The Mental Game ... Think Your way To Lower Scores

by Bob Power

I've had people tell me that when they come to the golf course they try not to think about anything and others that say that their head is full of thoughts. The one time that you need to have a clear mind is when you are standing over the ball ready to hit. Before and after that you need to control your thoughts. In fact a clear thought out round can really help you relax and have a more enjoyable round.

Warming up and stretching can help you get into the golf mind set. It will also get the blood flowing. Before I tee off on the first hole I take two clubs and swing them about 20 times in a full easy golf swing. This gets the muscles loose and the blood flowing.

Before each shot stand behind the ball and think about where you would like to hit it. Pick a spot in the fairway or on the green where you will target your shot to. Think about and even try to envision the shot as you stand behind the ball. When you set up to hit clear your mind, swing easy and commit to the shot. If your shot does not work out the way you wanted spend a very little time in analyzing the shot. If you know what you did wrong then fine, but if you don't know what happened, forget it. Your not going to figure it out on the course anyway. Try not to get frustrated it' only going to spoil your next shot or your entire round.

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Don't practice on the golf course. I played with my sister in law one day and all she did was remind herself of the 25 different things she learned at her golf lesson that week. She never hit a good shot all day and left the course more frustrated than when she arrived. Practice at the driving range.

As you walk to your ball after you have hit it try to take in the surroundings and enjoy the time you have on the course. Try to get as much relaxation out of your round as possible. Enjoy the people you are with or enjoy the personal alone time you have, it's precious.

As you approach the ball try to decide in your mind where you are in yardage from the green. There are usually markers on the fairways or marked with colored stakes on the edge of the fairways. Knowing how far you are from the green will help you think about what type of shot and what club you will use.

I always try to think about how I'm going to play each hole before I tee off. When I'm waiting to tee off I'll look at the score card and try to map out my approach to the hole. For example if the next hole is a long par four I'll stand on the tee and have a look at the entire hole. I might decide to use a 5 wood, 9 iron, PW, and a one putt for par. Also I have chosen 3 shots I'm also confident in hitting. Having made up my mind before hand helps me relax more and concentrate on each shot. I don't feel anxious or uncertain about a possible upcoming shot. If one of the shots doesn't work out I'll handle that as it comes, but planing before hand really helps. A par five might be a driver, 5 iron and 9 iron with a putt for birdie or at least two putts for par.

Even a long par three can be a challenge if it has a lot of bunkers or has a water hazard. If your anxious about water or bunkers then decide to lay up. Lets say the hole is 210 yards with bunkers and a water hazard. You could tee off with a club that will get you out there 150 yards and then you are left with a 50 yard chip or pitch shot with one putt for par. That may be better than putting one in the water off of the tee or in the bunker. Most weekend golfers I know have a hard time with bunker shots. Avoid them if possible. Even though I could drive the green myself I might lay up if the hazards are too difficult.

In conclusion, thinking about your round, or the next shot can really help you lower your score. A little forethought will help you be honest with yourself and help you avoid those shots that you are not capable of. Playing within your strengths is not coping out, but it is accepting your own capabilities.

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