Handling Slow Play 2

My earlier article spoke about staying focused as part of dealing with slow play. That is key. However, you can over do it. Let’s not go over each aspect of your preparation over and over like you are beating a dead horse. There can be too much preparing too!

The key is to stay “centered” or “grounded” during the delay in your round. So what is centered or grounded? What does that mean? What does that look like. I am sure you have heard words like that over the years. I sound like some new age hippie.

However, what I am really referring to is a real physiological state. It’s the state that exists when your sympathetic nervous system is not in “overdrive”. The sympathetic nervous system is the part of the autonomic nervous system that is responsible for activating the fight or flight response.

The fight or flight response is characterized by the following physical and emotional responses:

  • Tightening of muscles
  • Increased heart rate
  • Shallow breathing
  • Moving blood away from the center of the body to the limbs.
  • Increased anxiety or fear
  • Negative emotions (doom, giving up, sense of failure, low self esteem
  • Focusing on fleeing or fighting.

Th sympathetic nervous system is mediated my the para-sympathetic nervous system.  If you can activate it, the sympathetic system will calm down.  Ideally, you want to be centered or grounded, meaning that you are experiencing the following:

  • Muscles are ready but not tight
  • Slow calm breathing
  • Blood evenly flowing through your body
  • Slightly nervous or anxious
  • Focused and positive outcomes
  • Positive emotions (optimism, confident, focused on present or future)

It is important to stay in the grounded state of mind.  Yet, what can you do if you get “triggered” and end up in a flight or fight mode?

First, and this is so important, take at least deep breaths all the way down into your belly.  This is scientifically proven to activate the para-sympathetic nervous system and reduce the fight or flight response.    Next, focus your thoughts on positive outcomes and let go of any negative thoughts.  Finally, look around and appreciate your surroundings.

If you follow these simple steps, you will find you stay calmer, enjoy the game more, and score better.

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The Mental Aspects of the Pre-Game Warmup

You may have noticed that my last several posts have been about the mental aspects of the physical aspects of the game of golf. I’m going to continue in that vein with this post as well.

Warming up before a round is very important psychologically. It sets the stage for the round. Personally, I’ve never had a good pre-round warm up routine. I seemed to be always rushing to get to the tee. This is patently the wrong way to start a round and my game certainly showed it! A pre-game warm up should be a mandatory part of your routine if you want to play your best during the round.

This warm up should combine both physical and mental aspects. Doing a warm up like this will certainly get your game off to its best start. The physical aspects of the pre-game warm up should contain some of the following items.

  • Stretch your muscles. It would be very beneficial to stretch your muscles before your round so that they are loose and flexible. This will not only help your game, it could also prevent an injury.
  • Be well rested. This is especially important before a tournament because they are so much more stressful. A good night sleep before your round will help you be at your best and your body and score will thank your for it.
  • Do some deep breathing. I suggest 3 to 5 deep “belly” breaths to calm and center yourself. There is real physiological evidence that doing this will activate your parasympathetic nervous system which mediates the fight or flight response of the sympathetic nervous system.
  • Hit some balls using the clubs you will need on the first couple of holes. This will help you get used to swinging the clubs you’ll use soonest. It will also help you mentally because by hitting those shots you will feel comfortable when you get to them on the holes.

As well as doing a physical warm up, you should also do a mental warm up along with it. I suggest doing the following exercises during your physical warm up.

  • As you stretch, start thinking about the good shots you have made in the past. Really get your positive emotions flowing. You might want to focus on shots you have made in the past with the clubs you will be using early in the round. Certainly re-visualize a drive, a chip, and a putt.
  • As you hit some balls with those clubs start visualizing the shots you are going to make and use your pre-shot routine as if you were playing.
  • Make a game out of hitting your shots with the clubs. Can you get closest to a yardage marker or count the number of putts till you make it into the hole. Never pick up a putt before completing it into a hole. You want to have the image of the ball going into the hole firmly in your mind.
  • Only stop your warm up with a club on a series of good shots. End putting by sinking 3 putts in a row. end hitting your other clubs on at least one good shot.
  • Put some pressure on yourself. As you do the physical activities, make pretend they are actual game shots or putts.
  • Rehearse in your mind the shots on the first hole. Visualize them, see yourself completing them successfully.

If you do the activities above as part of your physical and mental warm up, I promise that you will have a much better start to your round and end up with lower scores.

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The Importance of a Pre-Shot Routine

When you’ve been playing golf as long as I have been, you start to have a routine that you do before every shot. It’s like it’s a superstitious ritual. But, the pre-shot routine is much more than a superstition. It sets things in motion so that your body knows its about ready to swing the club or make that putt. It also calms you down and centers your thoughts and actions. It also provides focus to your next actions. Everyone should have a pre-shot routine.

