They say golf is a game for life, and that’s one of the most fantastic things about it. Unlike other sports, you can keep playing and enjoying golf for decades.
One of the drawbacks, however, is that there can be times where you experience a slump. Some kind of drop in your performance that may frustrate you, annoy you, cause you to doubt yourself. Even if you’re practising hard, sometimes your game feels really far off and you might struggle to understand why. Lots of golfers get stuck in these periods of adversity for a long time, in fact they can turn into slumps and become part of their identity. We all know golfers that say things like:
“Surprise surprise, I missed! I just suck at putting”
“I don’t know what’s happened! I used to be great at chipping”.
Well, there can be comfort in a mental approach called the ‘rule of thirds’. It’s very simple but helps by promoting self-compassion, acceptance, and mindfulness. It's common vernacular amongst OIympic athletes and their coaches, who know that the path to success and glory is not always a smooth one.
The rule is simple. When you’re chasing a big goal, you’re supposed to:
- feel great a third of the time
- just okay a third of the time
- awful a third of the time.
If the ratio is roughly in this range, then you’re doing fine! You're on the right path.
It can be easily applied to your golf, whether you’re struggling on the journey to accomplishing a particular goal, or you are simply experiencing a period of frustration with your game and you feel stuck.
Reminding yourself that days where things feel terrible are normal, are all part of the journey, offers a lot of comfort. There’s no need to panic. If you think about it, it’s so obvious.
Instead, we live our lives thinking that we should feel good 100% of the time. There’s a perfectionist in all of us. But this mindset can create unrealistic expectations, and subconscious pressures, on ourselves and others.
This translates to golf. Lots of us totally resist nerves, discomfort, situations that make us feel anxious and vulnerable. In fact, we’re wired to avoid these. We start to practice in ways that are ‘easy’. We mentally give up on rounds of golf that don’t start well. We stop taking lessons from the swing coach who keeps pushing us to make a move we’re uncomfortable with.
Going forwards, simply having an awareness of the rule of thirds can help you immensely. You’ll notice and acknowledge stress and discomfort. You’ll reframe ‘bad’ days on the course or in your practice as part of the journey, as part of the rule of thirds. As a result, they won’t affect you or set you back as much they do other golfers.
You’ll develop a thicker skin and increased mental toughness, resilience to obstacles and things going wrong. You’ll be less frustrated and more accepting. This simple mindset shift can feel like flicking a switch, freeing up both your mind and body so that you can play better.
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