Archive for the ‘Golf Psychology’ Category

How to Develop Golf Poker Face!

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

For those of you who have played golf for at least several years, you probably know when someone mentions “poker face” on the golf course. In fact, this is actually one of the most important key factors to playing high-level golf.

Golf is a sport where your emotions can easily get in the way and you can ruin your round literally by laughing your a** off to the 18th green.

Do you remember the last time you made a birdie, then got so excited that you thought about shooting under par, breaking 80/90, then double-bogeyed the next hole? Or maybe worse?

That’s exactly what I am talking about, you can let your emotions run your thoughts on the golf course.

Or how about the last time you made a triple bogey on a hole then follow it with 3 more triples?

Whether you have a good hole or bad hole, it’s imperative that you learn to control emotions. Imagine those monks (even if you are not buddhist and I am not) meditating, that’s how your mind should be if you want to play your best golf.

Meditating on the golf course, are you crazy?

Well I didn’t say literally but your brain should always be near an even, steady state. Never let a good shot or bad shot make yourself think too far ahead.

It’s about “detaching” your emotions from yourself on the golf course, not adding to it. And no, if you are one of those club-throwing freaks, you’ve got a long way to go. I would suggest playing some golf videos games first to improve your angry behavior. And trust me, it took me around 10 years to get my anger under control, 10 YEARS! I was very young though when I started golf but many of you start golf more mature so use your maturity when you are on the golf course.

So, how do you train your mind to meditate on the golf course and separate your emotions from your golf shots?

Simple, you need to practice it right. Next time you are on the range, on the practice green, or playing another round of golf, practice “poker face”. This means even if you just hit a 250-yard 3-wood second shot on a par 5 to 2 feet or you just shanked your drive OB on the first hole, try your best to show no emotion, DETACH all emotion from your golf shot.

Or if you are on the driving range, don’t get mad because you can’t fix your 50 yard hook or don’t get so excited that you hit 3 shots in a row that hit the target.

I challenge you to a 100% emotionless practice or a round. The thing is, we are all humans and there’s no way you are going to play perfect at 100%. Even best players in the world probably get near 95% at best.

But the more you can do this poker face thing, the better you will be able to handle situations on the golf course and your golf scores will eventually lower as a result.

Try it out and let me know how well you do, poker face drill.

Frustrated with Golf? Golf Is Not for Perfectionists!

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Frustrated with your golf game, golf swing, or even your golf scores?

Don’t worry, when you play too much golf, this can happen to you but it’s only a sign that your golf game is improving.

Why?

Most golfers get into this cycle: Play golf -> Play more golf -> Score Better -> Play more golf -> Suddenly you score way worse because your expectations go up.

The more you play golf, you mind naturally “thinks” you are a better golfer and those golf shots you used to suck on, now you hit it way better and can’t expect any worse even if the world turned upside down.

Because you are actually a “better” golfer, you expect more from yourself.  In other words, you become more of a “perfectionist” where you have to hit perfect golf shots.

And this all leads to frustrations and lower golf scores.

Sometimes, you need to really sit back and look at how you’ve been improving at golf and only think of positive things you’ve done.

I tell you this because this actually happened to me yesterday.  Right after it stopped raining here in California and spring hit, I went to the range with a mindset like, “Oh right, I am gonna starting playing more golf now, I am so happy to be alive and hitting golf balls!”.  And yesterday, my golf mindset was like, “damn it, I missed 5 yards left of my target!”

But I do think it over and I think I am getting better and shouldn’t think like that.

So, if you are frustrated with golf, it’s all in your mind.  Go back to the last day you played golf that made you happy and golf was fun just because you were on the golf course or simply playing golf.

Thinking in perspective can help frustrated golfers (and me).

How to Get Out Of Bogey Train!

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

You know many people say golf is all about your mind and it’s true, most of your good golf is played in your mind.

I am sure this happens to you on the golf course like every time you play, you get on some kind of bogey train or even worse double-bogey train. It’s one of those bad holes one after another.

But here’s the thing, virtually EVERY golfer goes through this at least once in their round, even the guy who wins the U.S. Open. (Well it might be called Par Train for them.)

Whatever train you are on, it’s not that it happens to you but you do something to break that cycle.

How to get out of bogey train? (and other trains)

First, you need to think in the present, think of the shot at hand.  No matter how many bad shots you’ve been hitting, don’t think about that but really clear your mind, visualize the shot you are going to play RIGHT NOW, and do it. If it doesn’t work out, too bad but at least you gave yourself the best chance by thinking positive.  The worst is if you give up and sloppily hit your current shot while visualizing all the bad shots you’ve been hitting, that’s a sure way to never get off the bogey train.

Second, you need to think of make just a “par” on every hole.

