Thinking Is Stinking - Part Two
This will be a discussion of why thinking interferes with your golf and what you can do about it to improve your game.
Some golfers with high handicaps are actually mechanically better than their scores reflect. Upon reading these tips, they happily find themselves dropping 8 to 10 strokes. That is because they are able to quickly become process oriented and let the results take care of themselves. They simply stopped thinking or worrying about making a bad shot.
By freeing their thoughts of negative emotions there is a positive shift in the brain's chemistry, which allows their body and mind to function at its optimum. Hence, without improving their mechanics they see an immediate improvement in their game.
Some golfers who once had low handicaps find themselves plagued with the yips. The yips are normally related to putting, but they can be applied to other parts of your game as well. One golfer told me he played great as long as he was 30 yards away from the hole. Once he came close to the hole, his palms would sweat and his game would fall apart. This definitely is a case of 'thinking is stinking'.
Recently, another golfer called and said he had problems with shanking the ball. It was costing him one to two strokes a hole. He use to shoot in the 70's and now he was in the 100's. He knew his problem was mental because he rarely shanked the ball on the driving range. He was beside himself and wanted some help.
I told him that I could help, but not to look for a quick fix because he has to retrain his brain not to think about the outcome which is the cause of his problem. Normally, it takes 30 days to reprogram the brain to develop a new habit.
Since his game was mechanically sound in practice, his problem was definitely 'thinking is stinking'. The game plan that I laid out was to accept the fact that he now shot in the 100's and relax. His memory of shooting in the 70's was getting in his way. He had to accept that mentally he was an unconscious incompetent and use that as a starting point.
Then, I advised him to become conscious of the fact that in practice his mind was relaxed. Also, to notice what he focused on when he played. He said he was focused on being afraid of shanking or being upset because he just shanked his last shot. Now, he was conscious that his outcome-oriented focus was causing his problem.
Next, I instructed him to focus on an acceptable progression, instead of trying to eliminate shanking over night. For example, if he shanked the ball 28 times during a round of golf, work on gradually reducing the number of times he shanked the ball. This would give him permission to fail and allow him to start focussing on the process instead of the results.
By becoming process-oriented, he would naturally become more relaxed and there would be a corresponding shift in his brain chemistry, which would reduce the number of times he shanked the ball. With this new mindset he will be happy once he only shanks 20 times during a round, instead of being depressed.
If he stays focused on the process, he will gradually find himself shanking only once in awhile during a round of golf and be back to shooting in the 70's. I told him to be realistic about his mechanical abilities because even Tiger Woods shanks the ball every so often. The key is to stay in the process and let the results take care of themselves according to your mechanical proficiency.
This is the tricky part because it's a catch 22. If you want the outcome, you can't have it because it will bring you back into thinking about the results. If you don't care about the outcome, you can have it because you mind is free to perform without fear of failure. In summary, if you don't think, you won't stink.
P.S.: Do you feel nervous on the first tee? Do you feel under pressure sometimes when putting to win? Are shots over water a problem for you? Then this problem can be a mental one. Here is a program that I can recommend to help you overcome it: The mental side of golf