Why thinking positively may

NOT be helping your golf game

Confidence
20/12/2018

Golf is full of variety, and given that no two shots experienced are the same, there is a clear need to possess an ability to adapt to each situation presented. Be it our swing, our approach, or our mindset, we must adapt.

Picture it now. Three shots ago, it felt effortless…

Having appreciated one of the good views on this course, you felt relaxed standing over your approach shot. You picked a target, saw the shot shape (slight draw over the right ridge), completed your pre-shot routine, took aim (thinking of the target), executed your swing (with a clear swing thought) and watched the ball roll across the green to settle clear to the pin.
Three shots later, it’s a totally different story.

Approaching the ball, you knew you wouldn’t like the lie (a downslope), spending (what felt like) an age finding the yardage and selecting the club, you somehow rush into this approach shot, trying to avoid thinking about the trap short right of the green, and, surprise, surprise…the ball finds its way into the bunker you tried so hard to avoid… But you ‘knew’ it would go in there, right?
Many golfers (just like you) experience similar thinking patterns, from shot to shot, during a round, or even across the course of a season. If was to push you to highlight the main difference above, you would likely note that the first situation is positive, leading to the intended outcome, whereas the second starts negatively, focuses on avoidance, and produces a poor shot. Clearly, I’m trying to highlight that positive thinking is far better for your golf game, than negative, right?

In a word, no, and if that is the message you have taken so far, then I challenge you to reconsider. Because if you don’t you are likely to be encouraging, developing, or refining a thinking process that is limiting your ability to adapt your mindset out on the course.

Golf is full of variety, and given that no two shots experienced are the same, there is a clear need to possess an ability to adapt to each situation presented. Be it our swing, our approach, or our mindset, we must adapt. By adopting either a positive or negative mindset (something that many golfers do), you encourage a black and white, all or nothing, appraisal of performance. You limit your ability to adapt. Doing so can cause you to question your ability, enjoyment, or love for the game. To choose your approach as either positive or negative is, fundamentally, unhelpful.

So, rather than focusing on being positive, or trying to avoid being negative, you are better served to pay attention to ‘helpful’ or ‘unhelpful’ thoughts, as this thinking pattern can underpin what you want to do. Our brain is built and structured in such a way that means you can activate helpful thoughts by consciously choosing to do so, meaning you are more likely to be able to perform the skill you intend to.
In the interest of providing you with a ‘take way’ from this article, read the first example again and note down specific thoughts that you would find helpful to support you executing a desired shot. Take this list and use it to inform your practice.

Our mindset, acts like a muscle, it is developed by repetition. By spending time to develop helpful thinking, you are more likely to adapt your mindset to the situation. Practice thinking helpfully whilst you are on the range, around the practice green, or out on the course. If you are unsure of what is helpful to think of, discuss it with your PGA Professional, or an accredited Sport Psychologist – it is a skill worth develop and one that will help you to play better golf!