How to play mental golf: Techniques and strategies
While all serious golfers understand the importance of mental golf to their overall game, many golfers do not understand what mental golf is, what the techniques of mental golf are, or how they can be used to improve your golf. There are several ways you can improve your golf using mental golf techniques. You could study mental golf techniques on your own, you could visit a mental sports performance professional such as a sports performance hypnotist, or you could purchase a professional program that utilize these techniques. A sports performance professional typically concentrates on four or five components of the mental game to help their clients. They design programs to help golfers, or any serious athlete, to improve their focus, their concentration, their level of relaxation, and their overall attitude. This is achieved by reprogramming the subconscious mind in a way to allow you to improve your golf more easily. When learned on a subconscious level, these abilities then become automatic and require little conscious thought.
So what are the techniques of mental golf?
The most commonly used mental golf techniques are hypnosis, visualization, NLP, and mental rehearsal.
Hypnosis is often described as the subtle programming of how we perceive the world, our values, and our abilities. This an ongoing process that occurs naturally and starts very early in life. The image we develop of ourselves is usually the result of what we repeatedly see and hear, and our interpretation of these events gets implanted into our subconscious mind.
As a golfer your performance is affected by what you believe you are capable of. Being able to control your mind—your attitude, your confidence, your level of relaxation— has a profound impact how you play. It’s not hard to imagine that if your attitude is cheerful and relaxed and your confidence in your ability is overflowing, the results will be much different than if you are tense, angry, and doubt your ability to make a shot. Using hypnosis you can implant positive suggestions into your subconscious mind to improve the way you approach a round of golf mentally as well as the actual physical mechanics of your game. Most golfers sabotage their game with self doubt or expectations that they will fail. With hypnosis you can program your subconscious so that you simply know you will succeed. Once you accept this belief, you become more confident and less anxious, your attitude is better, and you perform better in every part of your game.
Visualization is the process of using your mind to imagine what you want to be or what you want to have. Visualization taps into the power of your subconscious mind to allow you to produce a desired result. Just as physical exercise trains your muscles to effectively memorize a routine until it becomes almost second nature, visualization is a way of exercising the mind using positive imagery which you can easily recall and utilize when performing difficult tasks. Through visualization techniques you can harness your thoughts in a way that allows you to imagine success so that it becomes the most likely outcome.
For a golfer, it’s not just important to picture yourself executing the shots you desire, it is also important to be able to achieve a mental state of mind which calms your anxiety and enables you to conquer the fears that a golfer often faces at some point during their round. Through the proper use of visualization you can become familiar with, and even comfortable with, confronting these fears—be it the fear of choking, missing a putt, or simply disappointing yourself. What often separates the mental approach of a top professional golfer from his competition is his ability to create an image of how he wants to feel at the end of his round. Visualization allows you to constructively deal with adversity and consequently enjoy an overall outcome that is much more positive.
Mental rehearsal is one of the most widely used mental golf techniques. As the name implies, mental rehearsal is a process in which a golfer imagines a desired shot or series of shots which you then replay, or rehearse, in your mind until they become the most likely outcome. A golfer may replay the process of hitting a powerful drive straight down the middle of the fairway or lining up and sinking a birdie putt. All professional golfers play a shot many more times in their mind than they do on the course.
Mental rehearsal is natural part of of your life—your mind constantly analyzes a number of possible outcomes to every situation. For a golfer, images or expectations of missing an easy putt occur at the same time as images of sinking that putt. By using mental rehearsal, you can train your mind to focus on only the desired result until that is the most likely outcome. This can decrease learning time and improve performance very quickly—much faster than physical practice since it can be done for a few minutes at a time and it is done in the mind rather than on the golf course.
Neuro-Linguistic Programming was derived from the study of how successful people in many different fields achieved their results. The goal of NLP, developed in the late 1970’s by Drs. Richard Bandler and John Grindler, is to determine how these skills may be learned by others to improve both personally and professionally. NLP can be understood from its three components:
- Neuro—how your brain processes information
- Linguistic—how language affects that information
- Programming—how you implement that information
which are used together to enable you to more efficiently manage your mind and accelerate your learning processes.
Using NLP techniques you are able to effectively study the behavior of successful golfers—how they approach the game, how they prepare mentally, how they conduct themselves during a round to maintain their performance—and adapt that which makes them successful to improve your golf. Using NLP you can not only quickly learn from others you are also able to ‘reframe’ your own experiences in a positive way to learn from your own mistakes. Its often said you learn more from your failures than your successes. The ability to do this without dwelling on your failures is key to progressing as a golfer. By not expecting to fail simply because you have done so previously and effectively learning from your mistakes makes you much more likely to improve your golf and succeed in the future.
The choice of whether to develop your mental golf game on your own or with the help of a professional is a personal one. Developing your mental golf game on your own is the most time consuming while consulting a sports performance professional the most expensive. Purchasing a product developed by a sports performance professional often proves to be an effective compromise. Ultimately you should do what works best for you to improve your golf.