Mar
08

7 Step Golf Psychology Action Plan for Better Golf

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I’ve been working for a couple of months with a very promising young golfer who’s been working this winter on taking a major step forward with his game. He’s making the transition from amateur golf to building a career as a tournament professional.

Now, he clearly has the golf game and has built up an enviable team of coaches including, in my opinion, the best and most innovative swing coach in the world today. He also has the benefit of working with one of the worlds best Mental Game coaches in the world: a four time world record holder and Olympic Gold medallist. No, that’s not me!

When we started working together, he listed his primary objectives for the next few months as

  1. Deciding on one swing coach and one methodology
  2. Improving his putting
  3. Learning and implementing a relaxation technique to take to the course
  4. Implementing the Swing Changes suggested by his new coach, while
    1. Making these new skills unconscious and automatic
    2. Developing trust in his new skills
    3. Cherishing the time it took to make these changes
  5. Developing his Course Management and Mental Game skills
  6. Making his routines automatic and conscious – perhaps I added that last one!

Now I know that sounds like a lot, but he’s already well on the way to achieving those objectives. However, we did approach his objectives in a different sequence. Here’s the action plan we developed to help him achieve his objectives.

1. Decide on a methodology

It was important that the choice of coach was his, but, once he decided, it was important for me to back it up. That wasn’t too hard, because I was rather jealous of his opportunity to work with such a good swing coach. So was a good golfing friend of mine who told me to tell him:

“Your new coach and his followers are gonna be huge. They know their stuff and if you were going to have one lesson from anyone in the world, it would be from him. He just fixes stuff with an end-goal in mind and loves to find what works, not what is popular.”

I also passed on some more good advice my friend had given me, for my own golf.

“Forget about every swing tip and idea that you’ve ever been given by another coach or read anywhere. Ignore trying to equate anything your new coach says with anything you know, a true ‘Zen empty bowl” mentality -whatever that means! Just do and think about what your new coach says for at least 2 months, before even considering re-evaluating your game.

I also reminded him to abstain from looking at any golf coaching website, magazine, book or other source of advice. And don’t take any notice of what anyone outside your coaching team says or does.

2. Really Learn Finger Breathing

It’s very important for every golfer to have a really effective relaxation technique they can consciously call on when they’re under pressure on the golf course. I recommend a breathing technique called “Finger Breathing“. With practice, you can shorten it down to just a couple of cyclic breaths, or even a single breath, to recall a relaxed, resourceful and confident state.

It’s something to use reactively and consciously out on the golf course whenever you need a cool head. You can also incorporate it in one or more places in your routines as a trigger or anchor for some part of your process. This is a bit like the “Tiger blink”, Louis Oosthuizen’s red spot on the glove or Dr Karl Morris’s idea pulling on the glove, taking the club out of the bag and then putting it back.

One of my other professional golfer clients has abbreviated “Finger Breathing” down to a sigh. He takes a sharp intake of break combined with an upwards then downwards shrug of the shoulders. He uses the technique after completing his rehearsal swing, immediately before he steps into the ball. That way he gets into a wonderful relaxed and resourceful state for trusting his unconscious skills to actually hit the ball. It really works well for him in pressure situations.

3. Develop and Internalise the Routines

My client was already a long way down the path with the routines he’d developed with his Mental Game coach. So apart from a little fine tuning, the main enhancement I recommended was to use an abbreviated form of “Finger Breathing” as a trigger for one or more of the important phases of his routines.

These triggers help him automatically kick-start the important phases of his routines and get him in the right state of mind, at the same time. This helps him considerably with concentrating only when he needs to, being confident when hitting the shot and being calm, nonchalant and lacking in doubt between shots.

I recommended including three “Finger Breathing” trigger points in his routines. The first when he arrives at the ball, to trigger the start of his conscious pre-shot routine and to change his state from the nonchalance of walking between shots. The second trigger point after he completes his final, satisfactory rehearsal swing, to trigger the start of his unconscious shot routine. Finally, the third at the end of his post shot routine, as he hits his “reset button” and reverts back to nonchalantly waiting to play his next shot.

We also worked on the option of using two distinct rehearsal swings. The first one would allow him to rehearse the shot he’s about to play, while pondering a swing thought. The second one, just focussing on the shot he imagined in the pre-shot routine, to allow him to isolate the conscious aspect of his swing thought from the largely unconscious shot routine.

