We all experience negative thoughts and plenty of emotions on the golf course, and some of them can get in the way of our true golf potential.
Now, we're no sports psychologists, but a few golfers at Hole19 HQ are prone to dropping a number of shots because of what goes on 'upstairs'. With that in mind, we've gathered together some tips to help any golfer harness the power of positive thinking and shoot better scores.
1) Focus on what you want, not what you don't want
We've all been standing on a tee box with the only thought in your mind being, for example, the water up ahead. "Don't go right" you might tell yourself and, almost as inevitably as night follows day, you watch your golf ball sail to its watery grave.
If you feel these negative thoughts creep in, stop, regroup and tell yourself what you want… “I want to hit the fairway – that portion of the fairway right there.“ You'll be surprised how many of those self-fulfilling prophecies you can eradicate in a single 18-hole round.
2) Visualise the shot and execute
As an extension of the suggestion above, it's all well and good telling yourself where you want the ball to land, but you really need to get in behind the ball and visualise a successful execution of that shot.
A firm advocate of the visualisation process is former world number 1 Luke Donald.
3) Banish that negative self-talk
There's a strong correlation between what golfers say to themselves both before and after golf shots, and their performance during a round. In essence, a greater amount of negative self-talk will equate to higher scores, on average, over 18 holes.
The correlation between thinking well and making successful shots is not 100 percent. But the correlation between bad thinking and unsuccessful shots is much higher. - Dr. Bob Rotella
Try to neutralise your post-shot emotions as much as possible. Don't get too carried away when you hit a nice shot, and certainly learn to get off your own back when you hit a stinker.
Also, rather than cussing yourself for a horrible three-putt (for example), try to draw on something positive to turn it around. Tell yourself: "you're good enough to come back from that" or "even the best can three-putt" - or whatever your statement might be.
4) Stay in the present
As you walk to the next tee after that aforementioned three-putt, and having told yourself that you can recover, you need to be able to keep your emotions in check as you hit your tee shot. This is where staying in the present is vital.
Forget about the last hole, refocus on the shot before you, take a few deep breaths, employ your pre-shot routine, and go ahead and put your best swing on the ball.
Competitive golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course, the space between your ears. -Bobby Jones
5) Trust is a must
Have you ever been playing a round with it all going swimmingly until, like a bolt from the blue, a horrendous swing shakes you to your very core and saps any confidence you previously had?
You probably start fiddling with the swing and, before you know it, you're on your way to an annoyingly high score... and deeper down that proverbial rabbit hole.
Golf Psychologist, Dr Bob Rotella is a firm advocate of needing to trust your swing and accept that it's the one that will accompany you through 18 holes... come hell or high water.
Sure, it might be a flawed swing, but starting to think mechanically will only make things worse.