Previously on Project 17 to 12 handicap...
After a long period of steady, happy progress, things have taken a nasty turn, and this has led me to ponder the question of golf and mindset. Three weeks ago, my main concern was that my handicap might come down too quickly. Then my golf progressively deteriorated until it reached rock bottom on Saturday. In fact, without wanting to be too melodramatic, I found myself staring into the abyss of golf misery.
As my golf started going wrong, I tried to play and practice my way out of it, to no avail. In fact, things got worse, to the point that on Saturday, I didn’t hit one decent shot in my match. After consulting the Oracle (golf forums) and every golfer who would listen, I decided to take a break from golf. The consensus seems to be that I’ve been playing and practicing too much and that my brain is all scrambled. I’ve been absorbing so much information that I’m confused and am suffering from some kind of weird golf paralysis. Also, I’ve been arrogant. I did think I had it all worked out and the golf goddesses don’t like that. Basically, my mindset is all wrong.
So today I found myself in a very strange and unusual situation. My team had a match and I was up at the club, but I wasn’t playing. Instead, I went for a run. One of the things that golf has brought me is a real connection with the South Downs. They have always been on my doorstep, but I only started appreciating them when I started spending all my free time there. It was a gorgeous run and it really took my mind off my golfing woes:
After I came back, happy and relaxed, I started reading The ten commandments of mindpower golf, that my vice-Captain Kim lent me. The introduction is immediately relevant to my situation:
You intuitively know that “practice makes perfect” and you are motivated to want to do well, so you try hard to perfect your golf swing and work on your mental game. You spend hour after hour on the practice range hitting balls and working on your shot-making technique. You devote many of your nights to reading the latest golf strategy tips that your favourite guru has written. Now, armed with all this information, you feel that you’re ready to go to the course and break all of your personal scoring records. Before you know it, you find yourself out on the course tied up in knots trying to hit the ball “just right” and looking for “the zone”. Alas, try as you might, you become paralysed by too much thinking and victimised by poor results.
I’m clearly not an isolated case and it should be an interesting read. Then I had a really nice chat with Anthony about my current trauma and, surprisingly, he went all Buddhist on me and also pointed out that my problem was all in my head. He asked me about my mindset when I’m on the course and on the practice range. He thought that my main problem is that I’m taking my practice range mindset on the course. I should practice consciously on the range and play unconsciously on the course. Feel rather than thought. I need to let my swing flow instead of trying to control every angle and minute detail. He recommended I have a look at a Facebook group called Conscious Golf to learn more about the relationship between golf and mindset.
As for the next few steps to try and get over my predicament, he agreed that I needed a little break. However, he suggested that I should go out and play nine holes on Wednesday and just hit the ball with one thought in mind: I want it to go there. Also, he said I should try hitting outrageous shots, mess around and have fun. So that’s what I’ll do. I’m hoping all this will help me press the reset button because I have important competitions coming up and, more importantly, I miss enjoying playing golf.