trust that your unconscious has received the map and directions and is ready to drive you to your destination. (TRUST IT!)

Relaxation and the release of tension are the keys to switch off your thinking brain. Now is the time to take a good deep breath to relax and loosen your muscles. As you get comfortable over the ball by waggling your body or club, you focus in on your target and put the target picture in your "mind’s eye".

Just before you swing you can activate your swing key which will "fire" the swing you desire. Your swing key is a word or feeling that you have associated with a particular swing when you practiced. For instance, you might use the word "bounce" for a sand bunker shot. Every time you practice in the bunker and hit a good shot you say bounce to yourself after you feel the flange of the club bouncing off the sand. In your pre-shot routine then, you say the word "bounce" and the image of the bunker swing is activated from your unconscious mind.

As you come to the end of the dance (routine), you are then totally engrossed in the process of the routine, which has built you up to a feeling of really wanting to swing the golf club. (ENJOY IT!)

Once you make up your mind about club selection, the dance moves forward in its own rhythm from conscious thinking to unconscious programming. Then, you are on automatic pilot.

Each step leads to the next step. Your mind, body and spirit move in harmony toward the culmination of a smooth, easy, effortless golf swing.

The routine has its own rhythm, each part being completed with your full attention before moving on to the next step.

Under USGA rules, 45 seconds are allowed a golfer get the ball into the air when it is his/her turn.

If you follow this procedure, you will be more decisive, focused and take less time to prepare because you will know exactly how to prepare your mind and body.

SEE IT! FEEL IT! TRUST IT! ENJOY IT!

The Club Golfer, April/May '98
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