Have you ever wondered why it is so difficult for people nowadays to sit for 30 seconds without having to tweet, post, blog, text, or search? But, usually the most mentally tough golfers, according to Mr. Quote, Jack Fertig, are the top golfers in the world. But sometimes, mental toughness means NOT thinking! It means having the discipline to turn it off and turn on the game. That takes practice. But, how does one practice the art of tough thinking in an age where 123 thinking is challenged by all the distractions? It’s the old chicken and the egg theory. Does one become a tougher thinker BY playing golf, or does one become a better golfer BY becoming a tougher thinker? Hmmm. To me the mental side of golf has two parts.
Part 1: Approaching the game. Can you put your ego aside and allow yourself to have a terrible shot in the middle of a round? Can you let even the stupid mistakes not let you get really frustrated and mess up the next two holes? It’s like life! Take it one by one…step by step….shot by shot. This is a hard thing to change, but if you can focus on scoring, rather than impressing your playing partners, you’re on the right path.
Part 2. The mental ability to stay strong and committed in spite of distractions! You should be an expert at recognizing distractions since that’s what this electronically stimulated era is filled with. In golf, there are three ways to practice mental toughness. Expect to SEE shadows. Expect to HEAR: whispers, sneezing, and coughing. Expect to FEEL itches, twitches and your heart beating.
Therefore, your next golf practice should be setting up your habits of MIND. There’s a term called metacognition which means thinking about your thinking. Next time you’re practicing, notice the moments where you tend to have a mental hiccup or basically where you dozing off in your mind. Your goal is to have that ability to say to yourself, “Self, you are in charge of how you feel and how you’ll perform, not anything or anyone else.” It’s been said that we can over think our golf game on the range, driving to work, at our desk, and in the shower. This is perfect, but not when you approach the tee. There is a difference between thinking and assessing. You pick your club; you evaluate your shot; you carry out your routine; and you craft your swing. You did your thinking in practice. At tee time, you just do it.
There’s a scene in Tin Cup where the stressed Kevin Costner character mis-hits continuous shots on the range. His caddie advises him to turn his hat backwards, isolate all of his change into his back pocket, and put a tee behind his ear. All of a sudden, he contacts the ball and he realizes that now he’s not thinking about the mis-hits. In fact, as the caddie put it, “You’re not thinking at all. Your brain was getting in the way!”
The minute you tee up, the noises will get louder and your list of do’s and don’ts will be shouting in your head. But this is where your habit of mind of not thinking too much will kick in. This is where you need to shut it all off and not focus on any distraction.
So the next time your children won’t sit and read their book or focus on their homework for longer than five minutes without texting, emailing, or facebooking, sign them up for golf lessons. Maybe golf is the answer for the next generation to train their brain to become mentally tough.