Golf Tips - The Short Course in Mental Training for Young Golfers

By Dr. Bob Phillips, Golf Psychologist

Usually I talk about one element of mental training in each article. This time I want to talk about the three most important elements for young golfers. Golfers who are beginning to find that they really do have what it takes to play competitive golf. This training should be part of their training from the very beginning. Of course the physical game should be the main concern at the beginning but the mental side is important even at the beginning.

Mental Imagery: Let's begin with imagery and talk about the right way to mentally practice. The most common mistake is to make images of yourself doing well. You close your eyes, visualize yourself having a great round and feel good about it. That makes a nice feeling, but it does little as far a real mental practice is concerned. The most productive way to use imagery is what is called the "associated" form or style. In the associated style you may begin by seeing yourself, but then you step into the image and the rest of the image is of what you would see and feel if you were actually playing the golf yourself. You know you are in the associated style if you can not see your forehead or your back. You can not see these parts of your body in the real world and in associated imagery you can not see them either. When using imagery focus on how the body feels when it is doing things right. Focusing on the feel of a good swing or putt emphasized the memory and recreation of the swing or putt. Next time you want to actually hit or putt the ball you will find that the imagery, if done often and correctly, has made it easier to actually perform better. Having the child learn how to use imagery in this way is a great tool for practicing all the aspects of golf.

Self-talk: What you say to yourself determines how you feel and how the body responds. Sounds important to me and I hope to you also. A child should learn how his or her self-talk directly determines his or her level of performance. You can not talk yourself down, or over react, and expect a good round of golf. A child can learn the connection of how the thoughts make the chemicals that make you both mad and your body uptight. Help them catch their negative thoughts and change them into less negative ones. Even a child know that you can't simply pretend it doesn't matter. So do not try and get them to discount a bad situation or event. They know better. Teach them how people tend to make things worse than they really are, and how we "awfullize" things. Help them check out their "stincken thinkin" and change their self-talk to words and attitudes that are more helpful on the course.

Focus: Finally, help each child learn how to focus on what is important and how to let the rest go. Help them determine what is important as far as making the next shot and what thoughts and concerns are not important. If you teach them how to start out in a broad fashion and then to take notice of what is important for the success of the next shot without including things that are not important, you have helped them to focus. Then help them make a plan and teach them how to stick with it. Then you teach them how to end up with no thoughts or concerns (even about how their body is doing) and being only aware of the back of the ball. All still and quiet just before they make the stroke. Teach them that they control where their minds go and what they think about. Remind them often that they do not lose focus, they just put it in the wrong place at the wrong time. Focus is always somewhere, but sometimes it is not where it will do the most good.

These are the basics. From these three things come the dozens of other important mental training lessons and techniques. If you help a child begin well you have given him or her a real advantage that will last all their life.

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