Jack Nicklaus once said ‘concentration is a fine antidote to anxiety’ – and for golfers who overthink and get nervous on the golf course, with a mind that runs all over the place, this is sound advice.
Developing on that theme, here are five techniques you can incorporate into your game that will help you concentrate, quiet your mind, and focus on on what matters. You'll reduce intrusive thoughts and enjoy a quieter mind on the course.
1. Use A Trigger To Start Your Pre Shot Routine
A trigger signals to your mind and body ‘ok, it’s time to switch on, to focus, to start my pre shot routine’. Without a trigger (or pre shot routine for that matter), you’re stepping into your shots with no consistency in your mind, so how can you expect to have a consistent swing and consistent shots?
A trigger can be as simple as putting your bag down, putting your glove on, getting your GPS out, or taking a deep breath. One of our favourite methods is to use a sharpie to put a circle on our glove, on the flat bit just below the index finger and thumb. Gaze at the circle and taking a long smooth, deep breath in through the nose, then a slow, calming exhale. Try this for yourself.
2. Have A Clear Intention For Every Shot
Overthinking happens when you have no structure, no point of focus. Setting an intention for the shot can be as simple as deciding what you want to do with the shot, so you have a positive image of it in your mind before you decide what club to hit and so on.
After using your trigger, ask yourself, ‘What does a good shot look like here?’. You should get an image in your mind that leads to a much more committed strategy, and a better golf shot.
3. Practice Meditation Specifically For Golf
Some kind of breath centred meditation is ideal for golfers who overthink.
A key part of a strong mental game is having a mind that works as a tool, it’s there for you to use when you actually need it. Otherwise, it’s quiet.
With a simple meditation practice of just 5-10 minutes a day, you can learn to place your attentional focus on one thing at a time (your breath), and keep it there. As other thoughts arise, you learn to simply accept or ignore them, letting them pass you by. The more you practice, the better you become.
This way, your mind becomes that tool. Unless you need to use it, it’s quiet.
4. Use Breathwork In Between Shots
Taking the method of breathing you learn in meditation, imagine how useful it would be if it could allow you to let intrusive, negative thoughts go when you’re out on the golf course.
Should they arise, you will learn to simple acknowledge them, then simply move past them by placing your attention back on your breathing. You then come back to the present moment, your mind slows down, helping you to fully focus on the next shot.
For years, breathwork exercises in between shots were the secret weapon of certain top players, including Tiger Woods and Nick Faldo. These days, everyone is doing it.
5. Know Where Your Mind Needs To Be As You Swing The Club
Because golf is so complicated, when we start to learn the game we seem to always have a mind full of swing thoughts. That’s ok, but there comes a point where we are able to hit the ball, and we don’t need to have all that technical information.In fact, it becomes detrimental.
As a golfer who overthinks, you probably often swing the club with a head full of noise and thoughts, which is a recipe for disaster. Instead, you should aim to have your mind either:
i. Focused on one swing thought or feel.
ii. Locked in to your chosen target.
iii. Totally empty, no thoughts at all.
Simplifying where your mind is, as you actually swing, is so important. Experiment with all three of these next time you’re at the range and find out what works best for you.
All of these skills can be learnt in the Golf Guru app. Download and try it for yourself! You can use this code on the payment page to get 1month full access for free: JAMES_1mF