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Golf Psychology

How to stay mentally positive

Images_Mentally strong Mental skill can be as important as physical skill in the game of golf.

There have been some truly astonishing mental meltdowns through the years from some of the world’s best players. Greg Norman famously blew a six-shot lead going into the final round of the 1996 Masters, shooting a closing 78 to lose by five shots to Sir Nick Faldo. Rory McIlroy suffered a similar Augusta agony as he signed for a final-round 80 to blow a four shot lead he still held on the 10th tee. And who can forget Jean Van Der Velde with his trousers rolled up while stood in Carnoustie’s Barry Burn?

Here’s how you avoid such a calamitous slip up yourself.

1. Having a strong golf mental attitude and golf mental focus comes from first developing a good game plan and then sticking with it once you're out on the course. One important point about mental attitude is to try to remain calm and give the same attention to each golf shot you hit.

2. Often after a bad shot, a golfer will get upset, lose focus, and hit their next shot poorly too simply because they let themselves get upset and lost focus – learn how to accept a bad shot and get over it completely before you hit your next shot.

3. Try and focus on the outcome you want to happen instead of what you don't want to happen. There's a saying "don't think of an elephant" of which the point is you'll obviously think of an elephant if you are told not to think of one.

4. If you tell yourself not to hit the ball in the water it’s highly likely that’s where it’ll end up. Focus on hitting the fairways, the greens, and getting the ball into the hole.

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Internationally celebrated for his work in the area of applied sports psychology, Dr. Robert Rotella is consistently recognized as the Top Sports Psychologist in the world. Dr. Rotella’s golfers on the PGA Tour have won at least 25 of the 40 tournaments played for each of the last 15 years. Rotella’s book, “Golf Is Not a Game of Perfect” is the best selling sports psychology book of all time and one of the three best selling golf books in history.

Bob Rotella's Top 10 Tips:

1. Play to play great. Don’t play not to play poorly.

2. Love the challenge of the day, whatever it may be.

3. Get out of results and get into process.

4. Know that nothing will bother or upset you on the course, and you will be in a great state of mind for every shot.

5. Playing with a feeling that the outcome doesn’t matter is almost always preferable to caring too much.

6. Believe fully in yourself so that you can play freely.

7. See where you want the ball to go before every shot.

8. Be decisive, committed and clear.

9. Be your own best friend.

10. Love your wedge and your putter.

Some of these are probably self-explanatory, others may require further explanation – it is worth following up and getting that deeper understanding. He has written a number of golf psychology books well worth a look at, available from many good retailers and also some poor ones....

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Above: Bob Rotella (left) pictured with Padraig Harrington and Bob Torrance.

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Here is a selection of Bob Rotella’s other insights in improving your golf:

· You may not always control the ball but you can always control your mind.

· Good can be the enemy of great. Always play to play great.

· Improve by working on both your physical skills and your mind because golf is a game of confidence and competence.

· There is no such thing as muscle memory.

· The essence of golf is reacting well to the game’s inevitable mistakes and misfortunes.

· Enjoying your good shots and not responding to your bad ones is infinitely preferable to having no response to your good shots and getting upset at your bad ones.

· When you mis-hit a shot, forgive yourself. This will help you forget your bad shots.

· Holding a memory of a bad shot is a form of punishment. It tends to make you tight and careful when you need to be free and confident. It can compound an error, turning a single bad shot into several.

· A confident player thinks about what he wants to happen on the course. A player who lacks confidence thinks about what he doesn’t want to happen.

· Given two players of equal skills, the more confident one will win nearly all the time.

· Confidence about a shot is no more than thinking only about the ball going to the target.

· Stay in the present. The only shot you think about is the one at hand.

· Anything that detracts from a narrow focus on the shot at hand diminishes your chances of playing your best golf.

· During a round, there is no evaluating. When you run out of holes and only then, add up your score and see how you’ve done.

· Good golfers have a tight focus on their targets.

· The more your mind is consumed with the target, the more your instincts and subconscious will help you.

· Pick out the smallest possible target you can easily see.

· The player who is angry is not staying in the present. He’s focused on the past.

· Anger is always a choice and is never caused by someone else or something else.

· Displays of anger during a round indicate that something has become more important than the shot at hand.

· Anger introduces tension into the body.

· Accept whatever happens to a shot and move on.

· The human organism performs best in athletics when the conscious mind is turned off.

· You must trust your swing. If you don’t feel you can trust your swing on a given shot, plan a different shot with a different club or a different line.

· Think about your swing mechanics only on the practice range.

· Make the practice experience as similar as possible to the competitive experience. Practice as you play. Play as you practice.

· The warm-up before a round is no time to panic over a bad shot and try and fix your mechanics.

· There is no such thing as perfect in golf.

· Improving the quality of your misses is important, but eliminating them is impossible.

· Learn to take breaks and accept partial success.

· Ban the word “failure” from your vocabulary.

· Realise that fear on the golf course is caused by an excessive concern about the opinions of others.

· The worst thing that can happen to you on a golf course is a blow to your ego. That’s nothing to be afraid of.

· Commitment is an essential part of the mindset of every player who strives to improve.

· There are 2 types of commitment: commitment to a shot, and commitment to a plan of improvement.

· Commitment to a shot means a narrow focus, complete certainty, an unwavering mind, an absence of doubt, closure and clarity.

· Failure to commit before a shot can result from just a bit of doubt and uncertainty.

· It’s more important to be decisive than it is to be correct

· Commit yourself completely to your plan for every shot.

· Commit yourself to a programme of improvement and honour your commitment.

· Most golfers play best when their intensity level is mild to moderate.

· A good pre-shot routine gets you into the best possible physical and mental state each time you swing.

· Your physical routine must accomplish the task of getting you properly aligned and in the correct posture.

· Your mental routine includes visualising the shot and committing yourself to your plan.

· Practice the physical elements of your routine until you can trust them in competition.

· Use the same routine in practice that you use in competition.

· Never hit a shot until your routine has produced an absolute commitment to that shot.

· You must fall in love with the scoring clubs (wedges and putter) and practice with them until they become precision instruments.

· You must be able to ’sink it’ with a scoring club.

· The player who can get up-and-down consistently is going to have a lower handicap and win more often.

· Everyone has adequate natural touch.

· Practice the short shots until you’re absolutely confident with them.

· Stop caring and berating yourself when you miss a green.

· Chip or pitch to make it.

· Putting is the heart of golf.

· Good putters never putt out of fear.

· Instinctive impressions are better than second or third reads.

· A good putting routine is where you “see it and do it”.

· You must trust your stroke.

· Always putt to make it.

· Putt as if it doesn’t matter if the ball goes in.

· Never address the ball unless you’ve first seen it go in.

· Never care if you miss.

· Love 1-putting more than you fear and loathe 3-putting.

· The nature of golf is such that everyone must cope with setbacks and failures.

· Dwelling on failures compounds the initial mistake.

· Refuse to get upset about bad shots.

· Take pride in the way you bounce back from setbacks.

· Visualisation is an important element in gaining confidence.

· We all visualise better when we’re relaxed.

· Visualisation works best if it’s vivid, detailed and real.

· A superficial, casual effort will not help you.

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