'm sure there will be many golfers out there worrying about how badly they are going to play once we get the green light to open our golf courses again. Not being able to play or go to the range to practice, has been a concern for many and left them worrying about how they are going to perform in competition. Have you in the past gone out to play in your weekly medal expecting to play badly? Or have you found yourself looking at past performances to find that statistically your scores have been consistently poor in particular tournaments, such as your Club Championships? If you answered yes to any of the above, you'll not be surprised to find out, that how well you play is often shaped by your expectations. If you go out expecting to play badly, chances are you will, thereby creating a self-fulling prophecy. Over the years I've frequently heard comments such as;
"I never play well on links courses"
"I always play badly in windy conditions"
"I always struggle putting on fast greens"
"I don't know why I play this competition, I never do well in it"
In reality its not your ability to play in these conditions, it's your expectations to perform badly that is the real issue. Going out with the mindset of I'm going to play badly, is in reality setting yourself to fail before hitting your first shot!
Fretting about playing certain courses, conditions or tournaments will only make you feel anxious and cause you to question your ability and chances of winning. When feeling anxious, your body reacts by creating tension in various muscle groups. In golf we regularly see evidence of this by gripping the club tightly and overpowering shots, resulting in shots being miss hit or landing way off target. When this happens it only adds to the drama, causing more pressure and tension to recover the shots dropped, which inevitably ends ups with more mistakes being made. Does any of this sound familiar? Now I'm not suggesting for one moment that you should not work on areas you consider to be weak in your game, of course if you feel you struggle in certain aspects then incorporate exercises in to your training regime. But don't leave it purely to mechanical interventions, remember to also question and challenge your negative expectations. You will improve your performance with a strong mentality, that will boost your confidence in the most challenging circumstances. You only have to look at Jordan Speith's perfromance last weekend at TPC Scottsdale to see how building a mentally tough mindset can change your performance. After struggling for several years following the fateful triple bogey in The Masters, he finally was able to stay focused and composed during his round on Saturday shooting a fabulous 10 under par score. Yes he's worked on his mechanics, but he was also fully aware that his mental game was holding him back and has worked hard on keeping his focus and not letting his mind wander to negative thoughts. If you are worrying about how well you're going to play, you need to learn to let go of those negative expectations, they will not serve you well in the future. How to Overcome Negative Expectations: Ask yourself 3 simple questions;
"What do I do well?"
"What has worked for me in the past?"
"How can I apply my strengths to play my best today?"
Also, keep in mind that every round and tournament is a new opportunity for success, no matter how you played the same golf course or tournament in the past. No two rounds are ever the same no matter what level you play at, amateur or professional. Avoid over-generalisations about past experiences that leave you feeling defeated before you step on the first tee. Learn to focus on the process, one shot at a time.
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