Anyone who plays golf knows that it’s as much a mental game as a physical one. This week’s tip should help. It comes from Dr. Adam Naylor, who is the mental game professional at the Bay Club at Mattapoisett, leads Telos Sport Psychology Consulting, and is a clinical assistant professor at Boston University.
“Everyone that tees it up would like to play well. Each golfer’s reason for wanting to succeed can be uniquely different, but almost universally this desire serves as a distracter on the course. It is such a normal human urge to label things good or bad: each swing, each hole, each round.
“Human nature or not, continuous assessment of one’s golf game is not terribly helpful. Labeling each swing and dwelling on each stroke taken just puts a golfer on a mental roller coaster. Few things during a round of golf are either good or bad. They are more a shade of gray - a decent swing with a bad bounce into the rough, a yippy putt that manages to find the hole, a well-connected stroke that doesn’t fly as far due to a gust of wind, etc.
“A key to getting off the mental and emotional roller coaster is to end the habit of self-judgment while playing. This begins by abandoning the use of the labels ‘good’ and ‘bad’ during a round. They are descriptive shortcuts that turn into mental garbage. Become a short storyteller when reflecting on shots and holes. Instead of saying that was a bad putt, try, ‘I put a good roll on it, but misread the line.’ Rather than proclaiming a shot was good, try, ‘Tempo was smooth there.’ The story of the shot is far more valuable for learning and far more settling for emotions and confidence.
“Choosing to let go of swing and score judgments for 18 holes is a mental challenge (especially when the clubhouse is in sight and the urge to guess one’s score floats into the mind). The benefits, however, are significant score-shavers. It lets a productive mental rhythm develop that helps each swing, and good scores are most likely to follow.’’