Every week golfers contact me to complain about how well they can hit the ball on the range in practice, but how lackluster their results are in competition. I know what is coming when a golfer says, “my swing feels great on the practice tee, but….” In fact, this is why many golfers contact me to help improve the game: “I hit the ball great on the range before I play, but I perform as well on the course. Why can’t I take my practice swing to the course and play like I know I can?”
It does not matter if you are a pro golfer or a high handicap player, one of the biggest challenges golfers face is taking their so-called practice game to the golf course and performing as well on the course. Many players that come to me can hit the ball great on the range and putt well on the practice green, but when they step on the course, they become a different person. These players cannot play with confidence nor can they play to the level they are capable of playing given their present physical skills.
What is mysteriously changing the moment you walk off the range or practice green and step onto the course? Nothing, but your attitude or mindset. From my perspective, it is your mindset that changes, not physical skills or ability. You still have to hit the ball to a target and putt the ball in the cup. Why is it that you walk off the practice tee, step up onto the first tee, and not stripe it on the course as you did on the range a few minutes ago? Usually it is your perception of the importance of the round.
As you tee it up on the first hole, hitting your ball to a target is no longer as simple a task as it was on the range (at least that is what you think). Now that you are on the course, you think–“it counts”! You only have one ball, one chance at hitting the ball to the target. Then the pressure mounts (but only because you put the pressure on yourself to perform) and you focus more on the result and trying not to screw up.
If this scenario sounds too familiar, you first need to understand how you are blocking your talents from shining on the golf course. Does your mindset change when you get on the course to a mindset of avoidance golf or defensive golf? That’s right, defensive golf! From my experience, I see players get into mental quicksand on the golf course in ways they are not aware of including the mindset to avoid errors. Therefore, the first step to improving your performance is to understand how you block your ability on the course.
Let’s examine the common ways you might block your performance on the course.
The first sign that gets in the way is you try too hard to play well. Most highly motivated players, sometimes perfectionists, have trouble playing well on the course because they try too hard to play well. You cannot play your best golf when you try to too hard to hit a perfect shot, make every putt, or hit every drive long and straight. You might be thinking to yourself “Aren’t I supposed to try hard?” Trying hard does not help you play better golf. The harder you try in golf, the more you tense up and control your swing.
Many of my students cannot take their practice game to the course because of fear and anxiety. When they step on the course, it’s serious business; pressure. For these players, golf is an arena to prove their abilities and to gain respect from others. Golf turns into an ego-protection, life or death game. Fear of failure and anxiety causes many golfers to play avoidance golf and this will kill any chance of a smooth swing. Fear comes in several different forms: the fear of failing, the fear of looking stupid, the fear of losing, or the fear of embarrassment.
Some of my students are too self-conscious and worry about what others think. Do you feel like others are evaluating you or your game? This is how many golfers become intimidated – they worry too much about how others perceive them. We are taught, very early in our lives, that it’s important to gain respect from others, be liked by others, and have the admiration of our peers. And this belief carries into the sports we play. If you are self-conscious and worry too much about what others think about you and your game, this does not allow you to do the thing that’s important. It’s very difficult to focus on the task of hitting good shots when you’re preoccupied with what others think about you and how you play.
Another common mental hurdle for many of my students is focusing too much on results rather than the process of execution. If you do this, you become more score conscious or result conscious when you play a round. When you’re on the range, it is easy to focus on hitting solid shots and the process of hitting good shots. It’s OK if you hit a bad shot; you just scrap over another ball. However, when it counts on the course, you focus too much on results and the consequences of results. You lose the focus you had on the range when you were hitting good shots. Focusing too much on results leads you away from focusing on the present moment and can cause tension.
Thus, your first task to becoming mental sound on the course is to understand how your mindset might change on the course. The next step it to make some changes in your mental game. If you are tired of allowing your mind get in the way of your game, I strongly suggest you get over to my online mental training site and sign up for my performance-boosting mental game strategies. Better yet, send me an email to inquire about my one on one programs to boost confidence and focus faster. Jump-start your performance in 2006 with my proven mental coaching formula for success.
1. Download our free Golf Mental Game Report titled, “Six Costly Errors Golfers Make During Their Preshot Routine”
2. Learn strategies pro golfers use on the course and order The Golfer’s Mental Edge Workbook and CD Program to improve your mental game!