There’s an old saying that “Practice Makes Perfect”, but we know that is just not true. “Practice Makes Permanent” which is why our golf games are chocked full of bad habits.
One of my worst habits is looking up too soon. Instead of keeping my eyes down as I swing through, I very often take a peek and pay for it by pushing my ball right. This happens on every club in my bag and when it really gets out of hand, it can end up in a dreaded sh–k.
Last week I was playing a friendly round of golf with my golfguy and the best darn coach ever in Vancouver, Ginny Golding. She was watching him warm up and I saw her give him a tip. As she was demonstrating how to connect with the ball, I noticed that her head was behind her arms as she swung through. Her arms were way into her follow-through before her head ever came up.
Soon my golfguy was imitating her and the results were impressive.
I decided to try that with my 3 wood since it is my favorite club in my bag, but it had been misbehaving of late, cutting far too much. It was amazing what a difference it made. Not only were my shots straighter, they were longer than ever.
I knew peeking on a putt would push it right, but it never really occured to me how much peeking affected my longer shots.
On Friday I played my next round of golf and promised myself that I was going to practice that move on every shot. Did I? On the front nine, yes, and it was great.
As I made the turn I felt wonderful, but then I made the big mistake of adding up my score. It was the best 9 I had ever played on that course. I was so excited I started thinking about how I was going to break my record on the course that day.
The next 3 holes were Triple Bogey, Double Bogey, Double Bogey. There went the best round of my life! ARG!!!
By the time the 12th hole was over I was completely deflated and said to myself, “Well, no use in trying to score now; you’ll never break 85 today, Golfgal!”
While waiting to drive my ball off 13, it occurred to me that I had not practiced my tip of keeping my head behind the ball on my follow-through. So I stepped up on the the tee and focused on that tip again, nailing my drive down the fairway – best shot I’d had in 3 holes.
And I’m sure you know what happened next…Yup…you guessed it – better golf and a lot more fun the rest of the day.
When I got home I thought about my round and how I wasn’t playing “one shot at a time” on those 3 bad holes and I wasn’t “staying in the moment”. How many times have we heard players say that? I always thought of those phrases as typical golf cliches that everyone says for the media but no one actually believes them.
But then I remembered a book I had read a while ago about staying in the moment — The Practicing Mind by Thomas Sterner. As soon as I pulled it off my bookshelf, I knew I must have liked it when I saw all the dog eared pages in it.
I started flipping through those dogged pages again and discovered gems of wisdom that I decided to write down and put into my bag as my 15th club. Here are a few you might want to consider for yourself…
1. Process NOT Product
When you focus your mind on what you are doing right now (Process), you free yourself up from chasing your goal (Product) and take away the pressure of achieving it. This is liberating and leads to better performance as all your energy is directed towards the present moment – that one swing you are performing right now.
2. There is no destination in life (golf); life (golf) is the destination.
This is really part of #1, but I love the expression because it made me realize my “results oriented” nature is not helping me enjoy my life or my golf game. Goals are great and we should make goals in our lives (and golf), but think of them as the rudder to help you steer your efforts, not judge yourself against them.
3. Do, Observe, Correct (DOC)
When performing any task like a golf shot, you need to execute the shot, observe without emotion what happened to determine the cause and then make the necessary corrections. Do not confuse evaluation with judgement. Evaluation is non-threatening and non-emotional; judgement always leaves you feeling like a failure.
4. “Here’s where the fun begins!”
When faced with challenges we often let our fears and bruised egos get in the way of our performance. Instead, say to yourself, “Here’s where the fun begins!” and let go of the baggage that holds you back from focusing on the process and performing to your true potential.
A friend of mine who is blind was having a tough 9 holes on the golf course one day. At the turn he thought maybe a beer might help him, but instead he said to his caddie/coach, “Starting on the 10th hole, I am going to smile at the ball.” And he did that for the rest of the round. That was his way of saying “Here’s where the fun begins” and his back 9 score reflected his new attitude with a much better score.
These are just 4 gems that really spoke to me. There are many more and I highly recommend you get a copy of The Practicing Mind and discover your favorites.
Develop a practicing mind and learn to tell when a flower is perfect. It might surprise you when that is (but you need to read the book to find out the right answer ;)).