The 5 C’s for Competitive Golf- By Rick Sessinghaus PGA
Even the weekend warrior has experienced a time on the golf course when they felt the exhilaration of competition. Maybe it was the time you had to make par on the last hole to break your own low score, or make a putt to win a bet with your buddies, or even winning your club championship. It doesn’t matter if you are in the hunt to win the US Open or trying to win a skin from your weekend foursome, the same mental skills need to be learned to give yourself a chance to come out on top. Nerves, tightness, and distractions are all apart of playing in a competitive environment.
By learning the 5 C’s any level golfer will perform better the next time they feel the heat of competition.
The ability to stay focused on the shot at hand. Not allowing you to become distracted by the importance of the situation. Pressure creates distractions for most golfers. They begin to think more about the importance of the situation. This outcome thinking gets in the way of staying focused on the process of being in the present moment. A great shot is a result of being present with the current process. Take your focus away from what ifs and focus on what you can control. A golfer can use their eyes, self-talk, and routine to improve their concentration. Train yourself to concentrate on what you want, not on what you don’t want.
As the pressure increases golfers are more apt to act differently. They allow the pressure to change their emotional state. Golfers who don’t stay composed will act flustered, rush movements, and let little things affect their composure. Emotions can affect decision making and shot execution. The best stay at the same composed state that they played with on the first hole. Being composed is consistent from hole to hole. As the competition increases it becomes even more important to act calm, cool, and collected. Act as if you belong and are ready. Use your body and breathing to get back to being composed. Act like Tiger when he is playing in the final round of a major. Tiger is always composed when it matters most.
Competition pushes our comfort zone to the edge. Most feel uncomfortable as we have new golf experiences. The best push out their comfort zones by embracing the challenge and wanting to accomplish something they haven’t accomplished before. Breaking out of a comfort zone could be as easy as defining the situation differently. Instead of looking at the new situation as something to be nervous about, see it as something to have fun with and embrace the chance to go for it.
Every shot requires you to make the right decision for the situation. Under pressure each golfer tends to make decisions differently. Usually a golfer feels time moving faster and they end up making decisions quicker than normal. The skill of taking enough time to accurately assess the shot is needed to make the right decision. Also under pressure golfer will tend to make low percentage decisions and risk a lot more than under normal situations. The goal is to treat each shot the same and go through your proper mental routine that creates the best decision for you. When you can calculate what the shot entails and the risks involved you are more likely to be committed to that shot. When you are committed you minimize the effects of pressure on your game.
Every shot requires total commitment for the shot to come off successfully. In competition golfer tend to doubt more often which creates poor shots. Pressure creates the mind to race to swing thoughts, past poor performances, and potential future disasters. Committing to a golf shot is the most important skill that any golfer that learn to improve performance. Commitment involves knowing your game, the situation, narrowing your possible choices to one. Commitment is confidence in your ability for each shot you attempt. Confidence can be changed in an instant with the use of visualization of past successes or visualizing the successful completion of the present shot. The next time you are playing in competition remember the 5 C’s and you will be better prepared to hit a great shot no matter the pressure. Your mind tells the body what to do. Start training your mind so your body can just take over.
Rick Sessinghaus Psy.D, PGA, “Golf’s Mental Coach” and author of Golf: The Ultimate Mind Game. He is Director of Instruction at Chevy Chase CC in Glendale. To learn more visit www.RickSessinghaus.com.