You miss a 3 footer and you lose your mind. You hit two drives right and your focus becomes hitting perfect shots. You get caught up in results, what isn't happening and what your swing or putting stroke needs to do to be better. The learning mindset is great for the range, but when you are keeping score, it goes straight out the window. If you can see the hole in your peripheral vision, how can you possibly accept a miss? If a poor shot costs you one or two shots, you can't let that happen again!
Instead of losing your mind and reacting to poor shots with anxiety, you can design and practice a post-shot routine that allows you to evaluate and decompress. In other words, you can think it through and chill out. Was it great? If so, don't get too high or excited, because you will have to do it again in 5 minutes. Was it horrible? Same deal! You have to find it and hit it again or worse yet, you have to get another ball, mark it and put it in play. Either way, the round goes on. How can you calm yourself? How can you best prepare for your next shot? Here's how:
Start with simple questions.
1. Did you prepare for the shot/putt and feel good about your decisions?
- Yardage, target, shot shape, club choice, conditions, read, slopes, etc.
2. Did you have a good pre-shot routine?
- Visualization, rhythm, commitment, balance, target choice, etc.
3. Did you hit the shot as planned?
- Rhythm, balance, tempo, target awareness, tension-control, etc.
Everyone pays attention to different things to play good golf. Some need to feel centered and connected. Others need to put their hands on the club in a certain way. Another player might need to be completely into the visualization of the ball flight. Each person who plays the game is slightly different than the next. It's up to you to figure out what your keys for greatness will be when you play. When you do figure it out, make it an important part of your plan. In other words, if feeling centered is important to you, focus on that both in your pre-shot and post-shot routines. The point of a good post-shot routine is to ask the right questions.
What are the right questions? Questions that allow you to be a learner. Questions that allow for awareness and adjustments. Questions that fit in numbers 1, 2 and 3 above! From asking and answering these questions, you can be aware of what you have done and what you need to do going forward. You can make adjustments, change your focus, choose different targets, play the shot shape that is showing up today, spend more time in preparation, lower your center of gravity, walk more slowly, swing more smoothly or commit more deeply.
The questions you ask yourself are huge. Stay away from mechanics unless you had a plan to focus on a certain move. Some people do well with a swing thought and you might be that player. However, most players have a better chance of going low with a focus on the ball and target vs. the motion or positions of the swing. Stay away from questions that have no answers, such as "what is wrong with me?" Stick with specifics and a plan for your post-shot routine. Keep your awareness in front of you and make adjustments that will help you on the next shot. The answer you want is one that leads to an action, not more thoughts.
Commit to a learner's mindset whether you are on the practice range or the golf course. Don't allow results to change your attitude or approach to the game. The better you are at using competition as a learning environment, the sooner you will set pressure and perfectionism behind and be open to what your possibilities are on the course.