I’m currently reading caddy Steve William’s book OUT OF THE ROUGH which covers when he was with Tiger Woods and various other professional golfers. I will be writing a post on that later, but as I was reading, it gave me an idea to write a post about 3 ways to improve your golf game while OFF the course. What I’m about to share isn’t anything Steve said, but rather what I know to be true based on other books I’ve read or research that I’ve seen. And reading Steve’s book who has caddied for some of the absolute best just reaffirmed what I’ve read and learned. So here are 3 ways to improve your golf game away from the links.
Mental Mastery Is Everything – It’s no secret golf is probably the hardest sport to ever learn. For young golfers and pros, this is very evident because the game of golf is played outdoors and in the elements. Factoring in the sun, wind, grass length, rain, and temperature, you are never playing the same game twice even if you go to the same course every single day. They are too many unknowns that alter how your tiny golf ball travels through the air and earth. So while you can’t control the weather, and you can practice your swing and technique a lot, another way to conquer golf is becoming mentally resilient. What I mean by this is to have a good attitude about learning and refining your golf game because it truly is a lifelong sport. And to become mentally resilient, it means not getting discouraged when you play poorly, to shrug things off sooner than later, and to get your head back in the game. And you might ask what the best way to do this is. The best way to do this is outlined in Jim Loehr’s books. I’ve read THE POWER OF STORY and also THE POWER OF FULL ENGAGEMENT. Jim’s worked with world-class athletes, military special forces, and Fortune 100 CEOs. At that level, when everyone is the cream of the crop, the single defining trait that sets people apart is mental and emotional fortitude. Their attitude, why they play, what they choose to focus on, what they refuse to focus on, how they handle stress and setbacks, and their mental and emotional health are all addressed in his books. The mind is a very powerful tool and Jim teaches you how to harness all of that energy and how to use it properly and effectively.
Meditate Daily – Along those same lines is the practice of meditation. Phil Jackson, the coach for the Chicago Bulls, was a big believer in this, as are many other athletes. The science behind why everyone should meditate published by Harvard and through other studies are astonishing. Whether you meditate for a few minutes each day or up to 30-45 minutes, the difference is hard to ignore. The benefits include increased focus, less stress, improved health, mental agility, and more. Aside from participating at your local meditation studio, try reading 8 MINUTE MEDITATION by Victor Davich. Next to consistently sleeping enough, eating well, drinking a lot of water, getting regular deep tissue massages, and carving time out of your schedule to practice golf, meditating will make a tremendous difference. Whether or not you plan to play or practice that day, especially if you’ve failed to get a good night’s sleep, meditation works wonders. Meditation re-energizes you as if you got a full night’s sleep in the same amount of time it takes for a power nap. Others describe it as though you have had a great work-out session or went to therapy. It addresses so many problem areas since the brain is the control center for everything else. Meditation helps you put aside all your problems, while acknowledging they are there, and will still be there after you meditate. So the practice of meditation becomes you might as well focus on clearing your mind first which will help you later. You can get back to solving those problems after meditating when you have more time, energy, and focus. Meditation teaches you how to be in the moment in spite of all the chaos. It will be a reprieve from the outer world where your only focus is on your breath and being in the moment. Meditation, like golf, is the mental break you need from the rest of your life. Except if you learn to meditate and practice it daily, it will also improve your golf game, so it’s a win-win situation.
Visualization Is Key – Every golf movie I’ve seen always has a sequence where the golfer stares into the distance, the crowds and trees fade away, only the flag waving in the wind can be seen on the horizon, and then the camera zooms into the flag, weaving and making its way toward the pin in the exact same fashion the golfer envisions the golf ball cutting through the sky to land on the putting green. That detailed visualization works. Golfers do this for a reason. It helps inform your brain and body what the goal is. If you’ve ever seen a car accident where in the middle of nowhere or a very big field a car crashes into the only obstacle around, the tall lamp post, a phone pole, or a fire hydrant, there’s a scientific reason behind that. When the car brakes fail or the driver is distracted and looks up just in time, if they continue to stare at the obstacle while they are in a panic mode, that’s all the brain is focused on which is why they end up crashing into the only obstacle around. Studies and driving schools have stated if you just avert your eyes and stare anywhere else or where you want to go, your arms and body will naturally steer the wheel a few degrees so you will miss the obstacle and no longer crash. With proper technique and a good stance, visualization is that extra key to having a slight edge to your game. Take the time to do the visualization exercises when you’re bored in a waiting room somewhere or in the dentist’s chair getting your teeth cleaned. GOLFING WITH YOUR EYES CLOSED by Erin Macy and Tiffany Wilding-White is a good resource to learn more.
Never forget the wise words of Bobby Jones, “Competitive golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course… the space between your ears.”