I was lucky enough to grow up in the Golfing World and for many years my parents ran Thorpeness Golf Club on the Suffolk coast. I was a good golfer when I was younger, and my first job was as a Greenkeeper on the course.
Fast forward the past 22 years and I hadn’t touched a golf club since, but the pandemic drew me back in (like it has for a lot of people) and for the last year I have been regularly playing again. My local club now is the fantastic Ufford Park where I bumped into PGA professional Stuart Robertson, who just so happened knew me and used to be the Assistant at Thorpeness many moons ago.
We got chatting and came up with the idea of putting on a Peak Performance Mindspan session for the Club Golfers to help them improve on the mental side of the game.
Here is the overview and some insight of the session held at the club.
I always give an overview of Mindspan plus the premise of Mindset, Attitude and Psychological training. The framework I use is the Mindspan Triad and shows the links between psychology and success and how each of the 3 psychologies and 9 mental competencies mesh to positively drive performance.
High Performance & Emotional Intelligence
To truly hit High Performance you need to be looking at 4 distinct areas they are:
- Technical – your mechanics through practice need to be on point, that practice will naturally come through on the course through the subconscious
- Tactical – you need to be tactical on the golf course, consciously think what you will do next
- Physical – you need to be in physically good shape to perform, eat and sleep right too
- And above all Psychological
This is where the Emotional Intelligence kicks in as this can unlock your true potential on a course as it helps you to deal with WHAT happens to you, but it is HOW YOU react to it that is key.
We go into more detail here on just how emotional intelligence works. In reality, there is little we can control in the outside world. But you can control your inner world, and how you Choose to think about the situations you are in.
The general steps in the cycle are below:
THOUGHTS – These are going 24/7 365 and are by nature constructive or destructive, positive, or negative, helpful or unhelpful
EMOTIONS – Create the way we feel, an emotional cocktail in response to our thoughts
BEHAVIOURS – Drive what we do, these are reactions, decisions, and choices
OUTCOMES – results of our behaviours – goals and outputs.
How you are thinking at any given time of day and what state you are in has a massive impact on the cycle and if you go around it in a positive or negative way, especially when you are in a pressure situation like golf.
It is the role you play that creates negative thinking – and the good thing is that with practice you can control it and better still interrupt it. In the session, we talked through more about how you would do that in the middle of your round but also how you would set up your day.
Top tip – It is not what you think about that is crucial, it is HOW you are thinking about it.
Did you know we get distracted roughly every 7 minutes and it takes us over 20 minutes to get back to what we were doing (Orme 2019). No wonder we find it difficult to focus, so on the course turn off your phone and be in the Present always.
Top tip- Go through a pre-shot routine, visualise where you are going to land the ball, don’t second guess on shot selection and between shots be mindful of what you are thinking about.
Subconscious vs Conscious Mind
The Subconscious mind runs our life 24/7 and 365, ever wondered when driving how you sometimes just get there without knowing how? That’s the Subconscious and by its nature is programmed by your habits both good and bad especially when playing golf.
I can help you start creating new habits and neural pathways that in essence hack a new path through our metaphorical ‘brain jungle’ to mean we are thinking in the moment when we need to. This is where new positive habit creation comes into the mix, and we talk through how to help you with that more.
Top Tip – the key to new habits is creating routine (that takes 66 days) and also getting 7-8 hours’ sleep as your brain downloads at night like a hard drive.
The language you use on a golf course
Have you ever been on a Par 3 with a lake in front of the green and you tell yourself I just don’t want to hit it in the water? Then what happens, splosh straight in the drink the majority of the time.
It is because your unconscious mind has a quirk it can’t process negatives. It interprets everything you think as a positive thought. So if you think, ‘I don’t want to hit the ball in the lake,’ your unconscious mind focuses on the “lake” and, because it doesn’t do negatives, the thought becomes ‘I want to hit the ball in the lake.’ Being in the lake then becomes the goal in your unconscious mind and like a young child, desperate to please, it helps you behave in a way that will keep you on that trajectory. Obviously not what you wanted!
