Being a hypnotherapist, I have a weak spot for anything that uses the mind and particularly the imagination to make us successful at sports. Combine that with being an amateur golfer in Hong Kong and I’m totally hooked on the mental side of the game. I saw the US Open at Merion this year  and got to see how the world’s best golfers dealt with an unimaginably difficult course layout. In fact, the biggest star and competition of the tournament was the golf course itself.  

How would you have dealt with this course?


Of all the US Open's post mortems, one that I found fascinating was written by Matt Long in Podium Sports Journal. In it, he quotes Sam Snead’s comment that golf is just getting mentally tougher and tougher. Professionals today know this well and play the mental game to win tournaments. Here's the jist of it:

Lesson 1: The more you love a course/hole/shot, the better you play

If you’re a golfer, especially an amateur, you might have noticed how groaning about the design, maintenance and difficulty of the hole can detract from your best golf. At the US Open, The winner, Justin Rose, couldn't say enough good things about the course. He took what every writer and broadcaster was saying about the course and turned it on its head. He loooved the history of the club, he was impressed and appreciated the obstacles and the design of the course. 
 Conclusion number one: Creating good positive images and feelings about conditions of play and about your own sometimes  imperfect performance can pay off big time.

Lesson 2: Practice ‘tunnel vision’ during your round

Justin Rose told the press how he used ‘tunnel vision’ during his rounds to keep him focused on his game plan and to avoid distractions. (Try that on your next game. Just visualise a tunnel on that next hole.) In contrast, Mickelson, an early leader in the beginning rounds broke the first rule of mental golf and bellyached to the USGA Executive director about the change in setup on the 3rd hole and went on to complain about it to the press.
Conclusion number two: That rule he broke? Only worry about what you can control. Block all the rest out with strong positive images.

Lesson number 3: Mental Preparation is a winning strategy

A lot of players (including me) head off to the driving range to practice a day before an important game. But Phil Mickelson focused on his mental preparation instead. Because he had to take an overnight flight to Philadelphia, he went from the airport to the golf course as soon as he got off the plane. To everyone’s surprise, he was the leader of the first round and played exceptionally well that day. What did he do on that overnight flight? He studied his notes on the course from his previous rounds, relived his past experiences in his imagination and visualized himself playing successfully. 
Conclusion number three: Don't forget your mental preparation before the game. Plan your strategy, establish realistic goals and plan how you’ll tackle those tough holes ( like the 6th hole on the East Course KSC?) .  Visualize yourself doing great on these holes. Feel how good it is to be confident and unflappable no matter what happens. This just might get you a lower score than practicing your shots over and over at the range.

The next time you play golf, make it a mental game.

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