What mindset should I have for practicing golf?

Another great question

Research supports that in order to become excellent in any sport domain or area of life, we need to have quality practice.  One researcher Dr. Ericsonn studied expert performance, his research suggests we need 10,00o hours of deliberate practice to become expert in what we do.

There is some debate on this topic as to the exact nature of the 10,000 see link below. However, one thing we know for sure, quality practice builds competence and confidence.  A few recommendations to consider for improving and enhancing the quality of your practice.

1 – Sounds like a no-brainer – Quality Practice Produces Performance – Practice actually changes the physical wiring of the brain to support exceptional performance.

Just as lifting weights helps develop your bicep muscles, practices helps shape your brain.  When LPGA golfers were asked to visualize golf shots finely tuned areas of their brain involving planning and executions lit up.  Golfers with only a few years of experience activated more diverse areas of the brain including those involved in fear and anxiety. It is common sense that practice leads better performance.  However, it is not just about volume of practice, it is about the quality of practice. The quality of focus during a practice session is going to create more positive patterns.  Using mental skills such as visualization can strengthen these neural pathways before, during and after practice sessions.  Interesting and challenging practices fully engages your mind more than the ‘same old routines’.  As well, your ability to deal constructively with distractions and other stresses on a day to day basis will influence the quality of your mental state and skill development.

2 – Pressure Conditions Helps you Perform in Pressure – Even practicing under mild levels of stress can prevent athletes from choking when high levels of stress come around.

Getting use to pressure situations helps you perform better.  Gaining experience in competitive situations is part of this, however coaches and athletes can do a better job of creating more game-like situations in practice to help athletes to gain confidence and learn to thrive under pressure.  Free-throw shooting looks like one of the easiest basketball skills, however it is often one of the worst performed skills.  Southern Utah University basketball team went from being ranked 217thin free throw percentage to number 1 by randomly sending players to the free throw line throughout practice. By sinking a basket the team got a breather, if they missed players had to sprint.  In a laboratory session, golfers who learned to putt in front of an audience putted better under stress than those who didn’t.  Creating little games and competitions with your golf friends will actually help you improve.

3 – Keep “play” elements in your practices.

What I mean is “play” around with different shots, experiment, have fun creating different challenges.  See what works, when you change your grip, change your stance, visualize different path, and notice how the ball reacts.  The “play” mindset, is probably the best mindset for performance, a mindset that has a natural focus and creativity for shot -making.  You can still pick your targets, but have fun with it.

4 – Use Mental Skills for practice as well.

Preparation Routines & Habits

Developing a good pre-practice routine will help you form positive habits that will eventually become automatic helping to have a consistent attitude and focus.  Here are suggestions for steps to include.

  • Set & Visualize Goals – See, hear and feel aspects of how you want to improve
  • Use Other Mental Preparation Techniques
    • Breathing & Loosening to clear your mind of other things
    • Energizing skills to help with physical and mental alertness
    • Positive Self-talk to encourage going for it
  • Physical Warm-up – Increase heart rate & stretching

“A goal a day will improve your play”