Golf psychology: The power of perception – improve yours

Tips

Change how you look at the game to get better

How many times have you stood in a line at your local bank waiting to get to the counter? It is lunchtime and, in their infinite wisdom, the powers that be have decided to just have one person working the counter window.

You only want to pay in one cheque but the five minutes you have stood there feels like an hour.

Yet the very same hour flew by when you watched your favourite TV show. Cruising along the motorway at 70mph seemed comfortable enough but on the side road 40mph seemed like a crawl until you went down a winding country lane and 30mph seemed a bit excessive. Welcome to the wonderful world of human perception.

This is our ability to experience objective reality and put our own unique interpretation on the unfolding event. In a wonderful book every golfer should read called ‘Golf Science’ by Mark Smith the power of perception is explained and how this can affect the way we score.

In a series of studies golfers who had played well that day and had low scores judged the size of the hole to be bigger than the players who played worse. Handicaps did not correlate with the judged hole size suggesting better players did not see the hole as being bigger, but players who were playing well on a given day did.

These studies suggest there is a relationship between golf performance and the perception of hole size. The question that of course arises is: Does a golfer putt better because he sees the hole as being bigger or does he putt better and therefore see the hole as bigger?

My own thoughts over the years have been that you should do as much as possible to shape your own perception of the game to give yourself the best possible chance of success.
Begin by rolling a few putts to a tee before you play, allow yourself to perhaps see the hole as being a little bit bigger and just maybe some of your other perceptions may begin to expand and allow a different kind of golfer to emerge. I often see golfers standing on the practice putting green before they play trying to hole short putts and, as we all know, it only takes a couple of lip outs for the thought gremlins to tap on your shoulder.

It has always made much more sense to me to finish your short putting practice by putting to a much smaller object like a tee. The perception is that if you miss the tee then you would probably have still hit the hole; hit the tee and – my goodness – the hole is going to seem enormous.

Over the years many players that I have worked with have taken this a step further and actually practised putting to a needle!

Standing on a wide open driving range is always going to make the course look narrow. Your ‘fairway’ in practice should be tighter than the real game ever is. If you can practise to an imaginary 15-yard fairway then a standard 25 to 30-yard fairway is going to seem like a field.

Most sports understand the concept of making a part of practice more difficult than the game but in golf we have tended to miss the trick. Overall you need to look at and challenge some of your existing perceptions of the game you play.

Most of the time working with players on their Mind Factor it is about challenging limiting perceptions. Do you perceive the game as being difficult or a challenge?

Do you see the time in between shots as being slow or do you choose to perceive that time as an opportunity to enjoy the company you are with and the glorious surroundings.

It is certainly not for me to say what your perceptions should be as that is for you to choose. But you might want to keep asking yourself if, what you are currently perceiving the game to be, is useful to your progress and enjoyment.

Begin by rolling a few putts to a tee before you play, allow yourself to perhaps see the hole as being a little bit bigger and just maybe some of your other perceptions may begin to expand and allow a different kind of golfer to emerge.

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