Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Worst Word You Can Use on the Golf Course

What's the worst word you can use on the golf course?  No, it isn't a four-letter word; it has six.  The word is SHOULD.  Should is a word that saps your strength.  It causes anger.  It takes your mind into the past and causes you to put pressure on your future.  It gives power to what isn't happening and weakens what is happening.



How could a single word have all of this power?  Let's role play a conversation and see if you can see the power of the word should.

Q:  "How was your day?"
A:  "I was hitting it great, but I wasn't making anything.  It was really frustrating.  I should have had at least two or three birdies by the turn.  I was inside 15 feet five times, but made nothing.  I should have made at least a couple of those."
Q:  "What happened on the back nine?
A:  "I don't know.  I was pretty angry with not taking advantage of how well I was hitting it and I guess it got to me.  You know I should have been under par then.  I missed a few shots and started to lose my focus.  I made a couple of bogies coming in and shot 75."

If you look at how the word should is used in this conversation, you understand that the player isn't in the moment when she is playing.  Instead, she is mired in the past and in what didn't happen for her.  The other thing that using the word should does is it takes the power away from what you are doing well.  In this example, the player is hitting it well, but she doesn't maintain that throughout the round.  Her focus on what should be happening has taken away from the focus she needs to play good golf. 

If you want to bring the best possible attitude that will help you during your round of golf, you have to embrace the almost cliche statement and stay in the moment.  If that is your goal, then the word should shouldn't be used in your self-talk.  Not once!

We've all been there!  We hit a short putt too hard and lipped it out.  We hit a lay-up shot through the fairway and into the deep rough.  We get scared of a chip shot and hit it fat only to face it again.  All of these are things we shouldn't do.  The problem is, we did them.  They are done and it's time to move on.  This is a list of mistakes and players are often trained to let go of mistakes.  They understand that it's important to refocus and deal with what they face because of the mistake.

It is common in mental game training to teach players how to deal with problems, mistakes and adversity.  However, it is often assumed that mental game techniques that are needed when players begin to see success will come automatically.   Many players hit scoring plateaus due to the lack of these skills, despite improvements in their physical skills.  Players are taught from a young age to battle through adversity.  They are taught to keep good body language following a bad hole.  They are taught to stay positive when things aren't going well.  But often, the same people who are teaching them how to have a good attitude use the word should often and without regard.  Parents and coaches watch players hit it close and miss 10-15 footers and lament what should have happened as a result.  They watch a flawless practice round and question the player's tournament round with more "shoulds".  They question on-course strategy with "shoulds" instead of solid plans prior to the round.  When a player's physical skills rise, the word should is a popular one when discussing a round.

In order to allow the mental game skills to keep up with the physical skills, the word should needs to be set aside.  Instead, a player needs to learn to stay in the moment for an entire 18 holes of golf through specific techniques designed to increase focus on what the player needs and when he needs it.  Following the round, it is still out of place.  A player's stats will tell the areas where improvement is needed, while reinforcing the strengths.  The word should usually brings emotions into the equation instead of a logical look at what needs to get better.  Every round played is an opportunity to learn about a player's strengths and weaknesses.

This is what your development as a golfer will look like.  


The mental game skills that need to be taught to players who have highly developed physical skills are patience, acceptance, intention of focus, responsibility, strategy and presence.  Patience seems to be a self-explanatory skill, but coupled with acceptance, it allows a player to stay completely in the present while on the course.  These first two skills are dependent upon each other.  Most players are able to focus on one thing, but the trick is whether or not that one thing is what will help or what the player wants.  Choosing what to focus on is a big step in learning to play competitive golf.  Taking responsibility for whatever happens to your golf ball, your score, your equipment and your attitude is another big step that you need if you want to become a great player.  While it seems to be more common sense than a skill, it is a sign of maturation as a player and signals the ability to learn from mistakes and improve upon them independently of others.  Strategy is important for scoring and it is an important mental game skill to develop.  Planning how you will play and how you will act and then sticking to the plan on the course allows you to be organized and systematic in your own unique way.  The final skill listed, that of presence, is tough to learn, but maybe the most important if you want to win.  It is the ability to create your own momentum; often from a stand still.  It is the quality of being offended by bogies.  It is the ability to show your skills at important times and pull off shots that no one expects of you.  It is the ability to bounce back from a bad shot, a bad hole or a bad round.  A player with presence never uses the word should during a round of golf.  He or she is too busy doing instead of judging.

patience
acceptance
intention of focus 
responsibility
strategy

presence





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