Recommendations for Conditioning Your Mind
First you must find a Mental Routine that is effective. An effective routine has you narrowing your focus to this shot, blocks distractions, internal and external, and puts you into athletic mode to play the shot with full trust and commitment. You can view a video example of a good mental routine with explanation on our homepage at www.golfpsych.com.
Then you need to practice using it everywhere; on the range, on the course, and away from the course with your imagination. You have to exercise the mental discipline to play every shot in any round of golf with a full quality mental routine. Emphasize this approach. In your mind playing any shot without a full mental routine is a sacrilege. If you do you are being mentally lazy and dis-respecting the game, your teachers, your competitors and yourself.
After any miss and after the round, review how well you did your mental routines and judge your performance based on this, not your score or the outcomes.
Second, challenge yourself with difficult situations. These can include distractions while you are playing shots; movements, noises, talking while you are doing your routines. You are only successful if mentally your mental routine goes well. Don't judge success by how well the shot goes but by how well you committed, focussed and athletically played the shot un-distracted.
Third, you must learn to manage your thoughts between shots and before the round. Managing your thoughts helps you manage your emotions and your arousal.
Here is a technique we call "Regulating Your Thoughts". Consider what thoughts may cause problems for you. These are thoughts that create fear, anxiety, anger, frustration, excitement and extreme happiness. They are thoughts that cause you to react emotionally or raise arousal. They can be things like "the score I have to shoot today to have a chance" or "others will be disappointed in me if I don't perform well" or "I cannot stand playing with this guy, he is so..." or "college coaches are watching me, I can't miss", and so on.
You need to recognize you are thinking unhelpful thoughts, then go through a process to get rid of them. Imagine doing something physically to get rid of the not-allowed thought. Make it interesting and fantastic. Simply throwing it away or burning it is too simple. Your mind has to engage completely in getting rid of it.
Once you have done with the problem thought, then move to a helpful thought, one that is relaxing and you like to think about. This could be another great round, or a vacation, your favorite music or movie, pets, nature, etc. They need to be things you like to think about. Remember this is for between shots and before the round.
Fourth, you must learn to be aware of your level of arousal and develop the ability to manage it for golf. Start with practicing deep, slow, abdominal breathing. Try 5 seconds in and 5 seconds out. Focus on the breath and controlling it. Feel tension leave with the exhales. Working with our Mind Meter makes this easy to judge and know that you are doing it well. Practice every day for 15 to 20 minutes or more. Try to go slower and slower.
We have determined that optimum arousal for golf is between 4 and 6 on a 1 to 10 scale where 10 is extremely aroused. Within this range you need to be closer to 6 for driving and longer shots and closer to a 4 for putting and short game. Higher arousal will diminish your golf skills and change your swing.
You cannot just say "OK now I have to relax" when approaching a shot if you have not practiced and conditioned your mind to do this effectively. You will not know if you lowered your arousal effectively without training and awareness.
Summary- If your mind is un-conditioned for golf you will get reduced performance no matter how hard you physically practice. Playing with an un-conditioned mind is just like playing with an un-conditioned body, you are unlikely to perform your best through the whole round. You are more likely to suffer mental injuries from the failures that will certainly occur, leading to more failures.
You must Condition or train your mind for golf specifically.