I recently witnessed someone shoot the best round of their life. As they came down the final few holes, they knew they had a chance to break their personal best, and it was fun to watch them roll in a putt on the 18th to best their record by a couple shots. I always find it very intriguing to examine great performances on the course, and the factors which helped enable them to be achieved. By examining these factors, it can promote positive performances in your own game. As exciting as it is to watch someone else achieve a major feat, it’s also a lot of fun to achieve one yourself. This week’s Top 10 list is dedicated to strategies that golfers of any ability use to increase their chances of posting a personal best score when the opportunity presents itself.
10. Play with golfers better than you - Making it a habit of playing with golfers who are more skilled than yourself is a tremendous way to get better. Sometimes your improvement can even begin to occur subconsciously. Being able to consistently witness positive performance on the course allows you to gain an understanding of what such performance looks like, and pushes you towards it yourself.
9. One shot at a time - In life, worrying about the future often hurts you. As the Good Book states, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”. Nothing good comes from worrying, and golf is in no way exempt from this truth. When you stop focusing on the current moment and begin thinking too far ahead in your round, it is a recipe for disaster. It is important to keep focused on what you can control in the current moment and not allow yourself to get distracted by what is to come. Focus on events in the future when they become the present moment. One strategy some people find helpful to encourage this is to simply record their scores on the scorecard, but not pay any attention to their cumulative score. This prevents against allowing your mind to be bogged down by any unneeded thoughts so that you can carry a quiet, focused mind into each shot.
8. Believe that good things are going to happen - So many players become a different golfer once they begin playing well, and not in a good way. They start performing at a high level, only to see themselves get anxious and begin squandering shots. Every golfer will fall victim to this at some point or another. The anxiety that comes is often fueled by concern over the possibility of “messing things up” - which is exactly what ends up happening. Tom Katz, creator of the Mental Edge Golf training program, teaches the importance of believing that good things are going to happen. Don’t just tell yourself this, truly believe it!
7. Dispel negative thoughts, focus on positive ones - If you want to improve your performance, the renewing of your mind is a necessity. If you think the way you always do, you can expect the results you always get. However, if you can learn to improve the way you think, you can expect improved results. One of the ways to renew your thoughts on the golf course is to ignore each and every negative thought and instead focus on ones which promote positive performance. The individual I witnessed shoot his “career low” found that a specific strategy he gained from the Mental Edge Golf training program helped him in this manner. He pictured a big “Stop” sign every time a negative thought wanted to creep into his mind and instead directed his attention to an opposite, positive thought pertaining to that circumstance. It is important to find a strategy that works for you that promotes constant renewing of your mind by focusing on the positive, and completely ignoring the negatives.
6. Practice your mental game - The best players control their thoughts and this gives them great confidence when faced with the opportunity to accomplish something significant. The individual I witnessed shoot their low round said that they had been working on developing their mental game and that it was exciting for them to begin seeing some progress. They were beginning to develop the ability to control their thoughts, and that they were developing a belief that by controlling their thoughts, they were in control of their game. It was like they were witnessing the self-fulfilling prophecy. They knew that they had a competitive advantage because they were controlling their thoughts which was enabling them to stay in confident control of their game rather than allowing the circumstances of the moment to control them. They knew that their mind was a tool that gave them a major competitive advantage over their competition. This is huge. Often when amateurs begin playing better than they are used to, they allow the significance of the moment to control them. By working on your mental game you can develop greater consistency and begin shooting lower scores.
5. Stay aggressive - If you are in a position to post the round of your life, it means that you are playing well. You therefore have every reason to stay aggressive, and it is important to do so. Don’t fall into the trap of playing not to mess up. Play to play well, and to keep scoring lower and lower. It can sometimes help to have a go to phrase such as “No Fear”, or “Confidence”. Stating this to yourself prior pulling the trigger on each shot can enable you to develop an attitude which is confident, and may possibly promote a quiet belligerence which attacks against anxiety.
4. Be willing to mess up - If you are afraid of making mistakes, you in all likelihood will not score as well as you could have. A great way to counteract fear of failure is being willing to fail. One of golf’s great clutch performers, Raymond Floyd, has credited a lot of his success to the fact that he was simply not afraid to lose. As Dr. Bob Rotella states, “Golf is not a game of perfect”, which means that failures are going to occur on a regular basis. By being willing to fail, you actually increase the odds that you will fail less often because you are eliminating a source of fear and anxiety from your game.
3. Trust your swing - Believe without a doubt that the swing you have will absolutely allow you to accomplish the round of your life. Love your swing, and see it as the perfect swing for you in that moment. There should be no doubt in your mind that they ball is going to go exactly where you want it to on each shot. Even if you are a high handicapper, allow yourself to be surprised if you actually miss hit one.
2. Stick to your pre-shot routine - A great way to develop trust in your swing, and put yourself in the proper mindset before each shot, is to establish and adhere to a specific pre-shot routine. The beauty of a pre-shot routine is that there is no right or wrong way to do it. It simply needs to be somewhat of a ritual that you go through prior to executing each shot in order to promote consistency in your performance.
1. Enjoy - If you find yourself in a position to shoot a score better than any you’ve ever accomplished, make sure to enjoy the moment. It’s one of the most exciting times a golfer can have on the course. If you mess up, who cares! You were in the moment, you gave yourself a shot at accomplishing something special, and that’s something to be excited about.
About the Author
This article was written by Jonathan Carr (@jonathanwcarr) as part of our weekly 'Top 10' series. As a scratch golfer himself, Jonathan has a keen eye for what it takes to be successful on and off the golf course. His passion for golf is surpassed only by his passion for his faith and his family.
Read some of Jonathan's other articles here.