I tell ya, once you get on the “par train”, it’s really easy to hop onto the “birdie train”.  And once you are on the “birdie train”, making birdies become really easy and those are rounds when you shoot under par.

So, getting back to the basics, think simple and think one shot at a time, one hole at a time.

Whenever I play a round of golf and I get on one of those bogey trains, the faster I can just make a “par” is when I start to take control over my round and rest of my round goes well.

Anyways, next time you are on the bogey train (or whatever), try my advice and keep golf simple in your mind, your mind/scores will thank you for it.

 

What I Was Doing Today!

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

No, seriously though, it’s a good idea to practice 50 yard pitch shots for hours as that will save you more strokes on your short game than anything else, plus if you can hit it long and straight, you’d be hittin’ 50 yard sand wedges to the green on every hole.   This is the way.

How to Make a Consistent Golf Swing with an Image Thoughts!

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

One of the ways you can make your golf swing consistent is to have a consistent backswing where you are swinging to the same point every time.

Over the years, I have found that image swing thoughts work the best to achieve the desired consistency above all other as your brain somehow manages to get your muscles right when you think of an “image”.

So what is this image?

Well, I will let you on a little secret.  For me, I imagine my hands about level with my eyes above my shoulders.   When I imagine my hands being in that certain position, I inevitably swing back correctly with my body.  From there, it’s piece of cake, just rip through the ball and same results every time.

Imagery is probably the most under-rated forms of swing thoughts, stuff that can actually hold up under pressure.

Instead of thinking, “keep my head down”, see an image of your head being in the position where you want while you swing.

Instead of thinking, “follow through”, see an image of yourself following through the golf ball while you swing through the ball.

You see, swing thoughts are only good if you can make an image of it.  I assure you, this results in more consistency in you golf swing.

P.S. My golf swing is coming back a bit, today I hit the golf ball really far, I will be playing for Pepsi Tour mini tournaments probably starting in July, wish me luck!

How Navy Seals Mental Psychology can be Applied to Golf!

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

Here’s a rather interesting story about how Navy Seals increased their passing rates with some psychology:

With mental rehearsal they were taught to visualize themselves succeeding in their activities and going through the motions. As far as self talk is concerned, the experts in The Brain documentary made the claim that we say 300 to 1000 words to ourselves a minute. By instructing the recruits to speak positively to themselves they could learn how to “override fears” resulting from the amygdala, a primal part of the brain that helps us deal with anxiety. And finally, with arousal control the recruits were taught how to breathe to help mitigate the crippling emotions and fears that some of their tasks encouraged.

Upon reading this paragraph, I immediately thought whether the navy seals were playing golf (or should be playing golf).

Likewise, in golf, you would want to always think positively in your mind and visualize yourself successfully hitting the golf shot.

In other words, you want to see the path of your ball to the green, then the ball dropping in the cup. Then you would want to visualize how you would have to hit the shot with your golf swing. (or putt)

This simple act of visualization is probably like 99% of golf game itself. If you haven’t visualized much, I suggest you start doing so!

How to Break Bad Spells(Holes) During a Round!

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

You probably can remember at least a dozen times when you or a pro golfer on TV is playing incredibly well until one hole, he/she starts melting down, making bogeys, doubles, and worse.

This bogey-train is a bad spell put on you by exception of no one except yourself.  What I mean is that this “bad” break, is really all in your head when you start messing up one hole,  then following with another and another and so on.

These bad spells are probably one of the leading causes of high golf scores including the pros.

For one, you need to be able to control your emotions, not just physically but inward, within yourself.  In other words, you need to learn how to not beat yourself on the golf course as the only thing standing between great golf and bad golf isn’t your nearest competitor but just your tiny, weeny brain.

Okay, j/k, perhaps your brain is big but that doesn’t mean you have learned how to control your emotions.

The emotional control I am talking about is the one that is near “normal” state, not too happy and not too sad (or angry).

These demons in your brain are the ones you will need to beat if you have a bad hole.

A simple way Jack Nicklaus used to do (as said in one of his books) is to focus sharply on the next shot after hitting a bad shot instead of dwelling on it.  This works pretty well and I have additional tips for breaking your bad spells.  That is to really be nonchalant or “don’t care” whether you hit it great of bad on all your shots.   Freddy Couples does this well, you should watch him play golf next time on the golf course.  I don’t think Tiger does as well on this andi think he could actually play even better if he could control his emotions better.

Whateever you do, if you get a bogey or worse on a hole, make sure you make par or better on the next hole.  It’s about breaking your bad patterns in golf.  You will always have some bad holes in golf, even if you shoot 66, but you will have to learn to spring back from those on the hole right after to maximize your scoring abilities and limit the effects of psychological negativity.

