June 2019 www.insidegolf.com.au MENTAL GAME 42 Preventing a mental meltdown (and another ruined card) P ressure gets to us all, no matter what level you’re at. From junior competitions to the monthly medal, right to the very top of the professional game, pressure is the one thing that affects golfers of all levels and it doesn’t discriminate as we have seen many times over the years come Sunday afternoon. There have been numerous professional on-course meltdowns over the years including Rory McIlroy’s epic in 2011 and Jordan Spieth’s catastrophe in 2016, both at The Masters. This year at Augusta was no different, but it wasn’t only the pressure that got to Francesco Molinari who was another victim of the short par-3 12th. It was also a case of Tiger’s brilliance in maintaining his composure and being in control mentally to win his 15th major in probably the greatest comeback seen in the modern game. So how does one person manage to get through such challenges and difficulties whilst another falters? Here we look at dealing with pressure on the course and how you can prevent another ruined scorecard. Handling pressure is a skill like many others. It’s not the actual problem that matters but our perception of it and how we deal with it that makes the difference. The guys at the top of the sport have learned to look at pressure differently. They don’t see it as a threat and something to be feared, instead they embrace it and see it as a challenge. A certain degree of stress can benefit and enhance performance but too much causes us to tense up and has a negative effect. Knowing your tolerance level is key to improving how you react and perform. one that works for you and stick to it. It may take time develop the habit, but it will if you persist. Play within yourself. It’s great watching the golf on tv and seeing what the top players in the world are doing with the best equipment there is. The reality though, is that we cannot be expected to do what they do on a regular basis but so many try to do exactly that i.e. hit 300 yard drives, get up and down every time from the bunker or hit a tiny green protected by bunkers from 200 yards away. It’s only inviting more frustration and stress if you don’t make it and then you’re under more pressure to get those shots back. Know your limitations and play within them. It will help reduce undue mental pressure. Relax. There are many different relaxation techniques that professional golfers are using these days including meditation, yoga and mindfulness to name a few. It’s not just about being in the gym. On the course, when you first recognise you feel anxiety or frustration, slow your breathing down, and focus on each breath. This helps calm the nerves. When you have Controlling your emotions is vital to play at your best. In order to do that you have to: a) recognise when you start to feel under pressure b) understand what situations cause you to feel under pressure. Once you can do these, you’re in a much better position to be in control. Develop a release trigger. Many golfers hold onto problems and thoughts from previous holes that started the downfall and things only go from bad to worse. By developing a release trigger, it allows you to move on and focus on the shot in hand. After you’ve hit the shot, no matter what has happened, have a set procedure you follow to release any negative emotions. For example, you’ve got a good score going, then you hit into the lake…you feel like throwing the club in the lake too. Your release trigger could be to learn to simply walk back to your bag and when you put the club back in the bag tell yourself it is finished. It’s gone and move on. Another way could be to count to five or 10 and then learn to simply forget it. Find negative thoughts, simply watch them as if they were passing cars and don’t react. By not reacting we take away their force and it has less of an effect on us. Yawning. Yes, yawning. This has also been shown to relax the mind and slow things down. Try it when there’s not too many bugs around. In-between holes, focusing on the scenery, flowers or wildlife to take your mind off things has a calming effect, rather than spending your time focusing on any problems or challenges during the round. Try them out and see which ones work best for you. James Bargeron is a UK-based performance coach and trainer that helps optimise performance on and off the course. He helps golfers develop the mental strategies, attitudes, and resilience needed to become a high performer. email@example.com www.golfing-minds.com James Bargeron firstname.lastname@example.org Photo by Damian Brierty Get fit today turn to page 90 for a complete list of fitting days this month SPLitS faiRWayS. SHatteRS ReCoRdS. faSteR faCe engineered to increase flexing and deliver a powerful sound and feel, the forged t9S+ face produces hotter ball speeds for more distance.