Intro to the Mental Game of Golf - Part 1
Copyright 2006 Craig Sigl In this article, we are going to begin the process of learning how we can use our mind better for our game. You shouldn't need to be convinced of the paybacks we can get in this area for cutting your score right? Developing your mental game is definitely using the Pareto Principle (80/20 rule) as we can spend so little time and energy here and gain big efficiencies toward reducing our score. And especially getting everything we can out of ourselves and not just for our golf but for the rest of our lives as well, this info is actually applicable to just about anything we want to achieve in our lives. It's very exciting and again, the beauty of it all is that what I'm going to tell you does not take much time. We've got spare in between moments throughout our regular day and we can take advantage of them because we are just working with our brain. A club in the hand isn't even necessary! And you can work these concepts into your game anywhere, at home, at the office, even while driving! If you would have asked Sam Snead, or Byron Nelson who their mental coach or golf psychologist is when they were playing, they would have looked at you with a blank stare and said "what are you talking about?" Up until recently, there were none.
The 1st time I’d heard about mental coaches for golf was when I was listening to an interview on sports radio while I was living in Portland, Oregon in 1995. PGA pro Peter Jacobsen, who is from that area, had just won at Pebble Beach and Buick Invitational after a long period where he didn't win anything. He was asked what happened, what he did to so dramatically improve his game to be at the top of the tour again after a long dry spell. He said he had spent time with a sports psychologist. In those wins and his other top finishes that year, he putted unbelievably well, even by tour standards.
One of the things he said that the psychologist had him do was to practice his putting, for an hour a day…without a ball. Wow, do you have the discipline to do that? I don't know if I do either. We all know that we use only a fraction of our brainpower. What if we could use more? We can… We're going to have a lot of fun with this and it's where I give the greatest credit to my getting into the 70's and my client's scoring improvements. I mean imagine, I go 25 years or so of hacking up courses, spraying shot everywhere, shooting in the 90's. Sound like you too? I even took lessons and that still didn't do it and then I read a couple of books that aren't even about golf that jumped me to the next level. Now, you may hear or read about some golf psychologist or teaching pro saying that they don't believe you can just read a book, not practice "correct" mechanics and then get that much better at sports performance, but I 'm here to tell you I and many others have done it, and I had no help from anyone. So I KNOW you can too because of your human potential. You are human right? That's the only pre-requisite here. So how did I start all this? In my teens, I took a course in college called "interpersonal communications" and was introduced to a couple of psychology books.
This info has been around for a while folks but it's just as valid today as then. Some of it even refers to concepts learned centuries ago from some of the great philosophers. I'm reading them thinking: "where have I been that I 've never seen this before?" Well, looking back, I'd say I was stuck in the typical golfer rut of getting as much mechanical instruction as I could get and then I had to practice it regularly to get better. Except, that didn't work! Anyway, our project in that class was to try to change something in our life using what we learned. I was extremely shy about speaking in public like many people and so I attempted to use the concepts but I didn't stick with it! I gave it a quick try and proclaimed it to be a failure like many of us do when discovering a new concept. I then forgot all about it until years later when I had that "meltdown" round of 112 and started to look for something different otherwise I'd still consider myself insane by Albert Einstein's criteria right? So I picked up those books again and gave it a real try this time and like magic, it did wonders for my game! I was as shocked about it as anyone. All of psychology agrees that it typically takes 21 days to change a habit and that's for minor changes. It can take longer if you're going to do any major reprogramming. But, the key is consistency. You have to do these exercises every day.
Missing days will just prolong the results you're looking for. Now don't worry, these "exercises" I'm talking about are very easy and fun. I know you've all heard the old saying that we only use 10% of our brainpower. I'm not so sure that number is true but it is a fact that we have untapped potential up there. Some of the top Olympic competitors and professional athletes are finding out how to tap into this. They've done it, they've put the concepts to use…What if we could grab some of that too? What of the possibilities? That's the main reason why sport records keep getting broken, it's because we keep finding new ways to use our mind to make our body perform better and this is part of it. Since those first 2 books, I've studied many more and found that there are recurrent themes running throughout all of them and the biggest one is that we want to develop rapport with our unconscious mind. When we do that, we can play golf with our unconscious mind that is far more consistent than the conscious. How do we do that? Well, there's more than a few opinions and modalities developed to do just that and I've explored and am continuing to research them. I've already mentioned Hypnosis, NLP, and also Accelerated Learning techniques in other articles.
I'll write more on each of these in coming articles too but before that, you need to understand first how our mind operates. Stay tuned.