Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
How often does your provisional ball fly straight and true right down the middle? You turn to your playing partners and say, “ I wish I hit all my drives like my provisional!”
It’s worth stopping and taking stock of why this is. What is different on your second chance? Why do Mulligan’s hit the target?
I would start by asking yourself these questions:
Did you have tension in your body?
Did you hit the shot with fear?
Did you care less about the second shot?
Did you think less on the second shot?
Did you take less time over the second shot?
What were your last thoughts before the first and second shots?
Taking some time after the round to do some post-shot analysis on both your good and bad shots is a great way to speed up your learning curve, remedy bad habits and ingrain good ones. Looking back with hindsight is also a good way of helping you make a plan for the future.
An aspect like removing tension is something we can all work on in practice at the driving range and should be incorporated into a pre-shot routine. These things don’t come just by thinking and acknowledging them. They need to be worked on. I spend a great deal of time working on my pre-shot routine and the first part of that is removing tension as I identified it as a problem through reflection.
What I think the difference between the original and provisional ball comes down to is the psychological concept of the conscious and the subconscious mind. These terms were coined by Sigmund Freud in his book ‘Interpretation of Dreams.’ The conscious mind is everything we are aware of such as the wind, yardage or keeping our head still. The subconscious mind is the primary source of human behaviour, our automatic actions like walking or putting a fork in our mouth.
The Interpretation of Dreams
Dr, Bob Rotella outlines the base principles of the conscious and unconscious mind in his excellent book, ‘How Champions Think.’ Rotella suggests we turn off the conscious brain and let the subconscious brain govern our movements. Look at the target, look at the ball and swing (141). This is preciselywhat we do with our provisional ball and could be a method to put in play for our regular shots. Rotella goes on to say the golfer should hit the ball without consciously trying to control their body. Playing instinctively and athletically (141). Adding that the only thing he wants his player’s conscious brain to figure out is how to get to the course from their hotel room (145). I often compared my mental state on the soccer or rugby field compared to the golf course. The second I laced my boots and crossed the white line of pitch I was totally immersed in the game, reacting instinctively. Whilst on the first tee I was a bag of nerves thinking about triumph and disaster. Tapping into the unconscious mind and just playing the game has done wonders for my enjoyment on the golf course and will do the same for you and your scores.
This is all great advice, but how do we achieve playing in our subconscious?
Rotella is a proponent of the pre-shot routine. He says, this sets our performance process and puts our body and mind in the right place to perform. Clearing the mind, not thinking of the last shot or the next shot, or the consequence of this shot, focusing only on the shot to be played in the present.
Scott Fawcett in his Decade app has a cool idea where he suggests verbalising the steps you will go through. I liked this although you look a bit of a lunatic on the range talking to yourself, it helps make the process stick. I’ve used the same trick when getting kids to learn test answers in school. It’s basic rote learning. I can recommend the Decade app for many bits of gold like this, not just for its excellent system of course management and picking targets.
I’d say a lot lies in how we practice. You need to make time in your practice to work on getting into this state of mind. A practice session I often do revolves around mindset and pre-shot routine. Try and hit 50 balls solely concentrating on following a pre-shot routine, being relaxed, athletic and trying to lose yourself on the range. I see people hitting 150 balls in the same time I hit 50. I know where they are at, I did the aimless bashing for years. 50 shots are about as many as you will hit in 4 hours on the course. I try to hit at least 14 drivers. Sometimes I block practice this drill, sometimes I play my old home course in Wales in my mind. What’s important is trying to get into a state of deep focus and concentration, away from thinking of technique and outcomes.
Viktor E. Frankl in his book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’’ suggests to ‘Live life as if you are living it for the second time.’ Nothing could relate to the success of the provisional ball more. So next time you whip that provisional straight down the middle, reflect on how you were feeling or thinking. There are answers hidden in the Mulligan.
The Dubai Desert Classic is just finishing its first round. I’ve already heard Paul Casey say, “Just relax and trust it” and hit a solid shot from 175. Then Shane Lowry miss the water covered 18th green to the right and say, “You bottled it!” A classic example of the conscious mind and the unconscious mind at work.
I hope you enjoyed this blog post. I hope to get one post out a week on Fridays from now on. Please leave a comment, like and share.
Frankl, Viktor E. Man’s Search for Meaning. Woodside Terrace Kiwanis Club, 1980.
Fawcett, Scott. “Decade Golf.” DECADE Golf, 12 Aug. 2021, https://web.birdiefire.com/.
Freud, Sigmund, and Sigmund Freud. The Interpretation of Dreams; and on Dreams: (1900-1901). Hogarth Press, 1995.
Rotella, Robert J., and Bob Cullen. How Champions Think: In Sports and in Life. Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2016.
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