How to Manage Negative Thoughts on the Golf Course
Ever had one hole on a golf course you play often, that just “gets” to you? You know, it’s the one with the water right in front of the green? Or the super deep sand bunker that sits right of the fairway on that long par 5 you just hate?
One of the most challenging aspects of golf is overcoming negative memories, especially on a specific hole that seems to keep biting us. It can get to a point where simply looking at the hole creates anxiety, making us believe bad shots are inevitable. This situation can paralyze us, engulfing our minds with negativity. During this frustrating time, all we can mentally see is failure.
For example, your “fear hole” is a short par 3 over a hazard, to a small green. There isn’t much bail-out room, so you must be accurate to find the green. In the past, all you’ve seen is the hazard, and the lack of room to miss, making your mind focus on the trouble, rather than the hole. Subsequently, you continue to find the hazard off the tee. You’ve unknowingly trained yourself to concentrate on what you DON’T want to happen, unfortunately resulting in making it happen. Your brain doesn’t hear “don’t.” If you say, “Don’t hit it in the hazard,” you’re actually telling yourself to hit it in the hazard.
The solution is all about routine and self-talk. Up to this point, your self-talk has been about your fears and past outcomes. To undo this type of thinking, it’s critical to learn how to focus on the desired shot, and the confidence that will result from making it happen.
While standing behind your ball, looking at the hole, focus 100% of your attention on what you want to do with your shot — distance, trajectory, and landing area. To make it more advanced, visualize how the ball will react when it hits the green. Your goal is to immerse yourself in the positive outcome of the shot, leaving no more room for doubt, fear, and “what-if.” During this pre-shot visual, add a powerful word or phrase.
I’ve Got This!
I love this opportunity!
These words will add confident emotion to your shot, again, taking away the fear that was associated. It’s very difficult to feel scared while you’re visualizing the perfect shot, and telling yourself to attack! At address, the last thing you tell yourself before pulling the trigger is this new word or phrase.
Take back control of your thoughts and visuals. What you choose to think and see will dictate your result. Choose wisely!