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The Most Effective Pre Round Mental Routine For Golf


In this week’s lesson, I’d like to show you how my competitive players mentally prepare using an effective pre round mental routine.

The game doesn’t start on the first tee. By the time you get to hit that first shot, you should already be in your best competitive mindset and ready to play. You don’t want to wait until you’re several holes into your round to find it.

This is what a pre round mental routine can help you with. It’s about using mental game triggers to:

· activate your “optimal performance state”

· get you feeling confident and believing in your abilities

· increase (or decrease) intensity/arousal level

· feel (and be) prepared for any challenges that might arise.

Here are my suggestions for a mental game warm-up that can be done in less that 20 minutes.

1.  Breathe and Relax

  • Start with 8-10 minutes of focused, deep belly breathing using the breathing exercises that we discussed in Module 4 of the mental game training program. This will help you focus, give you time to scan your body for any tension and calm your body and mind.
  •  If your mind wanders and you find yourself no longer focusing on your breathing, gently bring your attention back to it.
  •  After a minute or so of deep breathing, return your breath to normal.
  •  Scan your body to notice any tension. Start with your face, noticing any tension in your facial muscles and jaw. If you notice tension, breath into it and soften it. Move slowly to your neck and shoulders, all the way down your arms, to the wrists and fingers. Bring awareness to the sensations in each individual part of your body. Feel the chest and diaphragm moving with your breath. Move down each leg, into the ankles, feet and toes. Be aware of exactly how you feel and use your breathing to release any stress and tension. 

2.  Be Grateful

Gratitude is the opposite of fear. If you are feeling grateful, you are not feeling anxious. Let’s put it in perspective. Whatever round you are about to play, you are still going to play the game golf. You’re not going to have surgery, do a final exam or anything worse than that. Think of 3 things that you are grateful for about the upcoming round, that doesn’t have anything to do with your final score – this could playing a good golf course, hitting some good shots, being outside in beautiful surroundings, being healthy enough to play, the people you are going to play with or the opportunity to learn about your game. By choosing to be grateful, and staying mindful of these things throughout the round, you take the pressure away from having to play well to make it a success. You will have a better attitude and be able to deal with the ups and downs in the round.

3. Visualize Your Performance

“Mental rehearsal is every bit as important as physical rehearsal.” – Phil Mickelson

Imagining yourself being successful on the course is not the same as expecting it to happen. It’s about creating a feeling of confidence and feeling prepared for the challenges. Jack Nicklaus once said that he attributes at least 50% of his success to having seen it in his mind before it actually happened. Muhammad Ali said he would mentally rehearse all his fights and saw himself being victorious, before the real event.

When you mentally rehearse it, your subconscious mind will believe that it has already happened and that there is nothing to fear. When you are there for real, you will feel more confident, comfortable and increase your chances of success.

Let’s make success more possible by visualizing it before your rounds using this process:

a. Start by visualizing success that you have already achieved. Think of your 3 best memories in golf. Experiment with the first-person and third-person perspective (seeing everything as if you are playing the shots vs. as if you are on TV). What did the course look like? What was the weather like? What were you wearing? Who was there? What shots did you play? What club did you use and how did the shot feel? How did it feel afterwards? Relive those moments as vividly as possible.

b. Next, using the same process, visualize your success in the upcoming round. Go through your shot routine for tee shots, approaches, short game shots, long and short putts and visualize great swings and successful outcomes. See some of the shots you will face for real. E.g. see yourself on the first tee, being confident, calmly going through your pre shot routine and hitting a solid shot down the center of the fairway. Not only do you want to see yourself playing the shots but imagine the player that you want to be. You can decide which player will show up. What will your attitude, demeanor, body language and self-talk be like? Visualize you being your “best performing self”.

c. Next, prepare for adversity. Every round has adversity in it. Whether it’s overcoming the feeling of nerves on the first tee, being out of position, a double bogey or a bad bounce or lie, you will encounter it. Tiger says that not only does he visualize himself being successful, but he also sees himself miss-hitting shots and then successfully dealing with the trouble that could leave him in.  What will you do in those situations? Mentally rehearse some of these situations and your response to it. See yourself successfully dealing with it (mentally and physically) and bouncing back like a champion.

Prepare to have to focus fully on every shot, recover from mistakes, manage your emotions and keep motivating yourself throughout. 

4. Remind yourself of your Personal Philosophy or “motto”

“A bad attitude is worse than a bad swing” – Payne Stewart

What are the values that you want to uphold as part of your personal philosophy? Remind yourself of what those are and the importance of having a winner’s attitude. Set intentions for your values and follow through on that promise to yourself. Your motto or mantra can help remind you to do so.

 For example: 

o   “Never give up”

o   “I am a mentally tough competitor”

o   “I have the game to compete today”

o   “Act and behave like a champion”

5. Activate with Music In Your Pre Round Mental Routine

Music can make you feel different mental, emotional, and physical states. The type of music, the beats, the tempo, the lyrics, the emotional significance of it, mean that it can be used to:

  •       motivate you
  •       raise intensity
  •       increase focus
  •       inspire confidence and positivity
  •       relax
  •       make you feel energized
  •       get you in the mindset to perform

Experiment with different songs and how they make you feel.  Create different playlists that can activate these different mental and emotional states, depending on what you feel is needed. If you need to calm yourself down and lower pre round anxiety, you might listen to classical music. If you want to raise intensity and get yourself pumped up, you might listen to rap. Jon Rahm says he listens to rap music such as Eminem, as the lyrics get him ready for the fight ahead. Find songs that have lyrics that align with your performance values and optimal performance state. The songs should be ones that you are familiar with and you already have a connection with.

Test them out before your practice sessions.

Having music playing while you are doing your pre-round visualizations, can connect those experiences with that music, so it becomes a trigger of that same performance state when you listen to it again.

A pre round mental routine is an integral part of performing well. Like a daily morning routine to start any day off well, your pre round mental routine will help you establish your goals, get you focused on the good things that are possible for the day and have you feeling like you are prepared for anything that comes your way. 

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