Do this one, simple drill every time you play to improve your mental game and play better golf.
Mastering your mental game is one of the most important skills in golf; what goes on between your ears on the course will affect your score just as much as how you swing the club.
And you don’t have to look too far to find a flurry of advice on the topic. Visualising shots, breathing exercises, positive self-talk … there are plenty of tips and tricks that all have their place in your arsenal of mental game help.
But for me, nothing has been quite as effective as this one simple exercise: getting perspective.
It’s a tip I picked up from The Chimp Paradox by Dr Steve Peters. It’s a book I’ve talked about a lot before – an oldie but a goodie.
How to get perspective on the golf course
The idea of this exercise is to get a birds-eye view of the situation and assess it in terms of importance to your life. To get perspective and, in doing so, clear your mind of the negative thoughts.
Chances are, whatever’s going on on the golf course, life will go on. Whether you’ve hit in the water, got the yips or messed up the last on the way to your best-ever score; it’s probably not as bad as it feels at that moment.
I find this exercise best to do as I’m walking between shots. It’s a good calming exercise if I’ve hit a bad shot. Or if feel my mind racing a bit – with negative thoughts or getting ahead of myself – instead of taking one shot at a time.
The more you practice it, the quicker you’ll get at finding perspective and calming everything down.
And with your mind a bit freer, you’ll start playing better golf.
Here’s how it works
Step 1: Hit pause
First, just stop. Clear your mind and imagine everything around you freezing. In your mind’s eye, it will a bit like in the films. You know, when the main character talks to the camera and everything around them stops in time.
Obviously, please don’t physically stop walking. You’ll quickly find you run out of people to play golf with.
Step 2: Get in the helicopter
Imagine yourself jumping in a helicopter. Fly straight up, and look down. From up here, imagine looking down at your entire life on a sort of timeline.
Step 3: Ask yourself three simple questions
Now, ask yourself three simple questions:
- How important is this moment in my life?
- Is it going to last forever?
- Even if this round goes as badly as it possibly can, will life go on?
Just answer these questions quickly and truthfully, without thinking too much.
Here’s how my internal dialogue usually goes:
“In the grand scheme of my life, this round has hardly any importance at all. It won’t last forever. And even if it goes absolutely awfully, my life won’t really be impacted at all.
OK … so what’s the point in getting so stressed? None whatsoever. Let’s just enjoy being outside and try my best. If it works, great, if not, I haven’t lost anything. I’m grateful to be here.”
And that’s it.
With my mind calmer, I can relax. And I get more enjoyment out of my round, even if I’m not playing well.
It’s not a sure-fire way to suddenly start playing better. Sometimes you just have a bad day. Your timing might be off, you might be working on some swing changes. Or you might be hungover.
Cut yourself some slack and have as much fun as you can.
Do you have a go-to exercise to improve your mindset when you’re having a bad round? I’d love to know what it is. Email [email protected] to tell me. And if you’re looking for even more ways to improve your short game, check this out.