By Tom Ward
Here in North Texas we’re fortunate that the weather conditions have been mild compared to other parts of the country this winter. Golfers are eagerly hitting the links with renewed vigor and high hopes for better scores. Unfortunately, all hopes will be dashed quickly if you can’t keep your emotions in check.
Let me give you an example of how we tend to feel sorry for ourselves when things aren’t going too well.
There was this delivery man out in West Texas bringing a package to a house out in the country. As he pulls up he sees an older gentleman on the porch in his rocking chair. A few feet away was a whining dog. “Excuse me sir,” said the concerned delivery man to the older man on the porch. “What’s the matter with the dog?”
The old man indifferently replied, “Oh, he’s lyin’ on a nail.” The delivery man asked, “Why is he doing that? Why doesn’t he just get up?” The old man shrugged his shoulders and said,” I reckon he ain’t hurtin bad enough yet.”
Don’t be like that old dog
We’ve all met people whining and complaining about how their golf game is so bad. Instead of complaining about how life is treating them unfairly, they won’t take the initiative to do something about their situation. Nothing is going to change until you start hurting bad enough to do something about it.
In fact, if people spent as much time looking for the solutions to their problems as they do complaining and making excuses, most of their problems would disappear. Instead, they throw a “pity party” and are put out when no one shows up to attend. Life is too short to waste time and energy on such negative thoughts, so let’s break that “old broken record” that has taken your game into a tailspin and move on. Stop “lyin’ on the nail” and you can start having fun and success on the course.
In my four decades as a golf pro I’ve seen many golfers be too hard on themselves out on the course. I must confess that I have been guilty of this behavior as well. I can promise you one thing constantly berating yourself is a recipe for disaster.
The dialogue that you have with yourself is critical in your development as a player. Self-talk can be encouraging or it can be detrimental, according to how you present it to yourself. Your mind doesn’t have a sense of humor. If you program it to do something and the message is negative, it will respond accordingly. This is why it’s important to monitor your inner dialogue; what you say and how you say it to yourself can have long lasting ramifications.
Even the best players in the world are guilty of this mistake, and if they don’t make corrections immediately the match or tournament will be lost. We’ve all beaten ourselves up after a bad day on the links, or when things don’t go our way. If you watch a tournament on television, periodically you’ll see players bad-mouthing themselves. They might be saying things such as, “I’m the worst golfer in the world”, or” I really suck at this game,” or other such expletives not printable in this publication.
Regardless of the laundry list of negatives things players can say to themselves, these comments will ultimately bring you down. The key is to change how you talk to yourself while practicing or playing on the course.
A handful of pennies
Over the years I’ve taught and worked with a number of wonderful sports psychologists who gave me some great insight about breaking the negative self-talk patterns.
First, you need to be aware of situations when negative thoughts can occur. Here’s an incredibly simple method to get you started back on the right track.
The next time you head out to the course to play a round of golf, put a handful of pennies in your right pants pocket. Not too many to weigh you down, though. Now every time – and I mean every time – you become aware of a negative image or internal dialogue, transfer one penny from your right pocket to your left. If it’s too cumbersome to put pennies into your pants pocket try transferring the coins from one pocket in your golf bag to another instead.
By learning to monitor your thoughts you’re on the right path to eliminating your inner demons. When you’re finished playing, count out the number of pennies that made the journey from one pants pocket to the other. Then write down the total as well because this is an important part of the process.
I want you to remember what words you used, and what situations prompted them. Then, start setting some new, clearer goals. In this case, the goal is to attempt to cut down the number of negative self-talk speeches. Just like you have goals to shoot lower scores, you need to apply this same attitude with correcting this debilitating self-talk.
Once you have been able to calmly re-examine your round and your outbursts of negativity, imagine yourself reacting to those circumstances in a different way and replacing those negative statements with positive thoughts. Learn to laugh at yourself and say, “I can make this shot,” and other such positive feedback to re-enforce your own self-worth – not only as a golfer, but also as a person.
With each round make a conscious choice to reduce the negativity and try to remain positive by remembering it’s only a game. With some diligent practice and commitment, you’re on your way to erasing bad thoughts that have been sabotaging your game.
Now doesn’t that make much more cents?
Tom Ward can be reached at www.teetimewithtom.com