Few sports get in your head the way golf does.
You spend less than 10 minutes of a four-hour round addressing and hitting the ball. Those long stretches between shots allow your mind to entertain thoughts it potentially shouldn’t: the missed two-footer on the last hole; the pond you have to avoid on the next shot; the snotty remark your playing partner just made; the personal-best you’ll card if you just finish with pars…
All that mental interference prevents you from being present, ready and focused when it’s your turn to hit. But how do you quiet the noise?
The key is emotional resilience. That was the message consistently conveyed during the nine years I collaborated with the late Dr. Denise McGuire. Our programs successfully integrate psychology and mind/body skills for individuals, groups, golf teams and executives.
Emotional resilience is as important a golf skill as driving, chipping and putting. It’s more than just “shaking off” a bad hole or taking “one shot at a time.” It requires an awareness of your mental, emotional and physical condition when you play your best golf—your own optimal state of being—and choosing to recreate it time and again.
An easy way to get started is to write down what’s happening mentally, emotionally and physically when you are playing well and when you’re not. Remember: Your skill doesn’t change from day to day or hole to hole; your state of being does. And that affects your performance.
Denise and I used to joke that golf would be great if the scorecard had never been invented. Studies show people perform their best when they focus on processes, not outcomes. Emphasizing outcomes often dredges up fear and doubts based on past experiences, which creates anxiety and tension that shows up in your swing.
The process of becoming emotionally resilient isn’t complicated; it’s continual. It begins and ends with every shot. We call it the Performance 360˚ Methodology.
It goes like this:
EVENT: Good shot, average shot, awful shot.
REACTION: Is your immediate response positive, neutral or negative?
AWARENESS: Take your emotional temperature. Ask, “Where am I now?” “Am I how I want to be?” “Is this my optimal state of being?”
CHOICE: You choose whether to stay in your current state or use tools to transform your state of being.
TRANSFORMATION: Among the tools that help you approach your optimal state of being:
• Breathing to elevate or lower your heart rate.
• Changing body language.
• Singing a song, repeating an affirmation or expressing joy.
• Focus on something you can sense (see, hear, feel) instead of think about.
OPTIMAL STATE OF BEING: This is your own best state—mentally, emotionally and physiologically. You’re free of distractions and interference and 100 percent present and committed to your next shot.
And once you hit the shot, the process immediately begins again.
One of the nation’s elite LPGA golf professionals, Elena King is the founder and president of ExperienceGolf. She teaches at both CommonGround Golf Course in Aurora and Meridian Golf Club in Englewood. 303-503-0330; experiencegolf.biz.