While very few of us are any good at golf, the vast majority of us are tour standard at clutching at straws when things do start to go wrong. Allow us to explain
Seve was the master of golf mind games. He used to say he would play with whatever he was given on any particularly day. So if he was hitting a little draw on the practice ground, that’s what he would take to the course and vice versa.
It’s as romantic a notion as it is a terrifying one. If someone as dazzling, both in skill and looks, is unsure of how his game is going to perform then what hope have the rest of us?
What do we, with no practice rounds or range visits under our belt, do at the first sign of problems? Our games and minds are built on sand and there is very little, if anything, to fall back on when things go south.
Hence, in the general spirit of seeking out the negatives and coming hot on the heels of a mentally and physically sapping trip to the Emerald Isle, I’ve collated a go-to guide to recognising that your mind and body might not be functioning at full tilt.
Golf mind games: It will be fine, you’ve bought a course planner
You never do this, you just rely on what you can see in front of your own eyes. Which means you maybe zap a particular point of trouble that you don’t want to reach while, at the same time, enforcing into your mind space that there is a huge expanse of water at 220 yards.
Now you are hanging on every dreadful word that the Pro’s Tip is telling you. Why are you listening to someone who appears to have even more demons than you already do? By all means drink in a few of his yardages but don’t get dragged into his dos and don’ts which are generally a collection of the latter.
Golf mind games: Stick with the process
If you are going to play this planner game, then at least try and stay with it. There’s a lot to be said for immediately sticking your face in the planner in an affected tour pro manner after a wayward shot.
It’s a nice, little comfort blanket. To take things a step further you could even include some positive and motivational words of some previous heroics, maybe that ripped 5-iron when you were under the gun in the August Medal? Perhaps include your carry and run-out distances? Maybe a little saying to help you roll it nicely on the greens?
The simple truth is that, in your world of gloom and self-loathing, you will be at least five holes out having not looked at your book for over an hour.
Golf mind games: Reach out, you’re not alone
This is the point that demonstrates that you are at rock bottom. You are a man approaching your 50s and at some point, either on a distant tee box or over a pint or some pre-round scrambled eggs, you will ask a trusted peer what on earth you are doing wrong?
You won’t just ask anyone, you will single out the person you most want to be like on the course and press them for immediate solutions.
The likelihood is that they will feed you some mumbo jumbo that is pretty much impossible to insert into your game that morning but you leave the conversation slightly buoyed that you have a variation of the same theme to now think about.
Golf mind games: Don’t be afraid to mix things up
I’m not overly superstitious but I will very quickly associate a disastrous round with an item of clothing and, if there’s an afternoon round to come, make some changes to my wardrobe so the Golfing Gods don’t recognise me.
It might be something as simple as a pair of socks but I will re-emerge for the PM round a new man with fresh socks and even fresher optimism.
Golf mind games: You’re not sticking with the process
Four rounds in three days is enough for anyone of mental and physical frailties and, over a short period of time, there will be some erratic behaviour on a variety of tee boxes.
The following is a given: hit driver wherever possible when confidence levels are middling to high, one bad one (double-cross into heavy bund) brings about an immediate new strategy of trying to steer a fairway wood and then hybrid into play to leave unfathomable distances in to average-length par 4s.
Before going full circle when you detest yourself with a prodded 21-degree bunt that goes nowhere and returning the chief to full duty with limited success.
Golf mind games: Fail to prepare and so on
This is a shambolic state of affairs. You’ve noticed a couple of members of your party doing some lunges and thrusts in a small corner away from the 1st tee in a bid to get loose. You, on the other hand, have done nothing in the past 12 months to a) lose any weight, or b) solve a long-standing back-hip-knee-insert body part problem, and c) you’re not doing it right anyway.
You rely on Ibuprofen and other gels and remedies to see you through the coming days and vow to do something about your problems as soon as this charade is over.
You download a GetFit app.
Golf mind games: Keep it clear, keep it concise
Think of any other everyday game of golf. It’s nice, isn’t it? You chat at every given opportunity, you generally score OK and the only voices are the ones that are heard out loud.
Fast forward to a golf trip and the need to record your scores and the voices come flooding in, be it with swing thoughts from Chuck Cook via a YouTube visit eight years ago or your inner chimp doing somersaults in your head, squawking at you to try and relax. All we really want is some inner peace, it’s not too much to ask is it?
You download the Headspace app midway through the round.
Golf mind games: You’re really not thinking straight
One of my never-ending mental conundrums is whether to go with a new ball for a new round or go with the one that served me well for the last seven holes of the last round?
I give this far too much thought, hoping not to offend anyone upstairs by my sheer arrogance of going with a shiny, new ball even though it bears no relevance to anything or anybody or anything.
I will though immediately put into play a new ball that I have found on the course, a gift from the Gods and a sign that it was meant to be.
These are merely the inner workings of a madman who is clutching at straws.