Golf is as much a mental game as a physical one. If you have played even one round, you will immediately understand that how we mentally approach and prepare each shot is as (some would say more) important important as hitting the golf ball. After many of my early years of focusing on my physical game, I took a different fork in my golf journey and this change shaped the player I am today. It was unexpected, yet I was not surprised. Opening my golf mind to different possibilities was definitely a turning point in my game.
When I first started playing golf, I was ultra competitive with no control on how I approached each shot. It seemed as if swinging my club as hard as I could was the only smart way to lower my golf scores. After years of following that path, I matured as a athlete and realized that I needed to take a less travelled path on my golf journey. Immediately I noticed lower golf scores and a great feeling of satisfaction after each round. I decided I like that feeling and focused my skill development in that direction.
Opening my golf mind to positive change provided a plethora of topics I had only brushed on previously. I became what a student of the game. In those days there was no internet, so books and talking to better players were my only resources. I could not afford lessons, but understood the importance of talking to better players. Many were middle aged men who carried a single digit handicap. The one player I remember talking to that changed my mental approach was Reg Hennan. He was my dad’s friend and the best golfer I knew. When I asked him about golf, I was surprised that he turned the conversation to the mental side of playing. Specifically, the positive and negative side of thinking. I will admit, that at the time I was a bit skeptical, but about 10 years later after doing it my way, our conversation popped into my head and I was immediately dumb struck.
Mr. Hennan told me that approaching golf with a positive attitude releases our mind to see many more possibilities with each shot. He said that avoiding negative thinking allows our mind to think clearer and with greater focus. At the time he told about his approach to solid gold, I did not appreciate it. I sure do now and try to guide my entire game in realm of being positive. Of course, as all golfers do, I sometimes venture into the world of negative thoughts, but I quickly identify my error and shift my thinking. It does make a world of difference to my all aspects of my game. Here is an interesting drill I found on this exact same subject:
To further the discussion, there is a different between being negative and critical. Critical is analyzing your shot and identifying areas of improvement. We base our mental discussion on facts and results. Being negative is thinking about all the aspects that could go wrong with a shot even before we make it. Blaming conditions, the wind, background noise, etcetera for poor results is negative thinking in my view. This might seem like I am splitting hairs, but to me there is a Grand Canyon of difference between the two.
If you often wonder if you have a negative view towards your golf shots, try the drill above. It will provide empirical evidence as to which mental state you approach your game. Regardless of where your are mentally, it might be time to open your golf mind to new possibilities and see what new heights your game can achieve.
I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!
8 thoughts on “Opening Your Golf Mind”
Jim, I forgot in my last post to add that the Golf Historical Society of Canada has updated our website (ghsc.ca). I think you and some of your regular followers might enjoy some of the new content focusing on enjoyment and appreciation of the game.
There is a link to your website on the Osprey Links event this past August. Take a look.
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Sounds good. I will. Thanks.
I agree with Kevin on the importance of the mental side of the game and it really boils down to having a positive attitude. When playing the game of golf, accepting and embracing both the good and bad shots as part of a journey is necessary to enjoying your game.
It is alright to be disappointed in a shot. You just have to let it go, forget about it and concentrate on the shot before you. Too many golfers let a bad shot influence the next one. I believe being obsessed with your score during the round leads to that rabbit hole. How does the score on the last hole impact the next one, it doesn’t so let it go.
What makes golf the magnificent obsession is how it challenges you. I actually get more satisfaction when I grind out a round when I haven’t had my best ball striking. Being on a role is nice, getting back on a role after a bad hole, even nicer.
Embrace the challenges.
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I agree that a solid grinding round is good for the soul. However, a great, easy scoring round is always fun. 😉
The mental side of the game is what controls results. A bad start or a series of bad swings doesn’t have to mean we are doomed to a terrible round but it will if we allow it too.
There is a time and a place to consider the bad things that could happen. It’s before we step to the ball. Many a pro have mentioned the imaginary line they cross when they step into the ball. The time for doubt is over. Step over the line and it’s all about commitment to the decision we made on the other side of the line.
One ball at a time is what it boils down to as usual. Each ball is an opportunity. Once we’ve considered the hazards, our weaknesses and strengths including so far in the round, we decide on a shot. And then we have to commit to it and expect good result before we hit it.
An update on my game since the lesson. This time the lesson has not killed my game and won’t. I was actually given advice I didn’t expect. And I guess that shouldn’t surprise me, I always seem I go the wrong way first if given the chance and I wouldn’t have tried this I don’t think. What he suggested included a couple of things. First, go back to my old strong grip with the driver. Move the ball back in my stance all the way to center and picture bottoming out after the ball. Even though I know that goes against all known wisdom for a driver swing, it’s really about changing path and trajectories. It’s also a thought to add to my head to change my path again. I will say the thought worked ok out on the range I was hitting low draws in a left to right breeze that might not have carried quite as far but rolled out quite a bit farther than my current driver flight. 20 yards easy.
I’ll need more time at the range to work it in, but I like where it looks to lead. The other thing I didn’t expect to hear was keep the old driver and drop the new one. I was really shocked over that one. No talk of a fitting. Nothing but lose the new one and keep the old one.
Using what I learned on the course the past couple of days has been a bit mixed of course. It feels weird still. But as a work in progress I’d call it so far so good. I did hit flag high left today to a green I’ve been coming up 10-15 yards short on for months. A very good sign. And I won the skins match by 3 to the closest competitor today so it’s not killed the rest of my game and I’m in the money. Let’s see, that’s about a 1.50 an hour. Might just pay for the lesson in 20 or 30 more matches. 😂
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You are right that the mental side of the game is what really drives our score. Especially for players with an established game. I know it is stroke saver for me.
As far as your lesson, I am surprised as well. As the old saying goes, if it is not broke, why fix it. Obviously, you are not ready for a new driver and if you are, I would look at on with same specs as your old one. Congrats on winning your skins game. $1.50 – enough for a soda. 🙂
Though it’s tough to admit it, I think maybe one of the reasons he told me that is practicality. I’m not getting any younger. Most new drivers are adjustable and that makes them heavier. And it’s much easier to swing a lighter head fast than a heavy one. Plus my old club is custom. There is a 3/4 extension added under the grip which affects swing weight too. Sort of acts like a very tiny counter balance and of course a longer shaft will go faster as well. So it’s hard for me to make the same speed with an off the shelf club as I can get out of the old driver. And that’s only going to be more pronounced as time goes by.
Maybe my best option is just pick up another shaft for the old driver. Something that’s still light but a bit stiffer to help solve the trajectory issue with the standard swing and keep working on the low draw for when it’s needed on into the wind shots. That’s all I want. The best of both worlds. lol
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You are definitely a golfer by wanting the best of ‘all’ worlds. I often think that way as well. I try not to settle when picking out clubs, I do not think we have too. However, once I do make a selection, I rarely change my mind.