The game of golf is hard!!!
Not just physically but also mentally. Sure, if you walk up to 5 hours to get around the course, it can be incredibly taxing on the body physically.
Mentally, the game throws a lot of challenges, curveballs and frustrations.
I was with one of my coaching clients out on the course recently and we were talking about how it can be challenging to understand our thinking on the course. He wanted to know why it seems so easy when he is playing well not to ‘over-think’ or complicate the game whilst when he is struggling he seems to have all matter of thoughts enter his mind. Mostly at the most inconvenient times too.
As we walked around the course we spoke about the way golfers are often guilty of thinking into the future when they are playing well. It is almost like they are putting the plans into place on how they are going to shoot their lowest score or end up winning the tournament. My client is well aware how ‘future thinking’ can impact his game. We have worked on enjoying the ‘present’ and staying mindful of his thoughts.
Golf is a game where there is little chance of a reactive mindset occurring. Some ball sports such as tennis and football (soccer) are reactive sports and players are usually using unconscious thinking to allow them to perform. Golf, on the other hand, opens up countless opportunities to over-think. Not just of the future but also the past. Past errors. Past mistakes. Past embarrassments.
If we look at Future thinking vs Present thinking, I feel that both have their merits and we should not determine that present thinking is the be all and end all.
Thinking about the future has its place. When you are visualising successful performances or achievements, many researchers believe that ‘future pacing’ is a great technique to prepare your mind (& body) for successful outcomes. It is okay to think about winning the tournament or collecting the trophy. However, it must be done away from the course and when you are fully relaxed.
This ‘programming’ will help you to picture the things that you want to achieve. It will help the Reticular Activating System (RAS) to fire up.
Steps to take when ‘Picturing your Future’
- Know what you want
- Imagine if it has already occurred
- Highlight all the sensations linked with the achievement
- Feel how good it feels to have achieved the results you are after
- Take a ‘snapshot’ in your mind of the success
This technique employs you to think, act and feel as if your dream/desire/goal has already been achieved. The place for practicing this technique is away from the course.
Now ‘Present thinking’ is ideal when you are out on the course. It should ideally be your default system for thinking and it generally is the most favourable way to harness your thinking out on the course. Present thinking means you are in ‘the here and now’. You are enjoying and savouring this moment and this moment alone. You are not contemplating if you par 16,17 & 18. You are not chasing a birdie in the last 3 holes. You are not thinking of your championship speech. These can be done off the course.
On the course, be mindful of the grass beneath your feet. The breeze on your face and the temperature of the sun on your skin. Being present means acknowledging your thoughts, not controlling them. It means you acknowledge that you are thinking too far ahead and you are able to bring your thinking back to now.
There is so much power in this approach. I urge you, like my clients, to know when to predict the future and know when to be ‘in the present’.