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Mental Training for Golfers:

Mental Training for Golfers
By Joan King, Performance Specialist

Peak performance happens when everything comes together at the right moment. In golf, it is called being "in the zone" state. In everyday life, it is called being "in the flow." In this state, a golfer experiences a heightened sense of awareness where she has total control of all aspects of her game. Golfers experience a sense of well-being which includes total calm, ease and effortlessness in swinging with an enhanced sense of confidence, intuition and concentration. There is oftentimes an increase in power.

Playing to her potential is every golfer's dream and involves much more than just swinging the golf club. The inner or mental game of what and how you think and feel is equally as important. When you are in a good state you make good decisions and have good results. To play the game to your potential means controlling your thoughts, emotions, memories, personality and reactions. Here are 8 mental techniques for training your brain to access the "zone state".

1. Have a Positive Attitude
Golf is a game of misses. All misses in golf are mental errors. Your brain tells your body what to do. If you don't give the right messages, you don't get the results you want. Golf is not a game of perfection. Golf is a game of recovering from your mistakes. The player who plays the best is the one who has the best misses. Champions can't control what is happening, but they can control how they react to what is happening to them. Have realistic expectations. Your golf game does not reflect on who you are as a person, but your reaction to your golf shots does. Remember that you play the game for fun. Perfectionism only increases stress and tension.

2. Trust Your Ability
Once you have learned to swing the golf club, you don't lose your swing. It is recorded in your brain. Once a motor skill is learned it is never forgotten and after a year without practice the performance level returns to 80% after 10 days of retraining. Don't fall into the trap of constantly thinking there is something wrong with your golf swing. Thinking will make it so! Believe in your ability no matter what the results are. Trust that you can improve.

3. Use Positive Self-Talk
When you tell yourself, "Don't hit the ball in the water", your subconscious mind produces an image of the ball going into the water. Unless you change the image, (hitting to the target), your body will respond accordingly. It wasn't your swing that was faulty, it was your failure to run your brain correctly.

We all have negative thoughts that we replay in our heads. These are voices of fear from your past experiences, or anxious thoughts of the results that you think might happen. To stay in the NOW, put all self-talk in positive present tense active verbs. Instead of saying I CAN make this putt, say I AM making it.

4. Let Go of Mental Interference
Your body knows without conscious thought how to hit the golf ball. Being in the zone is the absence of mental interference. On the golf course, stop giving yourself instruction and judging your performance. It is impossible to build on a negative! Let go of all thoughts and feelings stemming from doubt and fear of failure. Use your energy to program what you want, not what you don't want. See the good in every shot. If it wasn't the result you wanted, learn from your mistake.

5. Relax your Body and Mind
It is physically impossible to be relaxed and anxious at the same time. When you are playing you must be in a relaxed state to play well. The way you relax your body in golf is by controlled deep breathing. Changing your breathing can change your thoughts and emotions. Taking a deep breath through your abdomen before every shot will relax your mind and your muscles. Your swing will be smoother and easier.

6. Focus on the Task at Hand
You have a very active mind. In the span of 2 to 3 seconds you will unconsciously process as many as a hundred bits of patterned sensory information (sights, sounds and feelings) to control your behavior. Be decisive! Once you make up your mind, don't change it. Don't hit any shot until you have completely prepared your mind. To stay in the process of creating your shot, use the same preshot routine every time. Your brain will then know automatically what you want and give you consistent results.

7. Anchor your Good Shots
Compliment yourself after hitting a good shot. Smile inside and congratulate yourself and anchor that good feeling. You created the good feeling. This is what success feels like. This is what you are waiting for. Anchoring your good shots with good feelings will train your brain to bring up the memory easily, especially under pressure.

8. Mental Rehearsal
Practice makes perfect, but only perfect practice makes perfect. The only place you can practice perfectly is inside your head. At night or in the morning while you are half-awake is the best time to practice your golf game. Rehearse what you want to happen. Program your mind. Scientists have found that your mind is actually programming your muscles as you visualize yourself hitting the perfect shot. The mental process to practice is:

  • See yourself practicing hitting every shot perfectly.
  • Feel prepared.
  • Visualize yourself playing; calm, relaxed, and confident.
  • Experience the good feeling when you have played well.
Joan King of Jupiter, Florida is the founder and president of POSITIVE MENTAL IMAGERY, a mental sports consulting service dedicated to helping golfers achieve their peak performances. Since 1992 she has given workshops and individual consultations to amateur and professional golfers and has produced several self-hypnosis audio tapes and CDs for golf. King can be reached at (561) 747-7276 or by e-mail (pmi4@att.net). For additional information and a FREE monthly mental golf newsletter, visit the PMI Web site at (www.pmi4.com).

March/April 2003


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