Nicole Weller, the 2013 PGA of America Youth Player Development Award winner and 2012 Georgia PGA Section Professional Development Award winner, is a PGA/LPGA Teaching Professional at Compass Pointe Golf Club in Leland, North Carolina. Visit www.nicoleweller.com.
The game of golf takes place over a variety of platforms. Many in the industry focus on the physical aspects of the game, such as mechanics, nutrition, fitness and even how club fitting merges the physical capabilities with proper equipment.
There are, however, other skills that precede even the basic golf stroke, and they begin with the emotional and mental fitness of the participant, both of which tend to be undertrained in comparison to purchasing a new driver or working on a swing skill.
I split these emotional and mental platforms because the underlying emotions that kick in often accompany feelings that become the catalyst for the player’s thought patterns – how we initially feel about something becomes a belief as the consistent thoughts become more prevalent. Chemical reactions like adrenaline or cortisol then create sensations like blushing, shortness of breath or even nauseous feelings. How one feels in an instant about family, politics, meeting up with a good friend, encountering a challenging customer, knowing a putt will go in the hole based on a feel or even feeling that a golf ball will end up in the pond are all examples of how that initial quick feeling that we often brush aside translates into the self-talk in our minds that can linger for minutes, hours, days or longer.
At best, how would you imagine your best drive should look, sound or feel? What would it look like if you confidently strode into your 10-foot putt to win a match and then sunk it? How about finding two $20 bills in your pocket? Lastly, imagine what it would taste, feel and look like to bite into one of your favorite foods right now. These are examples of allowing yourself to daydream or use imagery that creates good vibes, and then “believing is seeing” – nice, right?
Conversely, how would you imagine a poorly struck shot to look, sound or feel? Do you actually bring these images into your pre-shot routine as you stand over a ball and tell yourself not to hit it in the water or out of bounds? Take five seconds and imagine an impending golf disaster and the feelings that go along with it. How about expecting to bite into your favorite food and instead it’s burnt or undercooked or the restaurant has run out of your choice when you order? These images and resulting feelings are very different than those discussed in the previous paragraph.
My assignment for you is to inject an adverb into your images and statements of how you want to be when striving towards a goal and how that feels on the energy scale (positive, high-vibrating, good-feel feelings OR negative, low-vibrating, downward-feel feelings).
Here are some examples – which are positive, which are negative and which are more neutral?
• Hopefully this long putt will end up somewhere near the hole.
• I’m going to hit this drive doubtfully.
• I’m entering into this activity scarily.
• Whatever happens, I’m committing to doing this patiently.
• I’m going to hit this shot very critically of myself.
• This bunker shot is about to be hit very skeptically.
• I’m about to watch this show/read this book very enthusiastically.
• I’m going to speak to this person very angrily and hatefully.
• I want to resolve this difference of opinion smoothly.
Knowing that you can enter into an activity managing your intent and emotions is something that’s in your control. There are a great many things that aren’t in your control – weather, how a ball bounces, a golf swing, what other people say or do, other peoples’ expectations of us – but stay aware of how you want to enter into an activity or action with some adverbs and words ending in ‘ly’. Frontload the emotion you want to own, rather than the one you happen to inherit. See if you can set the stage for how well (or poorly) moments go by the energy that these adverbs bring about. Exercise your emotional and mental focus as well as the body and swing!