I recently received a message from a college golfer attending my alma mater, Methodist University. I always appreciate when people read these posts and openly welcome any topics you all may have in mind – so thank you!
The player wrote: I was wondering if you could write on mental games and how to keep your game going after a good round. I seem to have lots and lots of trouble putting back to back good rounds together.
I am not a mental game specialist by any means, but I do have real life experiences. To be perfectly honest, I was a bit of a “rockin’ rollercoaster” for some time in college tournaments. Some nines were great, some were not, some rounds were great, some were not, some tournaments were great, and some were not. However, through that I gained personal experience with this topic of the mental game and stringing rounds together. In addition, I have since gained a bit of perspective which hopefully will be useful.
I believe the purpose of the mental game is to create and express clarity.
In order to do this, it is helpful to rid ourselves of preconceived pressures by reframing a situation. From my experience, that is what the mental game is about; reframing a fearful situation into a neutrally calm situation. I know a lot of tournament formats are two or three rounds but let’s reframe the situation. For instance, who decided that it was the most important to string rounds in general together? What if the dividing factor was a golf hole? In that case after the first good round you would have already strung together 18 “whatevers”. What if the dividing factor was a swing or stroke? In that case after the first good round you would have already strung together around 72 or so of those “whatevers”. What if the dividing factor was a single step en route to our next shot? In this case we would put together miles and miles of steps and tie together thousands of “whatevers!” Stringing two things together seems quite doable after realizing we put a lot more than two “whatevers” together all the time!
Point being, whatever it is you want to string together may very well be important for providing satisfactory and relevant results, however; this is all in regards to our perspective. If we can play one good hole, we can play one good round, so what in the world is the difference between doing it once and doing it twice? Our mindset.
A practical application of this would be something some of us did on the Methodist University team while I was there. We divided up rounds or 36 hole days into holes of 3. We set individual goals for every 3 holes. This breaks up the supposed “round” and creates fresh mindsets every 3 holes. Although it is commonly acknowledged that a round is 18 holes and two rounds are 36 holes why can’t our goals be shorter or longer? What if we make it our goal to par or birdie each individual hole? Or, what if we make it our project to count up all of our pars and birdies at the end of an entire year? Well, cool, now we are not restricting and pressuring ourselves into a two round or tournament format limitation.
Of course it is important to produce results when the results are needed. Thinking more long or short term (see what works best for you) can help take off the pressure of performing and obtaining a certain amount of “whatevers.”
Everybody has different ways of allowing clarity to exist. In my opinion, it starts by being comfortable with who we are and enjoying our pursuit of golf as a process. To compliment this we can create long and short term goals to use as games during tournament situations.
I would like to end with one of my favorite quotes of all time from the book Zen Golf by Dr. Joseph Parent. It is in reference as to how to make a flower blossom:
“Nothing external makes [the flower] blossom – it is its nature to grow and unfold. It will do so beautifully given the right nurturing conditions. A flower doesn’t need to try to blossom.” It goes on to relate that idea to ourselves as people; “Our nature is basic goodness, which includes the capacity for awareness and the impetus to learn and grow. Therefore, like a flower, we don’t need to force ourselves to change or try extra hard to learn and grow. It is our nature to do so. All we need to do is give ourselves the right conditions.”
As golfers, we do not have to force two good rounds to come together. Instead, we create a process that allows the two (or even two thousand!) good rounds to simply unfold.
I look forward to hearing about how you all do!
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