This is a guest post by David MacKenzie from Golf State of Mind
Students often tell me that it takes them several holes to “find their game”, and by the time they’ve found it, they’ve already dropped several shots. Even though they start playing better, the damage has already been done and it’s hard to put a good score together and compete in the tournament.
So how is it possible to find your game before you get to the first tee and get off to a good start?
How to get off to a good start in golf
There are a few ways that has helped the competitive players I’ve worked with:
1) Play the course before teeing off
I don’t mean sneaking in 9 holes on the course you’re about to play. Instead, after your normal warm-up routine, imagine you’re playing the golf course, while hitting shots on the driving range. Play a drive to an imaginary fairway and an iron to an imaginary green. Play several holes for 10 mins but try not to judge how well you’re hitting it. If you know the course you’re about to play, imagine playing the first 2-3 holes, playing exactly those clubs you would be using. Finish the routine by playing the 1st tee shot again, and don’t leave until you’ve hit it exactly the way you want to on the real 1st hole.
2) Imagine playing a great round
Spend a few minutes in a quiet spot, visualizing hitting some great shots on the course. When you visualize, you start influencing your subconscious mind, which is actually responsible for most of the actions you make. Your subconscious mind is going to play a big role in how successful you are, so you have to influence it in the right way - you do this by feeding it the images you want to happen in reality.
3) Have an “Attitude of Gratitude”
Remind yourself that you’re playing golf. You’re not going to office for an important meeting or doing housework. You’re outside, in beautiful surroundings, playing the game you love. Be grateful for the having the time to be able to play - whatever the result, you should be able to enjoy yourself, which will actually help you play better.
4) Set your process goals for the round
You don’t want additional pressure from telling yourself the importance of shooting a good score. Remind yourself of your “process goals” - those controllable goals (your score is not 100% within your control) and get your mental game scorecard ready.
5) Find a warm-up routine that works
Just because it might be an important round, shouldn’t mean that you hit more balls or change your routine. This isn’t a practice session or time to work on your technique, it’s time to find your rhythm, so you don’t spend a few holes doing so on the course.
Keeping calm and relaxing is more important than worrying and becoming overly concerned about the outcome of the round. If you notice your mind drifting into the future about what might happen out there (unless you’re actively spending time visualizing a successful round), make sure you bring yourself back to the present. You can do this by focusing on your breathing (while using good breathing techniques), which will also help you relax.
7) Get the pace of the greens
If you do anything before you tee off, it should be getting the pace of the greens down. Instead of hitting to holes, place tees down at various distances (you can also use the fringe) and don’t leave the practice green until you’ve able to control the distance of up and downhill putts. Dave Pelz’s studies show that pace is 5x more important than direction in putting, which is why this part of your warm-up is very important. You don’t want it to take you 3 holes to get the speed of the greens right. Doing this drill will make sure you have a good feel for the pace and you can putt more confidently from the start of the round.
To listen to this lesson on the go, you can also check out my recording
Thanks for listening to this mental game lesson, this is David MacKenzie from Golf State of Mind.