Another tip is to take a deep breath after a bad hole, then really “visualize” what you need to do to create a miracle comeback hole.  A lot of times, these simple visualizations will do more than expected.  I have done things like triple-bogeying the 15th hole then I imagined myself birding out 16, 17, and the 18th hole which I promptly did and ended up 2nd for a tournament I’ve played in.

You see, your mind is everything in golf and lots of other sports.  You will see that when you can control your mind and emtions better, you will play better golf.

A Good(Perfect) Swing is only a small fraction of the Real Game!

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

I  might emphasize a lot of swing mechanics on this blog as of lately but I don’t want you to get the wrong idea that just because your swing is perfect, you should expect/think you will score better on the course.

Golf is really mostly a mental game, just like  driving a race car is.  The moment you lose focus for 1 to 2 seconds might cost you a tournament or even a skins game.

For example, if you played video game golf, you would  have absolutely no reason to complain that your swing is bad other than your hand-eye coordication with the game controller is bad.

Trust me, video game golf, such as Wii Sports that comes with a golf game, can be helpful in learning the mental game of golf, where you must score more with your brain than your swing.

Once you reach scratch golfer status, more and more of the golf game will become a mental game for you, where you must beat yourself to keep making great scores one after another.  But this certainly doesn’t involve just a perfect swing.  A perfect swing can really only get you from point A to B when there’s no variation in elevation and wind but in reality, you will have to use your brains more to adjust your swing according to the environment.

That’s why I don’t want you to just work on your swing to hit the ball straight.   Instead, when working at the range, try to hit different shots, just like on the real course.  If the wind blows from right to left on that certain you are practicing, practice aiming 10-20 yards right of the target and working with the wind to land near your target.  These simple practices will pay off big when you actually have to deal with it on the real golf course, just don’t wait though as practice makes perfect.

Also, practice your putting often and your short game.  No major championship winner won without an amazing putting and shortgame.  Even Tiger, never hits that many greens in regulations, it’s usually his amazingly out-of-reality short game shots that win him tournaments.

You can score 66 with a bad swing and a good short game but you cannot with a good swing and a bad short game.  150 yard 8-iron full shot counts as much as your 30-yard chip shot.  Remember these tips the next time you practice and divide up your time among practicing various different shots, putting, short game, and of course, Wii Golf always helps to sharpen your mental game without hitting the real golf course.  I have actually been messing with Wii Tiger Woods 2010, let me tell you some results of what I think.

How to Change Your Golf Swing On the Golf Course!

Monday, October 26th, 2009

One of the most tragedies you will face in golf is when you try to “change” your golf swing on the golf course because you are mishitting shots left and right.

I know this blog post is labeled, “How to change your golf swing on the golf course”, but that is actually the LAST thing you will ever want to do.

The best way to actually change your golf swing without changing it (really) is to SLOW DOWN your backswing.

That’s right, 99% of amateurs swing too fast when playing on the real golf course because it’s human nature.

The next time you hook or slice your drive OB, I want you to take a deep breath.  Then, without changing your swing, simply slow down your backswing about one pace.

When you slow down your backswing, you essentially swing down your whole swing.

Part of mysteries in golf is that your heart beat simply beats faster when playing real golf.  Hence, without you knowing, you subconsciously swing a tad faster than you did at the driving range. (when you hit those perfect shots)

If you hit 3 shots in a row really bad even after slowing down your swing, I would say even then do not try to change your swing on the golf course.  Instead, play that error whether it’s a 50 yard slice or hook.  (As I did outline in my free E-book by the way, highly recommended for those of you who haven’t.)

Remember, when you slow down your body, your heart beat slows down too.  Other than that, try to slow down everything else you do including walking.

Breathing deep 4 counts in and 4 counts out also helps, something a lot of the tour guys actually do including Paul Azinger. (who mentioned this was one of his most breaking techniques to make it to the PGA Tour in his book Zinger.  By the way, Paul Azinger is one of my all-time golfing heroes, he’s also probably the Tour’s only golfer with super-closed clubface at the top, everyone said that wouldn’t stand under pressure.  Paul Azinger won enough PGA Tour events to prove otherwise.)

How to Develop a Pre-Shot Routine!

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

One of the single most important aspects of being able to play good golf is that you have a developed pre-shot routine that’s consistent.  Whether you are hitting a driver, iron, or even putting, you need to develop a consistent pre-shot routine so you can put your swing/putts on automatic pilot.

Why?

Golf is a game where your ultimate enemy is distraction or “bad” thoughts while making a stroke, by having a solid pre-shot routine, you will eliminate most of those distractions while making each shot almost second-nature or automatic.

