Broadly stated within the field of Sports Psychology, Competence and Confidence are critical to playing the game of golf. The basis for playing well is a sound level of physical competence and having the "Golf Swing Mechanics" under control.
But that's only part of the equation; you must be in control of the inner game of golf as well. We cannot overestimate the importance of the mind in golf.
Contrary to popular belief, "Muscle Memory" is not possible! Muscles are not able to remember anything. All memory lives in the brain. If your mind is functioning well while you are playing, your muscles also are going to respond predictably and consistently.
A player's muscles along with the rest of the body are completely controlled by the mind!
You must be committed to developing both your physical and mental skills in order to play to your potential. Applying Sports Psychology concepts to maximize your potential really works!
All the top Professional Golfers have the basic "Golf Swing Mechanics" under control, but most importantly they have superior golf swing thoughts, and can play in "The Golf Zone"!
You can take your existing game level one huge step further by applying mental skills such as self confidence, focus, concentration, enhanced visualization, stress and anger management, and goal setting to name just a few areas in the "Golf Mental Game".
Well known within Sports Psychology, the conscious mind teaches the subconscious by repeating an act over and over again, such as utilizing proper practice routines of the right things.
Once you have repeated the action sufficient times to have it on "Auto-Pilot", you can then release the action to the subconscious.
Quit consciously thinking about it while you are in the process of the action! That's known as playing in "The Golf Zone" when you let the subconscious mind and the physical training take over. Concentrate on the target and let the subconscious do its thing.
Following are some of the vital key Golf Mental Game elements to consider in playing the game of golf:
Goal Setting: If you want to elevate your game to the next level, you must define what that new level is! Prepare written and specific Goals with definite dates for achievement of those goals. This will become a plan, rather than a wish list!
Expectations: Anticipation about the future outlook, things to look forward to.
You must make sure your expectations are in line with reality. You only have three choices for your golf game expectations; Too High, Too Low, or Just Right.
1. Expectations Too High:
Setting your goals or expectations outside of reality can be a setback to improved performance. If you are 65 years old and in poor health with less than great physical condition, and to expect to play like the Pro Golfers on tour, is not realistic! That's an exaggeration, but you get the point.
This is what Sports Psychology is all about. Being unrealistic in your expectations can lead to problems such as blaming everything and everybody else for your poor performance, constant worry about your score, losing your temper, and frequently purchasing new equipment to "buy a better game"!
2. Expectations Too Low:
If you set your expectations too low, you will become passive and disenchanted with the game, even to the point of giving up and selling your clubs!
You may practice in negative self-labels such as; oh, I am just not good at sports, this game is too difficult for me, I'm getting to old for this aggravation! You probably won't set any goals for improvement, nor will you practice or take any lessons. You may become complacent with your level of play and see no reason to improve.
3. Expectations Just Right:
Be realistic in your expectations. Determine statistically what your current level of play is and where you need the most improvement. Set goals for improving your game. Take lessons, and practice, practice, practice!
Attitude: A complex mental state within Sports Psychology involving beliefs, feelings, values, and dispositions to act in certain ways.
You can significantly improve your level of play sometimes with just a shift in overall attitude. You are in control of your emotions and attitude, no one else! You can choose to have fun playing this game of golf, take the problems in stride, and even be kind to your fellow golfers and your caddie!
You can choose to control your temper, take a hard look at your egotism, be supportive of your partners, and make sure your spouse does not become a golf widow or widower!
You can choose to be an optimist or a pessimist. Sometimes it takes hard work and persistent dedication to think about things in a positive manner. It is more normal to be a pessimist, and sometimes it's just a habit!
I don't remember where I heard this "Pessimist's Creed", but it went something like this;
"Today's Bluebird of Happiness, is tomorrow's molting buzzard of regret!"
Boy, let's stay away from that one!
Relaxation: A gradual lengthening of inactive muscle fibers.
One of your first priorities should be the relaxation of your body and mind. It is very difficult to stay in balance during the golf swing with good rhythm and tempo while having tension throughout the body.
You will be able to swing more freely with a relaxed body and mind. Most golfers struggle against swinging too fast and hard. During the process of swinging fast and hard your muscles and your mind are both fraught with tension.
As Julius Boros said, "Swing easy - Hit hard!"
Confidence: A trust or belief in the reliability of your competence.
Golf confidence, an integral part of Sports Psychology, starts with a positive attitude before, during, and after playing a round of golf.
It is feeling good about the last practice session and your overall abilities, and trusting your swing under all conditions. It's a sense that you can come through under tension and adverse situations.
The regularity and consistency of your confidence is paramount. Play "Confidence Golf"!
Focus & Concentration: Exclusive attention to one subject, a close mental application.
As golfers, we find it very difficult to maintain our concentration throughout the entire 18-Hole round of golf. Sometimes we just don't have the Golf Mental Training to focus and concentrate for 3 ½ to 4 hours playing a very complex and technical game.
Acquiring a high-degree of Golf Concentration at select moments is most important.
One solution to this problem is to avoid focusing and concentrating on the "game" while traveling between shots on each Hole, and between Holes! This way you have a chance to relax and rest your mind in definite intervals.
As understood within the concepts of Sports Psychology, your brain can recover and rejuvenate during these periods. Don't be thinking technical thoughts or "Golf Swing Mechanics" between strokes. Don't get involved with the shot just played, or start worrying about the next shot!
Avoid the over-analyzing and over-thinking process during transit between Holes. Save the Mental Imagery exercises for your pre-shot routine! This is a great application of specific Sports Psychology.
What does playing in "The Golf Zone" mean? The first thing we have to realize is that we are already playing "In-The-Zone", but more often than not, it's the wrong Zone! We tend to play in our "Golf Comfort Zone".
The first thing you need to do is analyze your own Golf Mental Game and figure out what you need to change in order to play In-The-Zone at a higher, better scoring level. This will become part of your overall golf strategy for improvement.
Most of us golfers over the years have had that "perfect" day of golf where everything we do works out great! We selected the right club for the job, swung the club easy and free, the ball just goes and goes, lands on the green in regulation, that's "The Golf Zone" we need to be involved with! (We were on "Auto-Pilot").
The scoring level where you are now is directly related to how you see yourself playing. Your scoring level thermostat needs adjusting! If you want to play "In-The-Zone" at a higher scoring level, then your existing "Comfort Level" needs to become Uncomfortable.
For each stroke or shot, you need to "Play-In-The-Moment",
better known as Play-One-Shot-At-A-Time. This is but just another
benefit of understanding why the field of Sports Psychology
applied to golf is such a great value to all of us golfers.
The above listed Mind-Game Elements are only a few of the most important aspects of the golf mental game to consider within Sports Psychology, but I feel they are some of the most critical to get a handle on.
We hope this article helps you to become a better, happier golfer!
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