Lady Golfer Columnist: Mickey Walker

Golf News

How thinking clearer in 2015 could transform your game

As the winter draws in and the nights lengthen, I always think that it’s a good time to reflect on how your past golfing year went, what you were happy with in your game, what you could improve upon and how you might achieve those improvements. 

I find that it’s often a good idea to ask someone who knows you and your game well to give you their opinion about what you could do better. This might be your professional if they know you well enough, or someone in your club that you look up to and who you’ve played with enough times for them to see where your weaknesses are. If you take this route, make sure that you are prepared for suggestions that they might make and that you really want to hear what they have to say! 

Probably one of the biggest things that I’m asked about is how golfers can cope with their nerves when faced with an uncomfortable situation, whether that be doing well in a Medal coming down the last few holes, playing a match against a much lower handicapper or playing in front of a huge gallery. So how does one cope with ‘big match nerves’ as one of my pupils calls it when she plays competitive golf? 
A lot of us fail to realise that we can control what we’re thinking on the course. The problem for all golfers is that if an average round takes four hours more or less, then during that time we only actually hit shots which take about half an hour. There is so much thinking time and our minds tend to play tricks and start to question why we’ve hit a poor shot, what did we do wrong, how can we put it right and we’ve got that difficult par 5 over water coming up, so I’m bound to hit my ball into the water…… and so on! 

Lots of us even tell our playing partners/opponents that we ’hate this hole!’ or that ’every time I play it I hit it out of bounds!’ You can’t imagine a really top player doubting her or his ability to play a particular shot. A lot of us fail to realise that we can control what we’re thinking on the course. I always tell my pupils to mentally store the good shots in the hard drive of their brain and delete the poor ones. So often golfers tend to do the opposite and wonder why they repeat poor shots on certain holes or whenever they get into a winning situation.

Annika Sorenstam has great mental strength

One of the strongest golfers mentally that I have ever seen is Annika Sorenstam. Annika had the ability to delete a poorly played shot from her mind and concentrate 100 per cent on the shot in hand. 

Annika literally changed the way in which professional golfers applied themselves to reaching their potential. Annika’s father worked for a computer company and as a consequence Annika worked with computers before it was normal for everyone to do so. In turn she logged all her shots and produced cold-hard statistics about her play, which she did in much more detail than had ever been done before. This enabled her to clearly recognise her weaknesses and focus her attention on turning her weaknesses into strengths. 

It is very easy to be emotive when we talk about our games saying things like ’I had six three putts’, thus emotionally blaming your putting for your poor scoring. However, with Annika’s analytical system, it would collate that of those three putts, five of them were from outside 50 feet, therefore her approach play was actually the problem. 

The other thing that we can all work on is developing a routine over our shots that is the same regardless of the situation. It is so easy to attach more importance to one particular shot than another – great golfers have an identical pre-shot routine whether it’s their 1st tee shot in a 72-hole tournament or a putt to win that tournament. If your mindset is to try harder on some shots than others, then you need to practise having the same routine and mindset on every shot in your round. 

Whatever aspect of your game you decide to work on this winter whether it be your technique, fitness or controlling your mind during competition and whether you decide to get help or do it by yourself, there is no right or wrong thing to do, it’s about doing what works best for you. Good luck in your quest to become a better golfer!

About Mickey Walker: Lady Golfer’s consulting editor captained Europe in the first four Solheim Cups. She regularly appears on Sky Sports as an expert summariser.

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