Moving Forward is a Critical Golf Skill

In all of my posts about the mental game, I try to leave you with the idea that the skills you have developed to this point express themselves fully only when your mind is calm and concentrating on a feeling of ease with what you are about to do, rather than on results or process. The question, of course, is how you get to that state of mind. Here’s my answer.

So much of the worry that disturbs our mind comes from the past. You made mistakes on shots like this before so you are worried that you might do it again.

The way to release yourself from the past, and worries that attend to it, is to give your mind something else to do. Just like with a poorly behaving child, don’t suppress. Distract. When you’re watching the ball go where you hit it, do not judge the shot. Just watch. All you need to know is where the ball ends up so you can find it again.

When the ball stops rolling, switch your mind immediately to the next shot. Good or bad, put your mind on what will happen next. Keep going forward. Get out of the habit of judging your shot, which makes you stay on something that is done and cannot be changed.

If you need some help, try giving yourself credit for having a well-rounded game. So you missed the green and instead of getting your par with two putts, you’ll get it with a chip and a putt. From wherever you are, imagine a positive sequence of shots that get the ball quickly into the hole. You don’t have to hit four good shots to get a par. Three good ones will do. Golf is not that hard.

By the time you reach the ball, your mind will be absorbed in what to do next. It will not have spent one moment on what happened up to that point, because you did not give the chance to. This is exactly what you want to do. Don’t give your mind any time to wander off into a place where it could do you harm.

In a current NY Times article, Phil Mickelson is described as being “the best forgetter out there.” He is always moving forward, looking for shots that will put himself in command of the round. He doesn’t spend any time on what didn’t work out. I would guess that he doesn’t spend any time on what did, either.

The more you make that your habit, too, the more prepared your mind will be to stay out of your way and let your skills be expressed. If this is a change you need to make, it takes time and constant work. The rewards are more enjoyment and lower scores.


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