Dr. Bob Christina

Photo by: Jeremy M Lange

Mental Strategy Tip
by Dr. Bob Christina

Have you ever stood over various shots in tournaments and found yourself thinking about things like “don’t hit it in the sand trap; don’t hook it out of bounds; don’t hit it in the water; don’t hit this chip or pitch fat; or don’t three-putt”? Often negative thoughts like these, especially if they are the last thing on your mind before the shot is played, result in either doing exactly what you don’t want to do or trying so hard not to do them that you overcompensate in the opposite direction. These are thoughts about what not to do, which actually are useful in helping you decide what to do, that is, select a target, club, ball flight and swing to play that will increase the chances of your shot avoiding trouble. When it is time to prepare to play the shot, that is, implement what you want to do, 100% of your attention should be on what to do so that you can see the shot—feel it—trust it—and do it.

Students often tell me that controlling their focus of attention is hard to do on a consistent basis, but that is because they haven’t practiced it enough to develop it as a mental skill. Having the mental discipline to concentrate 100% on what to do instead of what not to do when preparing to play a shot is a mental golf skill that can only be learned through practice. One simple way to practice your mental skills on the range is to practice like you play by playing holes on the range just as you do when you play competitive rounds. Of course, you should practice your mental skills during practice rounds in the same way you do when you play competitive rounds. The successful performance of your physical golf skills are greatly affected by your mental golf skills. The more your mental skills are practiced the stronger they will become and the more effective they will be in facilitating the performance of your physical golf skills.