If you look at the top golfers in this world, virtually every one of them have developed a pre-shot routine that’s consistent down to the amount of time.  For example, you might notice that Tiger Woods takes 40 seconds to hit a golf tee shot from teeing up the ball to actually hitting the shot, it will never vary by more than couple seconds in the same round.

I’ve seen great players over in Asia while I played there for couple months long time ago, they didn’t have any pre-shot routine.  When I showed them, they thought I had a “personality” like all the American players.  LMAO, I think they were focusing too much on golf technique, not on the mental side of it.

Anyways, those players I met probably will never reach their full potential because they have never developed a “sound” pre-shot routine.

Before I tell you how to develop a good pre-shot routine, let’s take a quick look at Tiger’s.

For about the last couple years, Tiger’s pre-shot routine hasn’t changed except his number of waggles have been reduced to mostly one.  (But waggles, you can keep doing until you feel comfortable with the shot, the point of waggles.  And yes, Sergio Garcia does way too many.)

preshot-routine-1

(Left: Tiger Woods on Tee at 2007 Masters, Right: Tiger Woods on Tee at 2009 Masters)

1) First, Tiger tees up.

preshot-routine-2

2) Then he backs away about 5 feet behind the ball then does “exactly” TWO practice swings.   This number can vary on the individual but I think 1 to 2 practice swings is the best.  I do just 1 practice swing usually unless it’s a special shot.

preshot-routine-3

3) Then he gets right behind the ball lining himself (his eyes) on the imaginary line created by the target and the ball.  He then picks out a spot about 2-3 feet in front of the ball where he can align his golf club to it.  This is something virtually every pro does, lining up from the behind.  Jack Nicklaus is probably the most famous for starting to do this but this is the best way to align your tee shots and longer shots, your eyes simply work best from behind the ball.

preshot-routine-4

4) Tiger then steps up to the ball, gets comfortable, takes a look at the target, then does 1-3 waggles.  In 2007, he did 3 waggles.  In 2009 now, I believe he’s only doing 1 waggle.  Also don’t forget that when Tiger lines up to the ball, he sets his clubhead first then sets his stance.  This might be hard to notice as he does it very subtle but that’s what he’s doing.

5) After 2 waggles, he turns on the automatic pilot and BAM, on goes his muscle memory executing his swing that he has been practicing for countless hours.

You can also see the video here:

2007:

Click Here to View in Full Screen Mode

2009:

Click Here to View in Full Screen Mode

As you can see in Tiger’s pre-shot routine, it’s very important that you develop on consistent and sound pre-shot routine.

A pre-shot routine doesn’t have to be like Tiger’s at all but you must include couple key points:

  • Have a “key” point that strikes your brain as “starting” your pre-shot routine. This could be as simple as teeing up your ball or even touch your cap slightly.  This mental key will go a long ways to making your pre-shot routine virtually “automatic” every time you do it.
  • Practice swings – It’s a good idea to take 1 or 2 practice swings, they don’t have to be full swings (why waste your energy?) but small miniture swings of the real swing that can make you comfortable and confident.  Of course, some pros don’t even to a single practice swing.  This is fine too if it works for you.
  • Alignment – Aligning your golf ball to the target is very important.  The best way for long shots is to do it from the behind and pick out a spot (such as a leaf) 2-3 feet in front of your ball.  But if you have keen eyes and you can do it while standing next to the ball, by all means go ahead.
  • Setting up to the ball – I usually begin with my feet close together, then align my golf clubhead to my spot, then open my stance parallel to my target line.  Of course, this can vary depending on how you like it but make sure you do the same thing every time.
  • Waggle – The waggle is perhaps another important key aspect of your swing, think of it as your “feel” for the shot.  Of course, you don’t need to waggle if you don’t want to but try to develop something similar to that such as moving your lower body subtly from left to right or anything that can take some tension off your hands and body.  Think of waggle as your last “pre-swing” before the real thing.
  • Hitting to ball – What Jack Nicklaus used to do is actually “hover” his golf clubhead slightly above ground so the weight is never set down fully to the ground. (or take some weight off without the clubhead actually being airborne)  This is actually what a lot of pros do now too.  I think it’s a good idea because you never start from a completely static position.  Jack Nicklaus did this on all his shots including his putts.  I believe Tiger does this too.  By the way, for Drivers and woods, this hovering actually might be airborne right next to the ball.

In all, I am sure you can develop a sound pre-shot routine by following my guidelines stated here.  Try to practice your pre-shot routine on the driving range, not on every ball but mix it up like every 10 balls.  Even better, play an imaginary golf course on the driving range and go through your pre-shot routine on every shot while playing that golf course.

Well, gotta go now, I need to get some practice myself.  :)

Remember, a sound and consistent pre-shot routine is essential winning a skins game or even the U.S. Open.