I also reminded him that his routines and triggers will also allow him to play each shot in isolation from the ones before and the ones after. Remember a 6-inch putt is the same on the scorecard as a 300 yard drive or a hole in one.

Finally, I asked him to remember that it’s as important to practice his routines as it is to practice his swing. I also reminded him to use his routines and triggers on every shot. That means every shot on the course, in practice, in his imagination and in hypnosis – more of that later. That way, his routines will become routine – sorry about that!

4. Use Hypnosis to Implement Swing Changes

You can use hypnosis to mentally rehearse the drills and swing thoughts you’re working on using my “Better Golf with Less Practice” programme.

He started out using just the second track, “Practice Golf in Your Mind”. Each time, before listening to the track, thinking about the swing thoughts his coach wants him to be working and imagining what it would be like to successfully hit the ball well with these swing thoughts while imagining using his new routines. Then listening to the track and allowing his unconscious mind to play that shot over and over at the appropriate time in the recording.

Then when he’s you’re getting used to using the “Practice Golf in Your Mind” track, he’s ready to start using the third track, “Play Golf in Your Dreams” in parallel with it. He can switch them about as he wished, as long as he kept using them both. I advised him to go through the same preparation as before, so that he’s now practicing perfect shots in your sleep. Again, remembering to use his routines.

The first track in the programme, “Play Golf in Your Mind” was more appropriate to mentally rehearsing playing golf on the course and is become useful now that he’s practicing his course management on the courses he’s playing competitively. I reminded him that he can also combine it with “Play Golf in Your Dreams” track.

5. Learn to Own the Putting Green

My client’s also using the “Own the Putting Green” programme to help him to improve his putting and he’s able to use it in parallel with his Swing Change work using the “Better Golf with Less Practice” tracks. He’s also able to use those tracks to practice his putting in his mind and in his dreams.

He’s also remembering to use his routines and triggers for his putting – on the course, in practice, in his imagination and in hypnosis.

6. Develop Course Management and Mental Game skills

The techniques I’ve proposed for his routines, swing changes and putting will all contribute significantly to his course management and mental game. However, I also advised him that there are three particular tracks I’d like him to incorporate into his work between events and in preparation for competition.

The first of these is the free “Your Own Virtual Caddy” track that’s available free to subscribers to my Golf Hypnotist Ezine. Ideally I’d like him to listen to this once a week. This is the best overall track for bringing everything together for actually playing his best. It’s also a great final preparation for an event and I encouraged him to listen to it the day or night before every important round.

The best players seem to be the ones that score well even when they aren’t feeling or playing their best. Have you noticed how Rory McIlroy seems to be able to win even when he’s not playing his absolute best or not 100% fit? For me it’s all about “Making the Most of Your Game” and that’s the title of a track in my “Winning Golf” programme. That’s worth listening to once in a while, especially if you are not comfortable with your game before an event.

The next track I recommended to him in this section was “Play Golf in Your Mind” from my “Better Golf with Less Practice” programme. As I mentioned in the section on Swing Change, this is very useful for mentally practicing golf in your mind on the course you are about to play competitively. It will also help you to plan your course management. If, for whatever reason, you don’t have the opportunity for a practice round, just get hold of a course planner, read through it and start thinking about your course management strategy then go and play it in your mind. As I mentioned above, you can also combine it with “Play Golf in Your Dreams”.

When he got to this stage, there was one more track that may help. Many golfers can benefit, especially in course management terms, from “walking a mile” in the shoes of their favourite professional golfer. In my client’s case it was Steve Stricker and I recommended he use the “Borrow as Skill from your Golfing Heroes” track from my “Learn Better Golf with Your Golfing Heroes” programme.

7. Everything Else – the Safety Valve!

I’m confident that following steps one to six in this plan are making huge difference to his game and his confidence. However, as Bob Rotella says, “Golf is not a game of perfect”, so there may be other things that we can improve on over time. That’s where some of the other tracks, programmes and personalised sessions can help. That’s the Safety Valve!

Comments

  1. Andrew Fogg says:

    Hi Andy,
    The swing coach I was referring to is Brian Manzella. He’s based in Louisiana and you can read about him on his website at http://www.brianmanzella.com.
    With my best regards,
    Andrew

  2. andy says:

    hi andrew, thank you for this brilliant newsletter, i will try to use these idea,s in my own game, but i would just like to know who the swing coach is , cheers andy

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