Slowly dropping my handicap index came with many challenges, both mental and physical. The physical challenges were overcome (for the most part) through training, practice and more practice. I do not consider myself and elite golfer even with a low index, but I think I have some game. Most of my successes can be attributed to physically changing my swing, grip, stance, and tempo. As I stated in previous articles, many of these physical skills are intertwined and one cannot be changed without affecting the others. The mental side of my improvement was not as simple or as easily defined. I often wonder if my mental breakdowns were avoidable or was it part of the journey to a lower handicap index.
The mental side of golf is by far the most challenging. I have many aches and pains as I waded through the quagmire of the mental side of golf. The bruises are still evident and every once in awhile they become reinjured. I have experienced my fair share of mental break downs and after some careful consideration, I realize that many of them occurred in specific area. It is simple to avoid now that I have identified my challenge, but getting to this point was a journey.
My mental weakness always pokes its head through during my pre-shot routine. The time when I need to focus the most and I seem to fail the most. Standing behind my ball and preparing to start my pre-shot routine my mind wanders. Sometimes it I am distracted by the the conditions, my ball position or my expectations. Yes, you read the last distraction proper. My expectations cause mental mistakes as much as anything else.
Imagine hitting your ball down the middle of the fairway leaving 120 yards to the middle of the green. The pin is in a favourable position and this PW would be routine. Because of the simplicity of the shot, I forget to focus on my routine that works. My expectations are through the roof and because of that I relax too much. I fade into a mental area that has no value to my game. I just kind of exist in a netherworld where it is difficult to put two coherent golf shots together. I am mentally defeat before I stand over the ball.
Mental breakdowns are inevitable in golf. They can happen for many reasons. In my case, expectations cause more mental errors than anything else. Are they avoidable? Absolutely they are because when I am playing in a tournament I seem to focus much better than during a friendly. The difference (successes) between the competition and friendly rounds points to fact that my mental breakdowns can be avoidable. Of course I am over simplifying things, but I am trying to cut straight to the chase.
Do you have mental breakdowns when playing golf? If so, do you know your biggest challenge?
I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!