How To Play Great Golf In The “Flow”

Andy’s Prologue:

Following on from Gail Smirthwaite’s highly interesting post on How Much Does Your Ego Play A Part In Your Game Of Golf?, I would like to present Gail’s thoughts on playing in the “flow”.

Gail’s Advice:

In this blog post I am going to look at the importance of the mind when it comes to playing golf.

It never ceases to amaze me how many golfers overlook developing the number one aspect of performance that can position them ahead of the field and help them to be consistently more successful. I am referring to the power of the mind, but more importantly how to control it so it doesn’t control you!

It has long been accepted that the mind is what makes the key difference between success and failure in many areas of life and not least in sport. Yet golfers who really want to achieve a better result, lower their handicap, or win tournaments, do not actively engage in preparing themselves as much mentally as they do physically.

Tiger Woods possibly did not know the importance of having a sports psychologist at the age of 12 but he does now. It is a little known fact that Jay Brunza, Sports Psychologist, worked with Tiger from such a young age. Woods has often said that he doesn’t need to work on his mental game, but then will follow this up by saying that he doesn’t need to “because all the strategies have been in place from the age of 12!” Tiger’s father knew the importance of the mind and guided Tiger well, but although guidance is so important at such a young age credit needs always to go to Tiger who has taken ‘strength of mind’ and the ability to focus to a new level.

It is so important to develop your mental skills and clearly the earlier the better. Although many golfers out there may not have been fortunate enough to have a trained sports psychologist on hand from childhood believe me when I say that it’s never too late.

If you think of the sports person you most admire, how would you describe them? Possibly focused, driven, motivated, dedicated, ambitious – all these skills are not to do with technique or talent but everything to do with attitude.

If you make the choice to learn to be more aware of how to create a positive mindset and how these skills can be developed then you stand every chance of not only creating the golf game you want to achieve, but success in the life you want as well.

Much has been written about top sports performers’ ability to perform ‘in the zone’. It is in this ‘state’ where the best results are achieved most easily. You can liken the zone to that feeling of everything being so easy on every level; when you are operating without conscious thought and without effort. To give you an everyday example; remember what it was like when you learnt to drive a car? It was awkward trying to remember everything in the correct order, but after time you learnt to drive without any conscious thought for the process.

University of Chicago psychologist Mihalyi Csikzentmihalyi has studied the equivalent state in the workplace, a state which he refers to as being ‘in flow’. This is the feeling when you are fully motivated, inspired, and passionate about what you are doing. When you are fully effective and powerful and time flies by and results seem to just happen. You may have experienced golf shots like that before because this is what brings back so many golfers to the game time and time again.

What percentage of your golf game are you operating in flow? And what are the times where you are not? There are a number of feelings that potentially will threaten you whilst performing ‘in flow’; such as when you are disengaged, bored, unfocused, full of self-doubt and fear, or distracted.

I recently coached a successful businessman in his mid-forties. He came to me to help him to lower his golf handicap as he had become increasingly frustrated with his golf game over the whole golfing season. He booked the usual course of six sessions and by session five he had not once mentioned his golf! I asked him during this session how well he had been playing recently and if he wanted to discuss his game. He answered that his game was now ‘absolutely fine’ and ‘that ‘it’ was taking care of itself!’

We had spent the previous five sessions talking about his career and we had worked on his various challenges within his work role, what he valued and how to honour these, in order to take the stress out of his life. He became goal-focused on what he wanted in his working life and by session five his confidence and self-esteem had returned along with his golf game!

Here was a man not performing in the ‘flow’ in the one of the most important aspects of his life; his career and this was affecting his game of golf. Each one of us possess natural talents – the ones that we are born with – if we do not recognise what we are good at then life can become a struggle.

When we follow our path, the one that offers least resistance, and begin to play the game we most naturally play, on and off the golf course, we begin to excel. We will find that we are having fun because it is ‘effortless’, we are in the flow because we are doing what we ‘love’ to do.

So take a moment to remember that playing golf is a great hobby not a matter of life and death. Get your game into perspective; have fun, enjoy and get yourself into your flow!

Many thanks for reading.

Gail Smirthwaite

One Response to “How To Play Great Golf In The “Flow””

  1. quote from Sam Snead :” I play my best golf when I’m not thinking about anything in particular and my body is loose as a goose”

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