My pre-shot routine begins when I step up onto the tee. As I walk up to the tee, I am looking down the fairway at the green. I walk from the back of the tee. I stop briefly and visualize the path I want the ball to take after I hit it. Then I walk up to the tee and decide where to put the tee into the ground depending upon which side of the fairway has the most danger. I step back from the ball and line myself up to make a practice swing. I still imagine the ball flying the path I want as I make the swing. I make one practice swing. If I feel tight, I make another. I then step up to the ball and place my feel together at the spot that feels like the right distance from the ball. I then move my right foot into the position I want in relation to the ball. Then I move my left foot into position. I check my shoulders to make sure they are pointing to my target. I address the ball by placing the club behind it. I “waggle” my club by pulling it back slightly twice, turn my head to the target and visualize the path of the ball. Bring my head back to focus on the part of the ball depending upon the type of shot. And SWING! Once my club is at the end of the swing path I should be turned towards the path the ball has taken and I follow the flight of the ball down the fairway towards the green.

This routine from starting at the back of the tee to actually swinging the club takes no more than about a minute. Yet it provides so much advantage. It truly focuses my actions and tells my body that we are going to swing the club shortly. It allows me to visualize the shot and let my unconscious take over. It keeps me from thinking those self defeating thoughts because I am so focused on the task at hand.

Here are some tips about completing your own pre-shot routine.

  • Put steps in your routine to visualize your shot. This gives your unconscious mind a target.
  • Make your routine very tight and focused.
  • Repeat the routine the same way every time. This will cause your body to be in sync with your goal.
  • Determine the useful components and remove anything else.
  • Spend a lot of time practicing it so that it becomes completely automatic.

Creating a consistent, focused pre-shot routine will focus your game, allow your unconscious mind to take over, and prepare your body to make the swing. Let’s practice this together. Let me know how I can help you. If you like what I’m saying, go ahead and sign up to receive my blogs via email. the sign up box is at the top right of the page. That way you will be the first in your foursome to have the mental tricks I’m teaching! Thanks for following along!

Making Practice More Effective

I don’t know about you, but when I started practicing my golf game at the range, I didn’t have a method or structure to my practice. Instead, I just would hit ball after ball working my way through the clubs. If I was practicing on the putting green I would just putt some balls moving from hole to hole. There was not much method to my madness!

We all have to practice our swings and putting strokes. Its important to “groove” our golf swing and putting stroke so that it is completely unconscious. We want to be able to forget about the swing during our play so that we can concentrate on the shot or putt we are trying to make. If our swing is “grooved” through practice, we will not have to think about it.

This is a “key” point to remember. The reasons we practice our swing and putting stroke is to learn to swing correctly and then repeat the process so many times that it becomes “automatic” or unconscious for . When the swing is “grooved”, then we can focus on the mental processes of the game. With this purpose in mind, we need to make our practice sessions effective and fun so that we keep up our practice routine. If we can enjoy it more and focus our practice sessions to be better, then the odds are we will practice more often.

Try these four tips to make your practice sessions more fun and effective.
1. Make your practice sessions more convenient. Can you practice near your home or office? Are there optimal times for you to practice? Try to figure out an easy way to make practicing an everyday part of your routine.

2. Create games out of your practice drills. Compete with a friend, make the drill a game, keep score with with each other, If you are practicing alone, set up the drill so that you are competing against yourself.

3. Keep records of your progress on each of the drills. Maybe you set up a scorecard for yourself or keep track of improvements in a spreadsheet. You want to see your improvement over time. Things that are measured are what is focused upon. This is a psychological truth that can be used in sports as well as business.

4. This is probably the most important psychological aspect of any practice routine. Quit any practice drill or routine while you are still enjoying it. You want to have positive feelings about each practice drill that you use. This will insure that you continue them in the future.

The four tips above, create games, keep records, and quit while your are ahead will make your practice more effective and fun. Keep reading this blog for more tips and ideas about the mental game of golf.

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Why Mental Practice at All?

We all spend lots of time out on the practice tee or at the driving range. We spend hours hitting ball after ball trying to “groove” our swings so that we can hit our shots further and more accurately. We also spend time on and around the practice green making sure our short game and putting are up to par. We want to improve our scores so we spend a large proportion of our time “practicing”. There is no doubt this practice will help us “groove” our swing. It will help us improve our game. But is this all we should be doing?

I want you to seriously ask yourself, “How much time to I spend on my Mental Game?” I’m guessing that it’s no where near the amount of time you spend at the practice range hitting golf balls and on the putting green practicing putts! Our complete focus on the physical aspects of the game just doesn’t make sense to me.

The average golfer who shoots a 90 during a round spends about 4.5 minutes swinging the golf club during that round. It takes about 3 seconds to make a golf swing. 3 times 90 equals 270 seconds or 4.5 minutes. So in a 4 hour round of golf we spend 4.5 minutes swinging the club. The rest of the time we are selecting a club, figuring distances, visualizing shots, performing our pre-shot routine and riding the cart to the next hole. During all that time, 3 hours and 55 minutes, we are thinking about our game. During this time our emotions, feelings and unconscious beliefs can influence our game tremendously. Yet, we spend the bulk of our time when we are practicing on the physical aspects of the game and not the mental aspects of the game!

I think we’ve got it all backwards! Let me invite you to spend some time reading my blog about the mental aspects of the game of golf. Maybe, just maybe, I can get you to change your focus a little. If you think this is a good idea, go ahead and sign up to get my latest blog posts about the mental game of golf in the box on the right. Hopefully, we can work together to improve the mental aspects of your golf game! Let’s have some fun doing this together too!