I’ve often spoken about how Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia arrived on the world stage at the same time. When Sergio nearly won the 1999 USPGA, after an epic battle with Tiger, you would never have assumed he would be without a major title today!
Much of this has to do with Sergio’s fragile mental state and Tiger’s incredibly robust mental strength. And Henrik Stenson attributes his current incredible golf to managing his mental state in a way that he didn’t use to.
One of the tricks that Tiger uses, which I explain in the video below, is to make sure that any angst or anger is taken out in the ten yards after the shot. He allows himself to be angry at what he has done for ten paces and then won’t give it any more thought. This is useful because sometimes it’s unrealistic to simply bottle up our emotions and exist in a zen like calm if that’s not our nature. But it does put a very distinct end to your anger and irritation at your shot.
Another similar technique, which I use and got from the wonderful Dr Karl Morris, is to have two very distinct triggers. One to start your shot and one to finish. Karl discusses how we cannot concentrate fully for the four hours or so we need to make sure we can switch off and on again and focus very intently when the time comes.
Your start trigger might be the noise of the Velcro on your glove or a specific visual trigger such as a colour or some item on your bag. Once you fire this trigger off you shift into a zone where you are playing golf.
The second trigger is about ending your shot and moving on regardless of the consequences. This can be fired off by the noise and feel of the golf club going back into the bag.
Within these two triggers Karl further breaks it down into two more zones.
- The Thinking Zone
- The Playing Zone
In the Thinking Zone, which is a metre or so behind the ball you go through any swing thoughts that you might have as well as take into account the wind and whatever hazards are visible. This zone is about preparing yourself fully and intelligently to play the best shot you can.
You then step over an imaginary line and into the Playing Zone. Here you shift out of the logical, or so called left brain, style of thinking and shift towards a more creative (right brained) thought process. Your main focus is simply on executing a perfect shot based on the confident plan your created in the Thinking Zone.
This process, with a few more tweaks, is exactly how I create my pre-shot routine and I highly recommend you do something similar. I even spend a lot of my time on the practice range going through this process and I regard the area of green mat as the playing zone. This slows down my practice and gives it a much greater sense of purpose.
Whatever you decide to do it is vital that you remove the emotions of a bad shot as soon as possible after you hit it.