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Learning Golf- The Seven Foundations

Foundation 7:  Mind Management

by Dr. Ron Cruickshank

When you attend any professional PGA golf event one thing becomes glaringly apparent. They can ALL hit the ball well. To reach that level every one of them is a powerful ball striker and has a good short game…it is the only way they make it to a tour level player.

So, what is the difference between a consistent winner on the PGA Tour and those that constantly strive to win?  The universally agreed upon answer amongst the best in the world is short and simple – the mind. Most top professionals and their coaches will tell you it is the ability to perform under pressure when most needed that separates the top winners from the rest. Note the distinction – able to perform when it is needed.

This is not to underestimate the importance of proper fundamentals. Nothing can replace solid mechanics in the golf swing. In the full swing you must be able create certain leverage angles, move your body in the proper sequence and deliver power at impact. We call these Ideal Body Mechanics are they based on the science of how the bodies 13 joints and sockets move.  The same holds true for putting, chipping, pitching and bunker play. However, that is my point – all the top golfers can do these things well.

The best have always been able to pull off the shot when needed. Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan, Moe Norman and Tiger Woods are prime examples over the last 40 years.  What they all possess is an uncanny ability to perform under intense scrutiny and pressure when they most need it.

Think about a highlight reel for each of these golfers and you will remember them pulling off something spectacular.  Hogan and his famous 1 iron to win the US Open at Merion, Moe Norman calling a hole-in-one before it hit the green- in front of the press, Jack Nicklaus’ towering 2 iron into a par three at the Master’s to set up a birdie and a win.  They all did this when they most needed it.   We call this being in charge of your thinking.

Moe Norman was fond of saying. “The longest walk in golf is from the practice tee to the first tee.”  In a conversation on the putting green Moe once told me he thought, “The longest distance in golf is the six inches between your ears.”  When Moe would hit a shot he felt wasn’t perfect I often heard him say. “Ah, perfect miss…perfect miss.”  What he was practicing was managing his mind. If the greatest golfers in history think this is important perhaps we should give it some serious consideration.

The following are some insights and techniques we teach our golf students to help manage themselves on the golf course.

  • Be in Charge of Your Thinking – Nothing is more important than to manage your own mind. If you are not in charge of your thoughts than who is? Negativity, anger and frustration are natural emotions.  Getting lost in them and letting them influence how you play a game is self-defeating.  Learn how to manage your thoughts and keep the negative self-talk to a minimum.
  • Your thoughts and your emotions are connected. Recognize that when you have a negative thought it will affect your body/feelings and vice versa.  It is a closed cybernetic loop and must be accounted for to produce effective performance under pressure.
  • Practice the TEN STEP rule. When you have a bad shot, allow yourself to be angry for the next ten steps you take.  Breathe consciously and after ten steps put the negative feelings and emotions behind you.  This is a very effective technique to let go of anger and negativity.
  • Cultivate an Alert Attitude of Indifference. This was a favorite saying of Moe Norman, the Canadian golf legend known for his superior performance under pressure.  Ponder on this statement and recognize Moe was telling us all to not get attached to the outcome of each shot.
  • Learn to consciously breathe.  Nothing relaxes the body more than oxygen at times of tension.  Learn to take a deep breath and exhale forcefully before each shot.  Watch the professionals, many of them do exactly this.

Clear thinking on the golf course and in life is a result of a calm and composed mind. Cultivate balance and a ‘neutral’ emotional tone both on and off the golf course and watch your thinking improve on the course.  People always enjoy a game when they play well; take the time to invest in learning the fundamentals of golf and you will be rewarded with a lifetime of enjoyment.

The Seven Foundations of Learning Golf: An Overview

Foundation 1 Become a Consistent Ball Striker

Foundation 2 Perfect your Short Game

Foundation 3 Become a Good Putter

Foundation 4 Have Clubs that FIT your body, swing and game

Foundation 5 Become Confident at Course Management Skills

Foundation 6 Practice with Purpose

Foundation 7 Learn to Manage Your Mind and Emotions on the Course

About the Author:  Ronald Cruickshank, PhD. –Internationally recognized for his innovations in accelerated learning of sport, Dr. Cruickshank applies this learning to teaching golf in China.  He is Founder and CEO at Phoenix Golf Academy (PGA).   Their headquarters are at Luihuitou Golf Course Driving Range, 2nd Floor, Sanya, China.