How do you play in competitions? Does your game stay as free as in rounds with your friends? I’m guessing not. Do you ever play poorly in competitions and head straight for the driving range only to find that you are hitting it fine. Or do you hit it fine on the range before a competition and then lose your swing when it matters? Do you then scratch your head and not know where to look for the answers? Well perhaps you should look inside yourself for the answers.
Whenever the golf your playing matters more than a casual round, you will have some nervous tension, first in your thoughts, then in your body. Thoughts such as “I need to get off to a good start” or “don’t blow it”. You know what I mean. In response to these thoughts, your body gets tense. Maybe not a lot. Maybe it’s so little that you are unaware of it and this leaves you scratching your head wondering why you cannot swing the golf club the same way as you did on the range earlier. So what creates this tension that can ruin your game? Thoughts. Thoughts from your Ego about wanting to look good, not wanting to mess up, keeping out of trouble, not blowing up, not three putting and on and on. There are two types of destructive thoughts. Craving and Aversion.
When you really want to play well it is easy to forget that you play your best when you are relaxed and prepared to go for your shots and enjoy yourself. When you obsess over the score some of the enjoyment goes.
So how do you break this stranglehold the Ego’s thoughts can have over you? You can try to be as positive as you like, if you are unaware of the tension then it will control your game. So the best way to play to your potential when you notice tension is to pay more attention to it. I would guess that this is the last thing you are inclined to do but ask yourself if trying to ignore it works? It doesn’t.
Pay attention. Pay attention to the tension in your swing or stroke. Be more aware of what you are experiencing. Listen out for the Ego’s worrisome thoughts. Be aware of how you are playing the game.
Are you being more defensive or tensing up? Maybe just a little bit? If so smile and let go. In order to win you have to be prepared to raise the bar but also you must be prepared to lower the floor. By that I mean that you must be willing to shoot a high score in order for you to shoot a low score. Accept the possibility of playing poorly to enable yourself to be free enough to play well.
An indication of tension in the body is the breath. Your breath provides you with a gauge of how tense you are. So pay attention to your breathing. I do not advocate trying to breath correctly or deep breathing. This is just one more thing to try to remember. Simply noticing your breath will allow your body to adjust it. Pay attention to your breath and if it is shallow ask yourself what am I worried about? or what am I craving?
Being more aware of your nerves allows you to notice how they affect you. If you are angry or disappointed at yourself because you feel nervous then you will be much more affected than if you remain aware and non-judgmental. So you experience the nerves and notice how strong they are, what thoughts go with them how your breathing is and so on. The nerves may not disappear, especially if you are in the mix at the end of a tournament, but you can learn to manage them with your awareness.
“I think the most important thing to realize about playing under pressure is it doesn’t mean you’re going to play badly; the day I realized that, especially with putting, you know, even though you’re shaking over a putt, doesn’t mean you’re going to hit a bad putt. So it’s nice to feel that heat. It’s what we practice for, you want to be in these situations and it’s important to remember that.”
Justin Rose before his winning last round at the WGC at Doral.
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