Anyone who has played this game at any level has been nervous. It could be when you had a chance to beat your dad for the first time, or lining up a 3 footer for $20 against your buddies, or on the first tee of the club championship. Either way, every golfer has experienced self-doubt. When my old college golf coach told me golf was 90% mental and 10%mental, I think what he really meant was that the battle that goes in onside one’s head during a round is far more difficult to manage than the one you will face on the course. We see it on the PGA Tour every week. Lets face it, at the highest level of the game everyone has a good golf swing. I beleive what separates the good from the great is how they manage the mental game. By now most of us know about Tiger’s father grooming him to be mentally strong by constantly distracting him and talking to him on the course. One day, Tiger reacted to a verbal taunt by smiling and hitting a great shot, and Earl Woods knew at that point that Tiger would be a champion. He already had a championship golf swing, but knew then that he was mentally strong enough to handle the pressure of tournament golf.
Any first year college psychology student can probably describe three of the major conflicts in life – Man vs Man, Man vs. Nature, and Man vs Himself. It just so happens that we must face all three in the game of golf, like many other sports. That’s why sports are such a big part of our lives. Sports provides a never ending challenge to humans to excel. Golfers face these challenges every time they tee it up. We all battle the course and the elements, and we all want to beat our buddies, but the hardest obstacle to overcome in golf is our own self doubt and negative thoughts. So how can the average golfer handle the perceived pressure and mental challenges we all face on the golf course? One of the first ways to do this is with a solid, repeatable pre-shot routine.
I’ve always been intrigued with the power of the mind over the body, but it was only when I started to read golf psychology books did I start to realize the benefits of the mental game. It is amazing how much your scores can improve without even changing your swing just by developing a solid, repeatable pre shot routine. In this series of posts, I’ll go over the basics of the pre-shot routine, one step at a time. This week it’s about the start, or trigger. Every golf swing needs a pre-shot routine, and every pre-shot routine needs a starting point.
The first step to a good pre-shot routine actually takes place before your routine starts. Get all the details of the shot at hand, such as distance, wind, lie and the match situation squared away first. The first actual step for a solid pre-shot routine is a trigger move of some kind. For some players, the trigger move may be the act of pulling a club from the bag, or throwing grass up to determine wind direction. Whatever you choose as your trigger move, this must be the point where you go into your routine and everything else is blocked out. You will stick to your routine until the end, which is the act of making a golf swing. The trigger is there to tell your mind that it’s time to get down to business. Even the most laid back players have a trigger where they get serious, even for just a few moments, while they hit the ball. Lee Trevino was the best at this. He could carry on with fans, telling stories and jokes, but when it came time to hit, he made his trigger move and went into his routine. He was as serious as a heart attack. As soon as he hit the shot and accepted the result, he continued to joke and whistle and sing. He knew that was the best way for him to stay positive and focused and not let the pressure of major championship golf get to him.
You may already have a trigger move that you do before every shot and don’t even realize it. Many players wipe their grips, or toss grass, or even clean the grooves. Whatever you choose as your trigger, let it be the starting point for your pre-shot routine to tell your mind that it’s time to get down to business. Watch the pros on the PGA Tour and see if you can discover their trigger move. They all have one, and it’s the same every time. Next time we’ll cover the next step to a solid pre-shot routine – aiming and visualization. Stay tuned!