By Elliott Waksman, MA, CC-AASP
Certain golf tips improve scorecards, while other strategies foster more overall enjoyment on the course. Says who? Why can’t these two things be synonymous? Well, it turns out they are! This guest article outlines three mental toughness techniques to improve your scores AND help you experience enjoyment on the course more often.
#1 Accept where you are.
Similarly, to how elite athletes accept nervousness being part of the game, as I wrote in my July 5th guest article, mentally tough golfers accept where they are. What I mean by that is that they accept that life is full of steps, they accept there are no right or wrong paths in life, and they accept their golf game for what it is right now. Extreme self-judgment and falling victim to a comparison mode mentality will not help your scorecard or your happiness. There’s an excerpt I share with my clients from a well-respected book in the field of sport psychology that reads: “When we plant a rose seed in the earth, we notice that it is small, but we do not criticize it. When the rose first shoots up out of the earth, we do not criticize the buds for not being open when they appear. The rose seems to be constantly in the process of change; yet at each state, at each moment, it is perfectly all right as it is.” Galley, W.T. (1974). The Inner Game of Tennis. New York, NY: Random House Publishing.
This month; accept your golf game for what it is right now.
#2 Use the Ten-Step Rule
A helpful strategy for dealing with frustration after a poor shot is by exercising the ten-step rule. Allegedly, Tiger Woods implements this strategy to harness his competitiveness and high expectations. No, your bank account and list of model girlfriends won’t be like Tiger’s, but you can share this technique! Golfers who use the ten-step rule after hitting a poor shot on the course accept that frustration during those next ten footsteps only, and then methodically move on to the present moment– leaving frustration and angst with only those ten steps. The following steps symbolize a move forward with the game– physically and mentally.
This month; use the ten-step rule to stay in the present and mentally rebound more quickly.
#3 Look Around and Smile
When a world-famous psychologist who earned degrees from Harvard and Stanford shares advice, I listen. And maybe steal it! Dr. Sonja Lyumbomirsky, Ph.D. studies human happiness. One of her interventions, backed by empirical research, is to savor life’s joys. She suggests that we, “Pay close attention to momentary pleasures and wonders. Focus on the warmth of the sun when you step out from the shade.” Consider how this technique applies to your mindset on the course. Appreciative, mindful athletes are mentally tough athletes with champion scorecards. Additionally, recognizing moments of enjoyment leads to a happier life on and off the golf course.
This month, work to look around and smile.
With golf having earned the label of “The Ultimate Head Game”, isn’t it time you flexed your mental toughness muscles? Using these three techniques, you can improve your scores AND enjoy the game more.
Elliott Waksman earned his MA in Sport Psychology and maintains a private practice in Portland, Oregon, working with athletes and teams on the mental game of sport. He is the author of Waksman’s Sport Psychology Program. Receive his monthly mental toughness newsletter HERE or schedule an individual session via Skype email with him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.