In the last Wired for Winning installment, I concluded with, “Lighten up and have fun. Be your own best friend out there. Eliminate negative self talk. Catch yourself doing something good. And hey… swing like you’ve never missed!” These words while meant to have an impact on the golfer’s psyche don’t really offer full disclosure of what you’re up against every time you tee it up. As a performance coach I realize my client’s understanding and acceptance of the realities of golf helps them develop their personal “golf philosophy” which is a critical to moving toward our goals.
As part of his definition, Webster defines philosophy as, “theory or logical analysis of the principles underlying conduct, thought, knowledge and the nature of the universe; the general principles or laws of a field of knowledge or activity.” While this reeks of some very “heady” stuff, it’s makes apparent that it’s not possible to work on the mental side of your game and not have a clear golf philosophy as a starting point. In other words if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there and if you don’t know where you are a map won’t do you any good.
Dr. Bob Rotella uses as a premise for his work the philosophy that “golf is not a game of perfect” and in fact has written a book by the same name. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend you do and if you have, read it again as well as his follow up book “Your 15th Club.” Harry Vardon had a folksier but just as sound philosophy, “trying to do in three what should normally require four often ends up taking five.”
As you start to identify your philosophy of the game it’s important to remember this one law. Once you tee up the ball on the first hole of the day the only thing that can happen to your score is that it will increase. Once you’ve lost a stroke, it’s gone! Golfer’s who don’t accept this and truly appreciate the game’s difficulties and small margins of error will be its victim.
Once we have a true understanding and accept the reality that nobody can really master this game, we can begin our personal journey toward mastering ourselves and how we approach and attack the game. We can then choose how we react to the outcomes and consequences of our choices. Success psychology has offered empirical evidence time and time again that positive expectations and positive reactions create positive outcomes. Accept the fact that “the game is stacked against you” and that by staying positive your chances of succeeding greatly increase. What’s love got to do with it?
Even the best players in the world aren’t always on top of their game. Peaks and valleys, ups and downs are a part of, not just golf, but life. When things are great it’s easy to stay positive. Conversely when things “go south” it’s easy to become negative. Both of these extremes tend to pop up almost subliminally. At several PGA Tour events this year I shared conversations with players in the practice area and during their practice rounds asking questions relating to their driving and putting. I got answers like, “I love it when the ball goes exactly where I’m looking!” “I love hitting that 2 yard cut.” As well as “I hate missing fairways’” and “I f#@*in’ hate it when I hit it left!” Guess which group had the better results that given week… Exactly!
If you want see a positive difference in your results you need to start with a positive mindset. You have to love hitting fairways more than you hate missing them. You have to love hitting greens in regulation more than you hate coming up short. In fact Dave Stockton, when asked the secret to being one of the best putters on the planet replied, “I love to one putt more than I hate three putting”
If you want walk the walk, you have to start talking the talk. At the amateur level, it’s even more skewed toward negativity. I hear a lot of, “I hate it when the greens are this slow.” “I hate playing in this wind.” “I hate that 9th hole, it gets me every time!” Rarely do I hear, “I love hitting the drive on 6.” “I love that back left pin on 3.” “I love when the wind gets whipping out hear.” Keep your ears open. You’ll find more people on the “hate train” than the “love boat.” More important, listen to yourself. Which one are you on?