Recognise any of these? Shift your language around
That’s why stating your goals and thinking in the positive is so important. In this instance, instead of thinking ‘I don’t want to hit the ball in the lake,’ you’d think “I’m going to hit the ball so it lands on the front of the green and runs to the hole”
Top Tip– Thinking and using this internal language will get you more success on the course. And also be mindful of your buddy’s language, as obviously you are hearing and acting on that too.
What do you do when you had a bad shot, bad hole, or a poor front 9?
Are you aware of how you talk to yourself on the golf course and the effect it has on your play?
Most golfers are quite negative about themselves during their rounds, which alters their mood, their confidence, and their ability to access the mechanics of their swing. In fact, every word you say to yourself during a round can potentially make you “feel” a certain way and get a different emotional response. The effect could be a big difference in your scores.
Next time you’re on the course, make a conscious effort to notice how you talk to yourself after bad shots and start accepting that just because you had one poor shot it doesn’t dictate the next one or the whole round.
The best way to practice self-talk is to have a ‘pre shot’ routine but also a ‘post shot’ routine. As humans, we often focus on the one thing that went wrong not on all the good things we are doing.
Top Tip: If you start to take the emotion out of it you become more neutral and accept it. You can then celebrate the success once you are off the course in the 19th hole.
Spirals and Techniques to help
As part of this session we go into how to get yourself out of a negative spiral more. This is by using triggers, these can be positive words or actions. For me, I like to listen to music before golf and when I am on the course, I have a routine of taking off my golf glove between shots (this helps to get me in the zone and prepared for the next shot). I also do a lot of visualisation in my pre shot routine and tell myself to relax in my shoulders and ‘take it nice and easy’ (something I picked up from my Dad).
The main technique we teach to help people who are in a negative situation focuses on a simple 3 step technique.
- Firstly tell yourself to STOP! Stop whatever it is that is causing you an issue – this is a psychological interrupt
- Secondly, breathe – breathe in for 7 seconds and out for 5 – this is a Physical interrupt; you may also want to walk away for a bit
- And Thirdly – ask yourself the thinking question – How Do I Need To Think/Feel About This?
This helps you to gain clarity on the Reality of what you are doing, where you are and the situation you are in. The result is you become less reactive and helps train your limbic system which is your emotional centre to have a more balanced and positive view and thus results.
A classic example is 1st Tee Syndrome where this can be a negative experience for most people. They get nervous, stressed, anxious or panic and produce a poor shot due to their mental state (which can affect the hole and round if you aren’t careful).
“Oh no I hope I don’t embarrass myself in front of my team and the crowd by topping it”
A positive ‘reframing’ of this would be to be braver and tell yourself that you want to show everyone around how good you are and that you will hit the ball into the centre of the fairway with effortless ease.
“Wow what an achievement to play for the club, I’m going to show everyone how sweetly I can hit this drive down the middle of the fairway and put the pressure on them”
The Takeaways and Benefits of this session
This hour and a half session is a really good introduction to the Mindspan practices and how they can help you improve your golf game. There are multiple benefits to this approach.
- Focus on the good things you do not the one thing that went wrong
- How positive visualisation during practice and on the course can help you be ‘free’ so you focus in the performance zone when you need to.
- Allow people to gain greater clarity around what they need to do to reach their full potential
- Allow people to see what they can control and what they can’t and focus their thinking on the positives to have better outcomes and their inner potential.
- Give an introduction into behavioural change and positive habits that can influence your game for the better.
- Show the benefits of routine and conscious thinking
- How we can change language to help us focus and reframe on the golf course
If you are keen to see how I can help you improve the mental side of your game for yourself, a team or a club please drop me a message and we can have a chat, my contact details are
Tel: 01206 405 504