First, there is the start. Do you wonder how you will play when you stand on the first tee or do you decide how you will play? A tentative start is a mark of uncertainty and can be caused by being in a new situation. Your first time in a final group or your first time in a professional event are examples. Your mind is busy wondering how you will do today. As soon as you allow it to wander to those thoughts, you are in trouble. Instead, you must focus on your game plan, your routine and your target. Decide before you step on the tee what your focus will be and stick to it.
|Alex Rossi sees the shot she will hit.|
Once the day starts, you will probably get a bad break. A putt will lip out, a ball will rest in a divot or a shot will plug in a bunker. This will happen, because it always does. It's golf. How will you react when it happens? Better yet, how will you act? If you are in an action state instead of a reaction state, you will do what is needed to maintain your focus. If you are in a state of reactions, you will be all over the map emotionally. Bad breaks seem to happen at the most important times. While that isn't really the case, they become magnified when you feel as though results are crucial. Have an action plan for your bad breaks. You can count your breaths or your steps to the next shot. You can see it as a challenge that you are up to confronting. You can simply let it go and play from that spot as though it is a garden spot.
As your round progresses, it might be going really well or really poorly. Either way, its not for you to notice or judge. Your focus will continue to be on the shot at hand. What is your game plan? Are you holding to your routine? Are you connected to your target? These are the questions you need to ask yourself between shots. A little relaxation between shots is okay, too. Chat a bit or enjoy the birds and trees. Your state of mind between shots is important. If you spend your time with worry or what if's, it will be hard to stick to your three areas of focus which will continue to be your game plan, your routine and your target. This sounds a bit redundant, doesn't it? Good golf is exactly that, redundant. It consists of a measured approach that is planned for, acted upon and executed from beginning to end.
|Jennifer Park hits a shot close to the hole.|
What distractions will you encounter in your round? We already talked about bad breaks and your mind wandering to your score. You could also face poor weather, a slow playing partner or a million other things that want to jog you from your goal of playing good golf. All must be faced, acknowledged and set aside. A good sense of humor would be a ally in most situations. If you could laugh to yourself as you jog down the fairway, on the official's clock, because of being paired with the slowest player on earth, you would be taking an attitude that would help you focus when it comes time to execute your next shot.
The better prepared for distractions you are, the better you will handle them. Know exactly how long your pre-shot routine lasts in case you are on the clock. Have all of your gear with you in case of bad weather. When you play a practice round, figure out how you will play the hole if the wind comes from the opposite direction. Before you start your round, think about what you might face and how you will act if it happens. It will make it easier to keep your three responsibilities in the forefront. Remember those responsibilities? They are to focus on your game plan, go through your routine and connect with the target on each and every shot.
Finally, you might be doing everything well. Your focus is in good shape, your game is sharp and you feel in control. Yet, the ball isn't falling. Birdies just won't come and the odd bad break might cause a bogey or two. Is it time to try harder? Can you will the ball into the hole? Can you focus more? The answer to these questions is no, pressing isn't the answer. Frustration is probably the most divisive distraction of all, but is often accepted by players as justified based on the situation. It never is. All of your planning and preparation will be for nothing if you allow frustration to take you off track. Stay the course and play golf as you planned.
If you fail to embrace your three responsibilities on any one shot, your day is not ruined. You will have another chance as soon as you walk to your ball. Don't judge your performance, simply recommit to it. That sounds easy when it is actually a hard thing, but as you do it more and more often, it will become easier for you. The next time you play golf, focus on your three responsibilities. Plan for distractions and bad breaks. Don't justify unneeded emotions and remember above all, have some fun on the golf course. Your smile and sense of humor might be your best friends at the end of the day.