By: Dr. Rick Sessinghaus, PGA, coaches at Valencia Country Club and is the author of Golf: The Ultimate Mind Game.
When coaching the mental game, the biggest challenge I face is making the mental skills tangible. Most golfers have different definitions of what is the mental game. I make it clear there are a lot of aspects to the mental game; however the end objective is to train the golfer to be in a consistent, optimal state. The optimal state involves aligning the mental, emotional, and physical aspects that makes up the person’s state at any given moment. In golf, I coach to be mentally focused, emotionally confident, and physically relaxed before and during the execution of a shot. If the state remains optimal and consistent, then the physical skills will also be consistent. We can’t expect a golfer to swing the same way when one shot they are nervous (first tee) and another they are confident. The body responds to our thoughts about the present situation and that creates a feeling. These feelings change our physical state with changes in grip pressure, breathing patterns, and tempo.
I coach using the device called Focus Band which measures brainwave activity and can quantify a golfer’s state. By using this biofeedback tool, I can have the golfer experience different states depending on what they are thinking about and then be able to change the state. The techniques of breathing, language reframing, and imagery allows a golfer to change their state in an instant. Unfortunately, most golfers experience their state changing negatively and can’t get it back to an optimal state during the shot. Later they blame their swing and expect the instructor to fix a mental challenge with a physical swing adjustment. This cycle continues until they realize that their mental/emotional state affected their physical state, which in turn changed their golf swing. Let’s get our students to communicate the true causes of inconsistent performance and then we can help them make the necessary change.