Play better golf psychology in the now and one shot at a time


One of the key success factors of better golf psychology is learning to unconsciously play one shot at a time – in the moment, in the zone or "in the now." And this applies equally to every shot you play on the practice ground, in a friendly game and in the most important round of your golfing life. Playing in the now means that you’re protected from any poor, indifferent shots and ill-judged shots that went before. It also means that you’re protected from future uncertainties and expectation.

Now why am I talking about this today? Well, isn’t the world’s golf press just amazing, if a little predictable? They see Benn Barham score a fourth round 69 for a phenomenal total of 19 under par and they say he failed and focus their attention on his few bad shots, like his drive down the last hole "that cost him a birdie." If he’d played like that, scored like that and won, then they’d be talking about his amazing success and knocking Rafael Cabrera Bello’s disastrous failure.

Now I’m not taking anything away from Rafael. He played remarkably well for an 11-under par 60 to beat Benn into second place in the Austrian Open on the European Tour by a single shot. I read somewhere that it’s one of only 13 rounds of 60 in the history of the European Tour and Darren Clarke had two of those, so Rafael’s one of only 12 phenomenal golfers.

What’s more interesting to me as a golf psychologist watching every shot of their final rounds is that they both played to the best of their ability on the day. It was just that Rafael scored better. Better even than Benn’s 63 in the opening round on Thursday. What’s also interesting is that they both seemed to be playing their mental golf one shot at a time.

You could see that in the way that Benn calmly holed a series of difficult recovery putts to keep things going in the first 9 holes on Sunday. Except he didn’t seem to be "trying" to keep things going, he just seemed to be playing each shot on its merits, disregarding the shot that had gone before, good or bad. He also didn’t look like a man who was getting ahead of himself. He just seemed to be focussing on playing the shots and letting the score just happen. Even the final result didn’t really faze him judging by his comment afterwards that "I’m very happy with the way I have played but disappointed to finish second."

Rafael certainly looked to me like he was doing the same thing and he confirmed it afterwards when he’s quoted as saying.

“It’s just amazing – I played the best golf of my life and I can’t believe it, I was so far back at the start of the final round that I wasn’t thinking about winning. I just tried to play a shot at a time and it worked out really good.”

So how do I play each shot "in the now", I hear you asking. Well, I’ll be talking a lot more about that in future articles, but for now, here’s a simple suggestion that will bring most people abruptly into the now. Just imagine that the shot you are about to play is the last golf shot you will ever play. There’s no point in thinking about the next shot, as there isn’t going to be one. Just make the best you can of this one last shot. Make it a shot to remember. You wouldn’t want to mess up your last ever shot by trying too hard, now would you.

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