STAYING IN THE PRESENT – THE SECRET TO THE MIND GAME

Staying in the present is something we hear all the time from commentators when watching the best players in the world on TV! We’re told that if we stay in the present we have our best chances of playing at our best when we are on the golf course and under pressure and it is the secret to the mind game.  There are other phrases we use for this, ‘staying in the moment’ or ‘in the zone’ spring to mind.  Whatever we want to call it is crucial to find a way of being able to control your state of mind.

So what exactly is staying in the present and why is it such a great idea to strive to achieve it and then how do we achieve it?

Lets start with what staying in the present means.  Well there is no secret it is exactly what it says it is, the ability to focus your mind in the present, not shift your focus to the past or the future.

So why is it a good idea to stay in the present?  Well think of this, we move towards what we focus on.  So if we’re focusing on the job that we want to do we have more chance of moving towards our objective.  If we focus on something we have done in the past or something to far in the future we will more likely head towards that and generally this doesn’t allow us to focus on the job at hand.

So many times we will see people focus on the past, out of the list below see how many of these past thoughts would be helpful to you in a pressure situation.

  • I can’t believe I just 3 putted the last hole
  • Dave is playing really well he cant keep knocking those putts in! surely not
  • These greens are rubbish
  • This golf course is to wet we shouldn’t be playing on it
  • The last time I played this hole a sliced it into the water

STAYING-IN-THE-PRESENT

As you can see none of these would be helpful, if you where to focus on the fact the last time you played this hole you sliced it into the water what do you think you would have a good chance of doing this time around? Its amazing how many people focus on these things.

Thinking to much into the future can also shift your focus, imagine if you where standing on the last hole and you needed a par for your best ever score and lets say for arguments sake I was your caddy and I where to tell you a par would give you your best ever score! More than likely I would get the sack as I have just heaped a load of pressure on you! Now most of us aren’t fortunate to have a caddy so we have to be our own caddy, so again next time you start thinking too much ahead imagine what you would want the best caddie in the world to say to you.

So hopefully you can see that staying in the present seems like a good idea, but it is easier said than done! How can we stop those demons coming into your head?  Well the best way is by having a solid Pre Shot Routine.  Imagine you are in the before mentioned scenario of needing a par to give you your best ever score and see if the process below seems like a good idea.

Pre Shot Routine –

  1. Strategy/Evaluation – Work out all the information and strategy needed for the shot, for example yardage, weather conditions, ideal shot shape you want to play, best side of fairway to miss, were the hazards are (by thinking about where to miss and were the hazards are is not negative it is part of the plan).
  2. Imagery – This is were you imagine the exact shot you want, the feel of it, the sound of it and the look of it, Jonny Miller referred to this as ‘going to the movies’ by getting a good image of the shot you want to play you are really on track to moving towards that and although it is in the future we still class it as the present.
  3. Commitment – Now that you have your plan and the image you want for the shot it is all about committing to the shot, taking your plan and image into the shot and pulling the trigger.  If at any point doubt or negative thoughts creep into your head reassess and if necessary go back to the evaluation phase.  It may seem like this could take a long time and cause slow play but a good Pre Shot Routine only takes 20 seconds, which is not a lot of time before you hit the shot, think of it this way if you hit less shots you will take less time.

A good pre shot can easily be practiced and once honed will help you stay in the present on the golf course.  Don’t forget the word present also means ‘gift’ use your gift and focus on the shots you want to play one at a time.

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  1. marcjones24

    What about overcoming mental fatigue? Almost always I have a 2-4 hole stretch on the back 9 where I lose focus and it hurts my game.

    1. Andy Proudman

      Thanks for the comment Marc. You need to make sure you switch off in between shots. You don’t have to concentrate for the whole round. WE often tell our players to keep there eyes above the level of t…

    1. Andy Proudman

      You are welcome Michael. Hope your knee is on the mend.

  2. wobbler

    I play off 26 and can’t get lower but when I play in a match I usually play to between 18 and 22 which promotes comments like bandit. This is detracting from the enjoyment of all concerned. How can I …

    1. Andy Proudman

      You need to play more competitive stroke play. Also I would look at involving some better practice where you work on specific challenges and targets to test yourself. For example… leave 10 balls for…

  3. Morgan

    Thanks for the article Piers, the mental game is my biggest hurdle. I’ve often caught myself, especially last season, getting excited while playing well and starting to whiff shots. At the time I only…

    1. Andy Proudman

      Hi Morgan. Thanks for the comment. Yes staying in the present is key but one thing which can help is making sure you switch off in between shots. Most golfers get too focused on concentrating for too …

  4. Anthony

    Great article. Do you have any recommendations on a consistent pre-shot routine that is all inclusive? I feel like there are so many things to go through when at address that I am constantly scramblin…